Mother’s Day sad affair for its creator

But it has a special meaning for most people, including me

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Millions of mothers will be showered with flowers, gifts and attention this Sunday, the 104th official Mother’s Day.

President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 made the second Sunday in May a national holiday celebrating mothers, but the holiday got its start way before that.

The story of Mother’s Day is interesting, to say the least, but a little on the sad side. And, since we’re coming up on it, let me spend a few minutes enlightening you how it all began.

But before we start, allow me to indulge why Mother’s Day is so special to me. In previous issues I wrote about how my mother escaped from behind the Iron Curtain in 1966, with me as a 10-year-old boy at the time.

This one decision changed the direction of my entire life. There was no guarantee that the plan, pretty shallow in hindsight, would work, but after more than a year of preparation, she pulled it off.

I transformed from a naive little kid to having to learn new languages and start a new life in one new country, and then another. But it was all worth it, and my mother took a big risk to give me the opportunity to grow up in the West.

I told her before she died that I could never repay her for what she did. “You already did,” she replied. I knew what she meant, but I really didn’t.

That’s what moms do - give you things that cannot be repaid. They are given unconditionally and from the heart.

On this Sunday, we are able to honor our mothers and relive good memories of moms who have passed on.

It all started in 1858 with Ann Reeves Jarvis, who gave birth to 13 children and saw only four of them survive to adulthood. She organized the Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to improve sanitary conditions and the infant mortality rate.

She reworked the purpose of Mothers’ Day in 1868 and called it Mothers’ Friendship Day, encouraging Civil War battlefield foes to come together and heal their wounds. It was a smashing success.

Jarvis died in 1905 on the second Sunday in May. Enter her daughter, Anna Jarvis, one of Ann’s four surviving children. She organized a service in honor of her deceased mother.

In 1912 she created the Mother’s Day International Association, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day a national holiday on the second Sunday of each May.

Jarvis was very careful to make the holiday to celebrate only one mother, hence the apostrophe before the letter s. On that day, the center of attention in each family is the mother.

But things soon turned sour. By 1915 Jarvis thought she created a monster and started lobbying to eliminate the holiday. Her intention, she said, was never to create the commercialism that had followed.
When New York Governor Al Smith helped plan the state’s Mother’s Day celebration, Jarvis threatened to sue, and the event was canceled.

She even tangled with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, accusing her of using Mother’s Day to raise funds for charities. She became increasingly reclusive by 1940.

She died at the age of 84 in a sanitarium, alone and penniless from the legal battles she fought over the holiday.

Ironically, she never had any children.

Anna Jarvis did not have a happy Mother’s Day, even though she created it. For my own mother, though, it was Mother’s Day every day after our great escape. She created her own happiness by taking the biggest gamble of her life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms who read this. You deserve it. This is the day the rest of us make you feel special and say thank you.