Forget Hallmark and Big Flora — Mother’s Day is (and always has been) for radicals:
Mother’s Day began in America in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, her proclamation called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society inÂ fighting for an end to all wars.Â She called for women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons.
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
[Read the remainder of Howe's quoteÂ here]Â
The holiday caught on years later when a West Virginia women’s group led by Anna Reeves Jarvis began promoting it as a way to reunite families after the Civil War.Â Â After Jarvis’ death, her daughter began a campaign for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in honor of peace. Devoting much of her life to the cause, it wasn’t until 1914 when Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance in 1914.
The holiday flourished, along with the flower industry.Â Â The business journal, the Florists Review, actually admitted to its desire to exploit the holiday. Jarvis was strongly opposed to every aspect of the holiday’s commercialization, arrested for protesting the sale of flowers, and petitioning to stop the creation of a Mother’s Day postage stamp.
Update: While Mother’s Day as we know it started with Julia Ward Howe’s powerful declaration for peace, as adrena rightly notes in comments, the actual history runs far deeper:
Mother’s Day isn’t a new holiday. The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. People would make offerings of honey-cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn.
The Romans also had a mother of all gods, Magna Mater, or Great Mother. A temple was built in Rome for her. In March of each year, there was a celebration in her honor called the Festival of Hilaria. Gifts were brought to the temple to please the powerful mother-goddess.
During the 1600s, England celebrated “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) as a way to honor the mothers of England. Many of England’s poor lived and worked as servants for the wealthy, far away from their homes and families. On Mothering Sunday, servants were given the day off to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the “mothering cake,” was often baked to add to the festivities.
Also via adrena:
(Reuters) – On a recent Saturday morning, hundreds of sleepy children tumbled out of buses and into a dusty jail parking lot in southern California to pay a rare visit to their mothers in prison.
A hundred feet (Thirty meters) away, behind two tall barbed wire fences at the California Institute for Women, stood a cluster of women clad in blue cotton prison garb. They anxiously craned their necks and stood on tip-toes for a glimpse of their kids, some of whom had come to the prison roughly 90 minutes by bus from south central Los Angeles.
Then came the moment of reunification – mothers jumping up and down excitedly, shouting “hi baby, give me a hug,” with tears in their eyes as they embrace their children, some for the first time in years.
Read. The whole damn thing.