Mother’s Day has endured test of time
HUNTINGTON — Every year, on the second Sunday in May, people across the country make it a point to honor mothers far and wide on Mother’s Day.
The holiday, first celebrated in 1908, has endured the test of time, but not without its share of challenges. More than 100 years later, the public view of Mother’s Day might stray from what the late Anna Jarvis envisioned when she started the Mother’s Day movement. Despite the change, those core values are the pillars holding the tradition high.
Maxine Bruhns is the only living relative of Anna Jarvis, who is considered by many to be the founder of Mother’s Day.
Bruhns, though a distant relative of Jarvis, has heard many stories of her life.
Jarvis’ mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, had 11 children, but seven of them died due to infections before reaching adulthood.
Her brother taught Jarvis how to boil water and dress wounds to better protect against the types of infections that had killed her siblings.
With that knowledge, Jarvis’ mother formed mothers clubs all over West Virginia and encouraged them to treat northern and southern soldiers the same because it “wasn’t their fault they were fighting in the war.”
This compassion built the base for the legacy of Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis.
Anna Jarvis’ mother died May 9, 1905, at the age of 84.
Fast-forward three years and one day to May 10, 1908. In Grafton, West Virginia, Jarvis kept the prayerful wish of her mother, Ann Maria, that “somehow, someone will find a day that honors all mothers of the world.”
Andrews Methodist Church held the first Mother’s Day service on that day. It was where Jarvis’ late mother had taught Sunday school for a good portion of her life.
White carnation flowers, her mother’s personal favorite, were given to each mother and child who attended the service. The carnations were to be worn by sons and daughters in honor of their own mothers and to represent the purity of a mother’s love.
Jarvis wrote many letters and had several others fighting in her corner. It was a battle leading to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914.
Bruhns said the ensuing commercialization of the holiday was not well received by Jarvis.
“After it picked up steam, florists made white paper flowers to bring home and then made cards so that people didn’t even have to go home to be with their mother on that day. Anna just about blew her top,” Bruhns said. “It’s commercialized, and nobody is going to change that.”
Bruhns never met face to face with Jarvis, nor did she know her on a personal level. But Bruhns believes even though Jarvis opposed the commercialization of the holiday, she would take pride knowing the country continues to honor a mother’s role.
“It isn’t the fact that she failed. Everybody has a mother. Paper flowers and postcards can’t undo that,” Bruhns said. “We must be proud that we have a Mother’s Day and that we have a mother to celebrate. Many people go home to see their mother or buy lunch or give some gesture. What she did has created an awareness that was not always there.”
Bruhns will be in Grafton this Mother’s Day to speak about the annual holiday. She acknowledged that each person will have a different experience with the holiday, but said regardless of circumstances, some mother somewhere deserves celebrating.
“Anna (Jarvis) never had any children, and I’m an only child,” Bruhns said. “Everybody has a different way of loving mothers, and that is worth honoring.”