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May 05, 2009



In know that the 2008 post on the History of Mother's day provided a good outline of the "Howe Declaration". But I thought a bit more might be in order, because when our current Mother's Day celebration is decried as not feminist, I wouldn't want the original intent of the holiday to be lost.

Mother's Day was celebrated in the 17th century in England, when apprentices and servants (both male and female) got a day off to return home to see their mothers.

Anna Jarvis started in the 1850's to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers' Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms), she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action. Unfortunately, Mother's Day for Peace never became a reality,

Anna Jarvis' daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, would of course have known of her mother's work, and the work of Julia Ward Howe. Much later, when her mother died, this second Anna Jarvis started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women.

She began in 1905 to develop a non-commercial day honouring mothers (living and dead). The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907 in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. And from there the custom caught on and finally the holiday was declared in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson in the U.S. However, she vehemently opposed it as a commercial holiday.

Perhaps a feminist critique could also include a look at how the patriarchy and corporate interests have also taken over and transformed these noble efforts by women into a celebration of - as the poster notes - society's conflicted and lower-status view of womanhood?

I enjoyed the post!


Great history of how the event built over time! Yes, I think next year we will take that angle in looking at how Mothers' Day has been co-opted.

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