Belated ode to mothers, mother figures

PHOTO BY MARÍA CAMP

This past Sunday was the day of a time-honored annual observance in our country, and we would be remiss if we did not take a moment to share a word of gratitude for the honorees. 

Happy – belated – Mother’s Day to all mothers and mother-figures in our readership. 

According to the National Women’s History Alliance, it was actually world peace that motivated Boston poet Julia Ward Howe to establish a special day for mothers in 1872. Following unsuccessful efforts to stage an international pacifist conference after the Franco-Prussian War, Howe began to think of a global appeal to women. She is quoted as wondering, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?” 

Howe’s version of Mother’s Day, which served as an occasion for advocating peace, was held successfully in Boston and elsewhere for several years but eventually lost popularity and disappeared from public notice in the years preceding World War I. 

The efforts of another woman, Ann Jarvis, and her daughter Anna Jarvis, are credited with assuring a Mother’s Day observance that would not fade away.  

Ann Jarvis, also known as “Mother Jarvis,” organized women’s brigades throughout the Civil War – women who did all they could without regard for which side their men had chosen. In 1868 Mother Jarvis took the initiative to heal the bitter rifts between her Confederate and Union neighbors. 

In 1878 Ann Jarvis taught a Sunday school lesson on mothers in the Bible – a lesson for which her 12-year-old daughter Anna was among the listeners. “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day,” the senior Jarvis said. “There are many days for men but none for mothers.” 

Following her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis sent a constant stream of letters to men of prominence – like President William Taft and former president Theodore Roosevelt – to request a national Mother’s Day.  

By May 1907, a Mother’s Day service had been arranged on the second Sunday in May at the Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Mother Jarvis had taught. That same day a special service was held at the Wannamaker Auditorium in Philadelphia, which could seat no more than a third of the 15,000 people who showed up. The custom spread to churches in 45 states and in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico and Canada. In 1914 there was a Congressional Resolution for Mother’s Day, which was promptly signed by President Woodrow Wilson. 

Thus, for more than a century, mothers have been getting at least some of the attention and adoration they so well deserve. 

We are all quite aware of how integral mothers are in our lives, in the very fabric of our society. They are the organizers, the instigators, the game planners and the change-makers. Their incredibly, enduring strength is the power the propel us all. Indeed, even any success or achievement in this world that can be traced back to a man can undoubtedly be traced back even further to the mother who loved and supported him.  

Whether you got to celebrate with your mother, or the holiday sparked a wave of memories for the mother you have lost, we hope you took the chance this weekend to honor the mother or mother-figure in your life. 

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