Mother. Mom. Mama. Mommy. Ma. By whatever name she’s called, our mother is probably the first face we saw when we entered the world. She represents the soft lap we laid our head on when we were little, the cool hand that soothed our fiery forehead when we had a fever, and the shoulder we cried on when we had a bad day, or when someone didn’t pick us to be on their team.
The history of Mother’s Day goes back to the late 1850s, when a woman named Ann Reeves Jarvis organized a series of women’s clubs in West Virginia, mainly to promote disease prevention and proper hygiene methods to curb childhood mortality. During the Civil War, these women treated both wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. After the war, Jarvis tried to bring these women together to try to help soothe feelings still raw from the loss by the Confederacy.
According to the official History of Mother’s Day website, www.historybymail.com, after Jarvis died, her daughter Anna was inundated with requests to continue her mother’s efforts to create a Mother’s Day. Anna decided all mothers needed to be recognized and acknowledged for their work and the sacrifices they made for their families. In 1908, she organized the first official Mother’s Day, which was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908.
But it wasn’t until Jarvis started a national campaign to promote an official Mother’s Day that the holiday picked up traction. She encouraged people to write letters to newspapers and contact their politicians, asking them to declare Mother’s Day an official annual holiday.
In 1914, Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, requiring a proclamation from the president. The following day, President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Mothers come in many forms. There are birth mothers, first-time mothers, adoptive mothers, women who have stepped in to assume the position of a mother when another woman cannot fill that role. There are stepmothers, grandmothers, aunts, and women who do not have children of their own, but care for children as teachers and child-care workers. And, yes, mothers of “fur babies” count, too. The sound of a sick dog in the middle of the night isn’t that different from that of a sick child.
Mother’s Day is not a time of celebration for everyone. There are mothers who have lost children. Children of all ages, who do not have a mother with whom to celebrate Mother’s Day. For these individuals, memories of past Mother’s Days are our only comfort.
In whatever way you choose to honor your mother or mother figure, let it be a chance to acknowledge all the time, energy and love it takes to be a mother, and thank Ann Reeves Jarvis for making it possible to celebrate mothers everywhere.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Ann Bloom lives in Enterprise and worked for the OSU Extension Service for 18 years as a nutrition educator before recently retiring. She studied journalism and education at Washington State University.
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