Columnists Mark my words

Column: Birth of Mother’s Day a difficult one

by Father Mark Goldasich

You’d think that I’d learn by now that what seems like an easy idea for a Leaven column rarely turns out that way. Take Mother’s Day, for example.

I’d heard via TV and radio ads that this is the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day in the United States. Naturally, that history turns out to be a lot more complicated.

For starters, there’s confusion as to the brains behind Mother’s Day. While some attribute the idea to Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) or Mary Towles Sasseen, most agree that it was an Anna Jarvis, who swore at her mother’s gravesite in 1905 to dedicate her life to the establishment of a day honoring mothers.

But of course, there are differing views about Jarvis. Was she a teacher or a clerk in an insurance office? Did she spend years looking after her ailing mother or is the persistent rumor true: that the real motivation to pursue the establishment of the holiday was because Anna and her mother had argued and her mother died before they could reconcile?

What all agree on is that this founder of Mother’s Day never had children of her own.

And what about that 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day? Well, Jarvis did pass out 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, at her mother’s church — St. Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, W. Va. — but that was in 1907. In 1908, that same church did officially respond to Jarvis’ request and offered a Sunday service honoring moms. 

Also in 1908, the first bill was presented in the U.S. Senate, at the request of the YMCA, to establish a Mother’s Day. But it was killed by a vote of 33-14 and sent back to committee.

Only in 1914 did Congress finally pass a joint resolution, subsequently signed by President Woodrow Wilson, to establish Mother’s Day. So, technically, this isn’t the official 100th anniversary.

Because that’s way more information than you wanted about this holiday, let me lighten the mood by directing your attention to some true Mother’s Day experts — second-graders, who answered questions about “Why God Made Moms.”

Why did God make mothers?

1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.

2. Mostly to clean the house.

How did God make mothers?

1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.

2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.

3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?

1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.

2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

What kind of little girl was your Mom?

1. My Mom has always been my Mom and none of that other stuff.

2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy. 

3. They say she used to be nice. 

Why did your Mom marry your Dad?

1. My Dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.

2. She got too old to do anything else with him.

3. My grandma says that Mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

What would it take to make your Mom perfect?

1. On the inside, she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue. (Found at; author unknown.)

Sadly, one of the things that didn’t turn out so perfectly, at least in the mind of Anna Jarvis, was Mother’s Day. As time went on, she became disheartened with the commercialization of the holiday and, as early as 1923, was said to have regretted her role in the creation of this special day.

To her credit, Jarvis was right on the money with her belief that children neglect to appreciate Moms and that at least once a year a special effort needs to be made to remedy that.

A special card can be a practical first step. And making one of your own is preferred (or at least writing something inside a store-bought one). Jarvis once said that the use of printed greeting cards was “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.”

While I’m sure that moms know in their hearts how much they are loved, it’s still nice to remind them — in word and deed — not just on Mother’s Day . . . but as often as possible.

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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