Do you know the origins of Mother’s Day? For a moment, forget the Teleflora bouquets, the special price for brunch, the Hallmark cards. Mother’s Day originated with women’s peace groups, made up of mothers whose sons had fought and/or died in the Civil War. After the end of the Civil War, in the late 1860’s, a woman named Ann Jarvis sought to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day,” to reunite families that had been divided during the war. She died before the annual holiday was enacted, but her daughter Anna continued the effort on her mother’s behalf, campaigning to establish Mother’s Day as a national holiday. The holiday was declared officially by the state of West Virginia in 1910, and the rest of the states followed quickly. On May 8, 1914, Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day and requesting a proclamation, and on May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
My mother was intelligent, modest, strict (oh boy, was she strict!). I don’t think she ever regretted being a stay-at-home mom, but she was a woman who witnessed the role of women in society change dramatically during her lifetime. She attended college (Pembroke) but didn’t finish. She married at the old age of 27, to a Catholic man nearly ten years older than she, and she told me once that she’d have been happy with a house full of babies. She’d forego housework in favor of sitting on the floor with her little girls, making paper dolls or playing ‘Go Fish.’
She was a widow at 50, with one daughter still in college and one still in high school, and she missed Jack Reynolds every single day for the rest of her life. She finally traveled to Europe (twice), to Florida, and to her beloved quilt shows around New England and in Paducah, Kentucky. Her amazing talent at knitting, needlepoint, and finally quilting was unmatched.
The early stages of dementia attacked over ten years ago, and the disease progressed, as it does so cruelly. It finally released her in 2007. As a teenager, I wanted to be as different from my mother as I could be. Today, it’s an honor to carry her traits.
Every day should be mother’s day (and father’s day, spouse’s day, child’s day – you get it). For some women, today is difficult: through loss, misfortune, or the hand dealt them, some women find this day almost unbearable. For them, I offer a prayer of hope and peace.