Why the Mother’s Day founder hated the holidays
(NEXSTAR) — Perhaps no one hated the more modern traditions of Mother’s Day as much as the woman who created it.
Anna Jarvis, who successfully campaigned to establish a National Mother’s Day in the early 20th century, was ultimately so horrified by the commercialization of holiday that she tried to cancel everything.
“Mother’s Day is desecrated,” Jarvis once said, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Mother’s Day in 1944. “The telegraph companies with their ready-made greetings, the florists with their high-pressure campaigns and exorbitant prices, and the candy and greeting card manufacturers have racketeered my ideas.”
When Jarvis had the idea for what would become Mother’s Day, she envisioned a national day of remembrance and togetherness, to be observed with visits (if possible) and symbolized by her own mother’s favorite flower: a white carnation. But a few decades after she organized the first official celebration of Mother’s Day in 1908 – and successfully campaigned for national recognition in the years to come – she became unhappy with the way the holiday had taken shape in across the country.
Jarvis disliked greeting cards, calling them a “poor excuse for letters” favored by the “lazy”, and she believed candy was a meaningless gesture because “someone other than the mother usually eats them”.
In 1935, Jarvis even went to Washington, D.C., to berate the postmaster general for issuing commemorative Mother’s Day stamps, calling it “pure commercialism,” according to the Post-Dispatch article.
So how did Jarvis – who was no fan of candies, cards or even commemorative stamps – expect the nation to celebrate its mothers? Well, by going to visit him – or by sending him a long, handwritten letter.
“She said, you know, if you really want to do something for your mother… If you could go see her, you really should,” said Olive Ricketts, director of the Anna Jarvis Museum, in a 2016 interview with NPR. “But she said the second best thing to do was to write him a long, handwritten letter. Don’t use other people’s words to tell your mom how you feel because they don’t really know how you feel about your mom.
But by 1943, Jarvis had had enough of candy and cards. She began to demand a complete cancellation of Mother’s Day, but her efforts were cut short when she “went to Philadelphia General Hospital”, where workers observed that she was emaciated and almost blind, the Post-Dispatch reported. She was placed in Marshall Square Sanitarium in Westchester, where she lived until her death in 1948 at the age of 84.
Having never taken advantage of Mother’s Day, Jarvis also had no money when she entered the sanatorium. Executives in the greeting card and flower industry, however, took care of his bills.