Mother’s Day: a history of activism

Mother’s Day: a history of activism

Some say that the beginnings of the celebration that celebrates the importance of maternal figure have its origins in solemnities held in Classical Antiquity – Ancient Greece and Rome – in which figures such as Reia, the mother of the Greek gods, were praised. However, there is no direct relationship between ancient and contemporary festivities, but some historians put them in a dialogue to show that tributes to the maternal figure are not exclusive to our times.

THE Mothers Day, as we know it today, appeared in the early 20th century, in the United States, when Anna Jarvis decided to create a date to honor her mother, Ann Jarvis.

Jarvis mother

Born in 1832, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis attended a Methodist church and was, for a long period of her life, a social activist and was of great importance during the American Civil War.

Known for organizing projects for her community in West Virginia, Ann was responsible for valuing women who exercised motherhood.

In 1858, and with other mothers in his community, he created the, which aimed to improve the sanitary and health conditions in his area. These clubs provided assistance and education services to families in order to prevent diseases and reduce child mortality in the region, and also took money with them to buy medicine and hire women to work in families where the mother suffered from a health problem.

During the American Civil War, Ann Jarvis’s clubs changed their mission to meet the demands of the conflict. Declaring neutrality, they rendered services to soldiers on both sides – Confederates and the Union – and refused to adopt and support a division between north and south proposed by the Methodist Church. When measles and typhoid broke out in military camps, Ann and her clubs were responsible for caring for contaminated soldiers at the request of a commander.

Its relevance during this period meant that, at the end of the war, public officials still asked for their help in the post-war conflicts that still persisted between soldiers and civilians in the northern and southern United States.

With the request, Ann and the other club members organized for soldiers on both sides and their respective families. With songs and a message of unity and reconciliation, the event, held in 1868, successfully fulfilled its objective and showed the community that hostilities were harmful and that they should end.

Anna’s homage

On May 9, 1905, Ann Jarvis passed away, at the age of 72, due to some heart problems after a lifetime of struggles to honor and help the maternal figure.

This greatly affected his daughter, Anna Maria Jarvis, who followed in his footsteps in activism and, on May 10, 1908, managed to hold a memorial ceremony to honor his mother and all mothers in the Methodist Episcopal Church he attended after three years of fighting , marking the first official celebration of Mother’s Day.

mothers day gift

Since that date, Anna Jarvis has spared no effort to make Mother’s Day an official and permanent date in the United States and has managed to have the cause brought to the US Senate by Elmer Burkett, a senator from the state of Nebraska, but has not was approved.

Despite this, the celebration in honor of the mothers spread throughout the American territory and, from 1909, Anna devoted herself entirely to her mission of making Mother’s Day official.

The following year, West Virginia, the state in which his mother served as an activist, officially adopted Mother’s Day and soon other states began to adhere to the decision. Four years later, in 1914, then President Woodrow Wilson unified the celebration nationwide, establishing the second Sunday of May, suggested by Anna Jarvis herself.

The commercialization of Mother’s Day

With the popularization of the date, the consequent commercialization of the event would be inevitable. The second Sunday in May became a profitable day for traders – especially for those who sold carnations, considered flowers symbol of motherhood.

However, this process bothered Anna, who was disgusted with the consumer culture that took place over an event that was created to turn to the sentimental side and the connection with the mothers.

In 1923, Anna filed a lawsuit to cancel Mother’s Day which, for her, had lost its essence, but without success. In an interview, Anna said that she did not create Mother’s Day to make a profit and criticized, for a long time, those who bought ready-made cards for the date, calling them lazy people who were not willing to write a dedication by hand for their own mother.

In Brazil, the commercialization of the event was no different. The first Brazilian Mother’s Day was promoted in Rio Grande do Sul, by the Young Christian Association of Porto Alegre, on May 12, 1918, but only officially instituted in 1932, during the government of Getúlio Vargas.

Since then, Mother’s Day has become the second most important commemorative date for Brazilian commerce, second only to Christmas. Its magnitude is so great that, during a period of social isolation in the country and with stores closed, it was proposed to transfer the celebrations of that year to August, together with Father’s Day.

Celebration in the world

In Brazil, as is known, the date is celebrated as it was instituted in the United States, on the second Sunday in May. Other countries, such as Germany, Australia, Denmark, Malaysia and Uruguay are also celebrating on this date.

But not all countries follow the event dated by the American system. In Portugal and in African Portuguese-speaking Countries, it is celebrated on the first Sunday in May; in Norway, it is the second Sunday in February; Argentina and Belarus celebrate on the third Sunday in October. And there are still countries that have set a fixed date on the calendar, such as Albania, Russia and Serbia, which they left to celebrate on March 8, along with Women’s Day; or Thailand, on August 12th.

Thus, it is clear that each country celebrates and honors the maternal figure on dates and in ways appropriate to their own culture, there is no official day internationally, but everyone emphasizes in some way the importance of reinforcing the meaning of motherly love and remembering the struggles of Ann and Anna Jarvis throughout history.