Did you know that Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day as a memorial to her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis?
The first mother’s day as we know it was in 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna organised it in recognition of the work her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had done to support and bring together women. Ann Reeves Jarvis had 11 children and only 4 of them made it to adulthood. In the late 1850s she created Mothers’ Day Work Clubs as a way to address issues with child health, to share information and support each other.
For many years the Mother’s Clubs supported the community and each other, refusing to take sides in the American Civil War and offering assistance to wounded soldiers from either side. Ann remembered her mother praying that the work of mothers would one day be formally recognised by all. This was around the same time as the very earliest beginnings of the women’s suffrage movement, and it’s easy to see common themes in the need to recognise and support the contribution of women to society.
Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, with the first ‘Mother’s Day’ memorial held in May 1908. Ann and her friends established letter writing campaigns to establish a national holiday. Virginia adopted Mother’s Day as a state holiday on 10th May 1910. It took 6 years for the national holiday to be established, with Anna having to justify why there was a need for such celebration – the US congress initially rejected the idea in 1908, joking that they would have to create a ‘mother-in-laws’ day too. However, many people adopted the idea and the celebration spread until in 1914 it was recognised as a national day by President Woodrow Wilson and the US Congress.
Anna rejected the commercialisation of Mother’s Day and went to great lengths to try and keep the celebration in line with her own mother’s values. She encouraged people to write letters to their mother’s telling them why they appreciated them and to make hand made gifts, or give white carnations (her mother’s favourite flower).
Anna herself never had children and was buried next to her mother when she died in 1948, and this is important – Mother’s day was about celebrating and recognising the contribution that our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers have made to our community and lives. Now we also have International Women’s Day – and sometimes Mother’s Day seems like just an opportunity to appreciate your mother – and there is nothing wrong with that! But Mother’s day began as a celebration of the achievements and values of one woman at a time when most women were expected to become mothers - it was a recognition of everything that women did for their family and community.
It’s so interesting to hear this story of about the beginnings of Mother’s day – something that many people think was created by corporations as another way to sell cards and flowers. It started as a memorial to a woman who saw the need for connection, education and support between women, and a need to have something to support the women that support everything else. Over 110 years later, we often find ourselves having to justify this same need i.e. why do we need a women’s shed? Of course, we aren’t having to fight tuberculosis, or trying to get the Union and the Confederate veterans to reunite after the civil war (the Mother’s Friendship day was created by Ann for this purpose in 1868).
The truth of it is that the Women’s Shed is not just a place where we learn a specific skill, it is about bringing together all women in our community to share and connect. Many other cultures have this tradition, it shouldn’t need to be justified. Women of all ages bond, share their experiences and insights, and help each other – you get to know about the differences and similarities we share through our lives.
You can take classes anywhere, but you become part of our community at the Women’s Shed.
We will take this opportunity to appreciate both Ann and he daughter Anna for their lifelong dedication to women. Whatever you are doing on this Mother’s Day we also want to recognise and appreciate all that you do, whether you are a mother of children, fur babies, plants – whatever you love and cherish, we are grateful to have you as part of our community