Anna Jarvis, The Creator of Mother's Day, Died Hating The Holiday She Created

"Instead of a day reserved exclusively for mothers in celebration of their maternal influence, as envisioned by Mrs. Jarvis, Anna designed a day reserved for 'sons and daughters to honor themselves by showing gratitude to the [mother] who watched over them with tender care in childhood days," Antolini says. The difference, according to Antolini, is in the celebration of mothers' collective power (Mothers' Day) and "the impressive breadth of their maternal role," and a singular event (Mother's Day) celebrating a sentimental image of motherhood defined by children.

While Mrs. Jarvis wanted mothers to have "an active role in their own tribute," her daughter's national holiday ultimately reduces a mother to a "passive figure of praise." While Anna Jarvis had a different vision for the holiday than her mother, as the years passed, her own hopes for Mother's Day were distorted by commercialism.

As industries capitalized on the day's marketability, Anna became increasingly distressed about the use of her holiday as a money-making venture. She wanted the holiday to be a "holy day." "Despite her calls to the nation to adopt her holiday, Anna considered it her intellectual and legal property, and not part of the public domain," Antolini explains. "Never did she intend for the observance to become the 'burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift-day,' as other holidays had become by the early 20th century."

Protective of what she viewed as her intellectual property, Antolini says a 1944 Newsweek article[1] alleged that Anna once had 33 lawsuits pending at one time and included disclaimers on a Mother's Day International Association press release threatening legal action against people who used the holiday names and emblems without permission. To further her dominion over the now-commercialized holiday, Anna copyrighted her own photo[2], incorporated herself as "Mother's Day International Association"[3] and even verbally attacked first lady Eleanor Roosevelt[4] for using "her" holiday to raise money for charity. Meanwhile, Anna Jarvis's Mother's Day wasn't the only celebration dedicated to mothers during this time.

Writer, abolitionist, and suffragist Julia Ward Howe[5] established "Mothers' Peace Day" in 1872, according to Antolini. She says the non-official holiday was celebrated on June 2 yearly until 1913, and was originally established after the Civil War for mothers who had lost their sons[6]. Anna's Mother's Day would eventually replace this celebration, which was primarily acknowledged by peace organizations.

In Indiana, a man named Frank Hering[7] was gaining credit as the "Father of Mother's Day"[8], according to Antolini, for his "public plea for a nationwide observance of a Mother's Day" in 1904. Hering, a former University of Notre Dame football coach, promoted his idea through his association with the Fraternal Order of the Eagles[9], though he did not provide information about when to observe this holiday, despite wanting it to be on a Sunday," Antolini says. "It was not Hering who pushed for states to make it a state holiday or responsible for the day becoming a national and international Anna hated it when he got credit," Antolini explains. "She also believed that he was financially profiting from the day just to line his own pockets and advance his own political career."

Ultimately, as the 111th anniversary of Jarvis's holiday comes to pass, the holiday has transformed into a celebration of mothers outside the typical sphere of domestication. In the 21st century, women are recognized to be more than caregivers -- they're individuals with careers, passions, and interests outside of family. The emphasis on commercialization has increased tremendously since the holiday's inception, with an expected £25 billion[10] to be spent this year alone, a nearly £2 billion increase from 2018.

While increased spending was not the intent of either Anna or her mother, people around the world continue to shower their mothers with love and affection, and honor their memory in ways that feel right for them, and that is what's most important.


  1. ^ 1944 Newsweek article (
  2. ^ copyrighted her own photo (
  3. ^ "Mother's Day International Association" (
  4. ^ verbally attacked first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (
  5. ^ Julia Ward Howe (
  6. ^ mothers who had lost their sons (
  7. ^ Frank Hering (
  8. ^ "Father of Mother's Day" (
  9. ^ Fraternal Order of the Eagles (
  10. ^ expected £25 billion (

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