Inventor of Mother’s Day Absolves You of Buying Stuff

Because I am the best daughter in the world, this is about the time every year where I look at my calendar, curse myself for procrastinating, and then wonder who the hell invented Mother’s Day, anyway. Well, according to Mental Floss, Mother’s Day was invented by Anna Jarvis in 1908, as a way to memorialize her own mother, who had herself invented a thing called Mother’s Friendship Day, a Civil War effort meant to bring together moms from both the Union and the Confederacy. OK FINE.

The younger Jarvis worked tirelessly to promote the holiday, sending letters all over the place, getting laughed at my senators, enlisting big corporate philanthropists and mailing white carnations all over the country. Of course things really took off once she got the floral industry on board:

The floral industry wisely supported Jarvis’s Mother’s Day movement. She accepted their donations and spoke at their conventions. With each subsequent Mother’s Day, the wearing of carnations became a must-have item. Florists across the country quickly sold out of white carnations around Mother’s Day—newspapers told stories of hoarding and profiteering. The floral industry later came up with an idea to diversify sales by promoting the practice of wearing red or bright flowers in honor of living mothers, and white flowers for deceased moms.


Jarvis soon soured on the commercial interests associated with the day. She wanted Mother’s Day “to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” Beginning around 1920, she urged people to stop buying flowers and other gifts for their mothers, and she turned against her former commercial supporters. She referred to the florists, greeting card manufacturers and the confectionery industry as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.”

Jarvis spent the rest of her life campaigning AGAINST Mother’s Day, and died in an insane asylum.

So I think the least we can do in her honor is to forget to buy our moms something for Mother’s Day, and pay them a visit or a phone call instead. Maybe post this article on her Facebook wall for good measure.

Photo: trazomfreak



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