Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Woman Behind Mother's Day

On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna Jarvis of West Virginia held a memorial to her mother and thereafter embarked upon a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday.

In 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution, and President Woodrow Wilson signed it, establishing Mother's Day, emphasizing women's role in the family.

In 1934, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Mother's Day stamp with the image of the 1871 painting Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother (which is popularly known as Whistler's Mother )by American-born painter James McNeill Whistler. In the lower left hand corner of the stamp is a vase of white carnations.

Jone Johnson Lewis on the website writes that because Jarvis felt the holiday was becoming too commercialized, she campaigned against the stamp. She persuaded President Roosevelt to remove the words, Mother's Day (which was apparently in the original design) but not the white carnations. The slogan "In Memory and In Honor of the Mothers of America," was used instead.

Anna Jarvis used carnations at the first Mother's Day celebration, because carnations were her mother's favorite flower. Wearing a white carnation is to honor a deceased mother, wearing a pink carnation is to honor a living mother.

As a side note, according to a report in the March 19, 1934 edition of Time magazine, postal officials had trouble deciding whether to take quite a bit of artistic license and have Whistler's mother hold a bouquet of carnations rather than having a vase as an added element.

Happy Mother's Day!

For more on Anna Jarvis, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM