Mother’s Day is a modern celebration honoring one’s own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It was founded for mourning women to remember fallen soldiers and work for peace.
It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis—Anna’s mother—held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
Anna Jarvis never had children of her own, but the 1905 death of her own mother inspired her to organize the first Mother’s Day observances in 1908. On 10 May of that year, families gathered at events in Jarvis’s hometown of Grafton, West Virginia—at a church now renamed the International Mother’s Day Shrine—as well as in Philadelphia, where Jarvis lived at the time, and in several other cities.
Largely through Jarvis’s efforts, Mother’s Day came to be observed in a growing number of cities and states until U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially set aside the second Sunday in May in 1914 for the holiday.
The holiday Anna Jarvis launched has spread around much of the world, though it’s celebrated with varying enthusiasm, in various ways, and on various days—though more often than not on the second Sunday in May. In much of the Arab world, Mother’s Day is on March 21, which happens to loosely coincide with the start of spring. The modern Mother’s Day has been assimilated into Indian culture, and it is celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May.
I was busy in the office when Jaya called to inform me that Babai had sent her flowers and chocolate on Mother’s Day. She was very happy and she was damn surprised as Babai kept it secret from her although he confided it with me. We wanted to give her a pleasant surprise.
As I hung up the phone, I was thinking of my mother. My thoughts for her could best be said in the words of Adriana Trigiani, Big Stone Gap:
“No one worries about you like your mother, and when she is gone, the world seems unsafe, things that happen unwieldy. You cannot turn to her anymore, and it changes your life forever. There is no one on earth who knew you from the day you were born; who knew why you cried, or when you’d had enough food; who knew exactly what to say when you were hurting; and who encouraged you to grow a good heart. When that layer goes, whatever is left of your childhood goes with her.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers of the world. They are truly divine.
Brian Handwerk: “Mother’s Day Turns 100: Its Surprisingly Dark History”, National Geographic, 09 May 2014.