May 10, 2017

Five Ideas to Honor our Mothers from our Hearts, instead of the Gift Store.

Anna Jarvis is rolling over in her grave.

The founder of Mother’s Day valiantly paired the words honor, sacrifice, work, proper care, and policy to her idea. As a mother of four, I like that—a lot.

Yet, what buzzwords would we would pair with it today? Perhaps love, flowers, cards, chocolate, and brunch. 

How did this holiday change so drastically? I found the answer on, and it fascinated me.

Jarvis originally “helped start ‘Mothers’ Day Work Clubs’ to teach local women how to properly care for their children” in the late 19th century. She created the Mother’s Day holiday by 1908 with the intent of “honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.”

Mother’s Day was political, too. Jarvis, who remained unmarried and childless her whole life, argued that “American holidays were biased toward male achievements.” A massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urged the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.

By 1914, she won. President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday.

But, it took only six years to shift from a heartfelt holiday of honor to a conundrum of commercialism.

Jarvis became “disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and candies.” She went as far as opening a “campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists, and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name ‘Mother’s Day,’ eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees.” She even lobbied to have it removed from the calendar.

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.” ~ Anna Jarvis

She disowned the holiday altogether by her death in 1948.

This Mother’s Day, let’s bring the holiday back to its roots and help its founder rest in peace. Let’s honor all mothers. Let’s make sure they hear how their sacrifice, work, and care have made a difference in our lives. Let’s get personal and sincere this year.

Let’s not buy a single thing. Instead, try one of these:

  1. Write some handwritten reflections, giving gratitude for your mother.
  2. Make a playlist keeping her musical tastes in mind, or hand write the lyrics of songs or poems that speak the words for you.
  3. Create something together as a memorial for all that she has given: plant a container herb garden, build a birdhouse from recycled materials, or create a wind chime from mismatched metal utensils or extra garden tools.
  4. Place 365 little handwritten reasons and reflections to honor her on slips of recycled colored paper. Tuck them in a mason jar with the instruction, “Take One a Day.”
  5. Hold her. Hug her. Cook for her. Let her melt in your arms for a day and rest.

Make sure you have a handkerchief handy. Honest gifts of gratitude are tearjerkers for many, including me. Healthy, abundant tears of love and gratitude may not be “the norm,” but go there anyway. It will be the best gift you have ever given her.

To those who mother their own children or others’ children, to those who mother mothers, who teach and give life, and to those who tend to Mother Earth, Happy Mother’s Day!

We honor you.


Author: Kate Fleming
Image: Elephant archives
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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Kate Fleming

author: Kate Fleming

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren