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Tuesday Trivia: Mother's Day

J. H. Osborne • May 5, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Mother’s Day is always the second Sunday in May. That means this year it falls on May 10, this coming Sunday.

Here are some details about the history of this national holiday from the Farmers’ Almanac:

Origins

• Mother’s Day grew out of the efforts of Miss Anna M. Jarvis, described as “an especially devoted daughter who was concerned about the neglect shown to mothers by grown children.”

• After her mother died in 1905, Jarvis grieved — and the next year asked friends to come to her church in Grafton, West Virginia, on the first Sunday in May to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death.

• A year later, Jarvis broadened the church service and donated carnations (her mother’s favorite flower) to every mother in the congregation.

• She was very clear, however, that the holiday was to be called “Mother’s” Day (singular) — “to honor the best mother who ever lived — yours.”

• Jarvis then worked hard to promote the holiday, writing letters to churches, politicians and city leaders. She had enlisted the help of John Wanamaker (the pioneer of marketing and advertising) and Henry J. Heinz (of Heinz Ketchup fame) to help her start a movement, and it worked.

• By 1911, all of the states in the union had Mother’s Day proclamations. 

• Jarvis’ efforts resulted in a resolution ultimately being passed in Congress, dedicating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

• A day later, on May 9, 2014, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making it official.

A sad twist

• Ultimately, Jarvis turned against what she saw as the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

• By 1920, she urged people to stop buying flowers and other gifts for mothers, even though the floral industry helped her initially fight for the holiday.

• Her ideal gift to mothers: a heartfelt letter. “Any mother would rather have a line of the worst scribble from her son or daughter than any fancy greeting card,” she said. She came to loathe the holiday until her dying day in 1948.

Sources: The Farmers’ Almanac; U.S. Archives.

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