The commercialization of holidays isn’t anything new, and it’s certainly a subject that arises every Christmas, but did you know Mother’s Day has its own commercialization controversy?
Anna Jarvis, the woman credited with founding Mother’s Day and helping it become a national holiday on May 9, 1914, ended up in a sanitarium where greeting card and flower company representatives paid her bill. It was because of her tireless efforts that President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday. It was her efforts to get Mother’s Day’s status as a holiday repealed that many believe she ended up in a sanitarium where she died broke and blind.
Born on May 1, 1864, in Grafton, West Virginia, Anna Jarvis’ home stands today as a museum. It celebrates the rich cultural history of Anna Jarvis and her mother Ann (sometimes referred to as Mother Jarvis) and how the two were inspired to celebrate mothers in the United States. While many today think of Mother’s Day as a time to send flowers, cards, and candy to their mothers, the history behind the holiday holds a deeper meaning.
It was Anna’s mother, Ann, who refused to take sides during the Civil War and opened her home as a hospitable place to help wounded soldiers on both sides. Ann Jarvis believed that mothers were the key to initiating peace. She had seen first hand the ravages of war as it devastated families and destroyed husbands and sons. Ann Jarvis believed that women across the United States could join together and initiate peace. She organized many women’s movements and clubs geared towards mothers and had started the Mother’s Day of Peace shortly before her death.
Though Ann Jarvis died before seeing Mother’s Day a national holiday, her daughter Anna vowed to take up the cause. She sent letters, contacted officials, delivered speeches and ultimately proved invaluable in getting legislation passed to make Mother’s Day a national holiday. According to a report by Buzzfeed, Anna Jarvis wasn’t just the founder of Mother’s Day, but she wanted to own and control the holiday as well.
Simply put, Anna Jarvis didn’t like the commercial aspect the holiday was taking. Candy retailers, flower companies, and even Hallmark began making a pretty penny after demand for Mother’s Day cards became common.
Jarvis felt people needed to write letters, give mom a day off and find ways to honor their mother for her hard work. The idea that people couldn’t write a heartfelt letter of thanks and appreciation, but needed to buy a card made her livid. As Mother’s Day became more commercialized, Anna Jarvis fought harder to stop it. Watch the Transit TV teacher explain Jarvis’ hatred for the holiday she created in the video below.
Take a Virtual Tour of the Anna Jarvis House
In the following video, you can hear the story of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, and how she ended up in a sanitarium paid for by those who worked for greeting cards and flower companies. When Anna Jarvis championed Mother’s Day as a holiday, she had garnered support from many people. Once she declared that Mother’s Day was polluted by commercialization, she used just as much tenacity as she showed in getting the holiday passed in its hopeful repeal. Buzzfeed reported the following.
“At one time, Jarvis reportedly had 33 Mother’s Day–related lawsuits pending. No one was immune from her stranglehold on the holiday — not even the president’s wife. Eleanor Roosevelt was the honorary chair of the Golden Rule Foundation, which sponsored a fund for needy mothers and their children. Jarvis claimed the organization was trespassing on her cause and commercializing the day, and threatened to sue.”
Not only did Jarvis end up filing numerous lawsuits regarding her distaste for the way people celebrated Mother’s Day, but she even managed to get arrested for disorderly conduct. History reported the following in the article “Why the Founder of Mother’s Day Turned Against It.”
“In 1925, when an organization called the American War Mothers used Mother’s Day as an occasion for fundraising and selling carnations, Jarvis crashed their convention in Philadelphia and was arrested for disturbing the peace.”
Approximately five years before Anna Jarvis’ death, she was committed to the Marshall Square Sanitarium. NPR reported that card and florist people paid the bill.
“By 1943, she had become so distraught over the fact that she couldn’t seem to stop any of the commercialization, so she decided to get a petition together to rescind Mother’s Day. But they placed her in the Marshall Square Sanitarium instead. And they put her there – and you wonder who paid the bill? Card and florist people paid the bill to keep her there.”
You may hear more about Anna Jarvis’ time in the sanitarium and her unfortunate demise in the video below.
What do you think about Anna Jarvis and her quest to get Mother’s Day repealed? Please leave your comments and opinions in the section below.
[Featured Image by WindNight/Shutterstock]