In 1858, Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker tried to improve sanitation through what she called Mother’s Work Days. During the Civil War she organized women to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides. In 1868 she began working for reconciliation between Union and Confederate neighbors, and tried to establish Mother's Friendship Days as a way to heal the divisions caused by the Civil War. .
Inspired by Anna's work, Julia Ward Howe proposed an annual Mother's Day for Peace in 1872. The first Mothers' Peace Day festival was held in Boston on June 2, 1873, and continued for at least a decade. Although Julia failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother's Day for Peace, Anna Jarvis' daughter (also named Anna) later revived the idea of a day for mothers, even though it did not share all her mother's or Howe's original intentions.
In 1914 the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution signed by President Woodrow Wilson establishing Mother's Day, emphasizing women's role in the family (not as peace activists in the public arena, as Howe's Mother's Day had been). That was pretty tricky, don't you think? So much for mom the peace activist. Mother's Day was now safely in the hands of American commercial interests; honor your mother - rescue her from the kitchen for a day and buy her something!
Interestingly enough, Anna Jarvis became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother's Day: "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit." She opposed the selling of flowers and also the use of greeting cards: "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."
I wouldn’t dream of calling for a boycott of flowers or greeting cards (Hallmark might sue me), but there are other ways of honoring your mother and other inspirational women in your life – ways that will make a difference in many women’s lives. One is making a financial contribution (and getting involved with) one of the many organizations working for women’s issues; here are three of my favorites: Global Fund for Women, Women's Action for New Directions or CodePink: Women for Peace. This Mother's Day make mom happy by making a difference!
Happy Mother's Day (for Peace),
Photo Credit: "Mother's Day Rally Against The War 13 May 2007", source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avatar1/501521292/in/set-72157600226880806/