Pictured above is my own mother, Norma Irwin McDermott Bolten, 1924 -2012.
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman here is your son,’ and to the disciple ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
– The Holy Bible, John 19: 25 – 27.
The setting aside of “Mothers Day” has it’s antecedents in the ancient world. The ancient Greeks celebrated a holiday in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. The Romans celebrated a holiday in honor of Cybele, a mother goddess, March 22-25. These celebrations, as did any number of Roman holidays, became sufficiently notorious that the followers of Cybele wound up being banished from Rome. And in the British Isles and Celtic Europe, the goddess Brigid, and later her more proper successor St. Brigid, were honored in the spring with a Mother’s Day, which celebrated the giving of the first milk of the ewes. And there are “Mothers Days” throughout the world in virtually every country. But in America, “Mothers Day” originated with the effort of a devoted daughter to make sure that children would not become so entangled with their own lives that they would forget their mothers.
Anna Jarvis, and Mothers Day
Miss Anna Jarvis (below), was born in 1864 and went to school in Grafton, West Virginia. Her mother’s address made it difficult for Miss Anna to attend Mary Baldwin College, but she was quite determined
to get a higher education, so she did in fact go away to school for a time. Upon her graduation, she did indeed return to Grafton as a certified public school teacher. Unfortunately, Miss Anna’s dear mother passed away on today’s date, May 9 in 1905. Anna had been a superbly attentive daughter all of her life, nevertheless, her mother’s passing left her stricken with guilt for all of the time she might have spent with her mother but didn’t, all of the things she might have done with her, but did not, and a host of other such sad regrets. Two years later, Anna came up with an idea: she invited some friends to her home in Philadelphia on the second Sunday in May which was the anniversary of her mother’s passing, and told them that she thought that there should be a nationally recognized annual day of celebration of Mothers everywhere called “Mothers Day.”
The Idea of “Mothers Day” Catches On!
The idea was a huge success with Miss Anna’s friends. Her friend John Wanamaker (below), who was the country’s largest clothing merchant offered financial backing.
And in 1908, she wrote to the superintendent of Andrews Methodist School wherein her late mother had once taught a religion class, suggesting that his church in Grafton would be an excellent place for this celebration in her mother’s honor, with all mothers present receiving recognition. So on May 10, 1908 the first Mothers Day service was held in the United States and in attendance were 407 children along with their mothers. In his sermon for that occasion, the good Reverend made the subject of his sermon the Biblical verse quoted at the beginning of this posting. And at the conclusion of the service, Miss Anna presented each child and their mother with a flower which was her mother’s favorite – the carnation.
Anna Jarvis’ Unhappy End
The idea of Mothers Day caught on immediately, and in spite of some difficulties in the U.S. Congress (some things never change!), it was finally approved. On today’s date, May 8, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation officially designating the second Sunday in May as “Mothers Day”. Regrettably, Miss Anna did not finish her days so happily. She had a love affair which ended poorly, and in considerable disillusionment over this, she vowed never to marry, and wound up viewing the day which she had been so instrumental in getting proclaimed as a very personal mockery. The increasing degree of commercialization which inevitably began attaching itself to “Mothers Day” only made her unhappiness worse. She went so far as to initiate several lawsuits against companies which sought to profit from the day. These lawsuits failed, and Anna Jarvis died childless and alone in 1948.
My Own Mother
As many of you may be aware, I lost my own wonderful mother, Norma on March 10 of 2012. That’s her above on the left with friends at Findley Market in Cincinnati during the 40’s. Nothing can ever replace the confidence which she had in me, no feeling can ever replace the knowledge that here was one person who cared about me deeply and constantly. And I thank God every night in my prayers for that wonderful, sweet and magical time in my life in which she and my father (still very much alive and kicking!) created for me and my siblings a world wherein all was safe, and Mom & Dad would always love us and take care of us… everything would always be alright. It was something that all too many kids must grow up without, and I am supremely lucky that I did not have to. I think of all of these things especially now that I will have to pass Mothers Day without being able to put my arms around her and give her a hug. I can only say to you my readers: MAKE SURE that you get your mom something special, or do something sweet for your Mom this Mothers Day, before you find yourself hearing, as I now must, all of those little reminders from TV hosts and radio commentators or whoever else to do something special for your Mom and you can only think as I now must think: “I only wish that I could!” But above all, be thankful for all of the years that you have had with her, and remember to be happy, as I always am that her sweetness will always be a happy and comforting memory. Thanks Mom, and Happy Mothers Day!!
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“Exraordinary Origins of Everyday Things” by Charles Panati, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1987.