Skip to main content

Mother's day 2016

This post is not meant to scare you away from your reservations today at your restaurant.. or your plans for the park.. or your moment to visit mom in whatever location she rests. Mother’s Day is a fine time meant to conjure love and spirit, connect together child and loving and beautiful.

That said, as is true with most major holidays, there are often times dark and weird histories connected with the celebrations of present day. And as someone who has been dubbed the ‘great ruiner’ by friends and family, I often enjoy pointing those out to you so you can be either aware of history or smile at how we evolve to forget..

Mother’s Day.. Nothing overly awful.. but some eyebrow raising pieces of history to consider.

First the woman who championed the entire idea of mother’s day to begin with; Anna Jarvis ..



Jarvis was the driving force in the 1850s. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC in 2014:
It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis—Anna’s mother—held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

After the war, Jarvis kept working to organize events.
When Woodrow Wilson gave the recognition to Mother’s Day, companies began to highly profit from the commercialization of things. Jarvis boycotted! She was angry.. In 1923 she even crashed a convention to protest.. She died at 84 after a long battle AGAINST MOTHER’S DAY in Philadelphia’s Marshall Square Sanitarium..

The details of Jarvis are fascinating. In 2008, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story talked about Jarvis becoming mentally unstable as Mother’s Day went the opposite route she wanted.. one piece from the article:
Where the myth of Anna Jarvis ends and the truth begins is hard to determine. Rumors circulate that Miss Jarvis started the day to assuage the guilt of fighting with her mother, something Mrs. Crow-Dadisman debunks.

“People who supposedly lived next door to her said they heard her screaming at her mother,” said Mrs. Crow-Dadisman. “But they were not old enough to remember her.”

Anna Jarvis was born in the two-story wooden house in Webster on May 1, 1864, before her family moved to Grafton. The 10th of the 13 children of Ann Marie and Granville Jarvis, she was one of only four of the Jarvis children who survived, Mrs. Crow-Dadisman said.

Devastated by the high infant mortality rate, Ann Marie Jarvis turned to her brother, Dr. James Reeves. He educated her on how unsanitary conditions — polluted wells, outdoor toilets, dirty diapers — were leading to outbreaks of dysentery, cholera and measles.

Some people say Jarvis went ‘insane’ fighting modern Mother’s Day. But as we learn more about mental illness, it was most likely not that simple. But history does not teach that the woman who was responsible for what we celebrate today died in most likely not the best conditions..


The Jarvis home is now a museum..  It is in West Virginia, and it appears quaint and lovely. Picture perfect..
Darker history? Sure.. Jarvis’ home is also known  for potentially paranormal events..  According to some, the first son Alonzo visits the master bedroom.. a ‘woman in black’ frequents the house.. ‘George’ thinks he is a Civil War soldier. One particularly creepy account of the Jarvis home from the museum’s executive director, as reported a few days ago by Huffington POST:
Olive Ricketts, the museum’s executive director who with her husband restored the home, told The Huffington Post that when they first moved in, their two dogs would spend hours staring blankly at the master closet. But it wasn’t until a 2-year-old taking a regular tour ran into the master closet and could be heard talking up a storm that Ricketts learned about the presence of “Alonzo,” Jarvis’ older brother who died as a young child. Ricketts said that paranormal specialists — think ghost busters — have “confirmed the presence” of two or three additional dead children, a man believed to be a dead soldier who was helped by Jarvis’ mother, and Jarvis’ mother herself. The house is being featured by PBS’ paranormal series, Ricketts said.

Jarvis was childless.
She also apparently hated men. Hence not having a child?

All of this seems so depressing. Perhaps I should stop.

Depressing perhaps, but fascinating as well.. History is not always easy to understand or simple to grasp.. concepts of today are fit perfectly well into the pegs we expect.. Mother’s Day? Advertisements to sell you mom’s gifts and …restaurants especially packed. (Do yourself a favor and make dinner at home today for mom.)

But before ending, I wanted to share a piece of history that actually exists in my hometown: The Ashland Pennsylvania Mother’s Memorial.  It may not draw thousands or even hundreds of people per year, but it is something to be proud of..


From a 2013 article:
The A.B.A. was formed in the early 20th century in response to the widespread job loss and dispersion of coal miners as mines began to fail.  It was a homecoming organization that welcomed former Ashland residents back to their hometown.  Men from all parts of Pennsylvania, as well as several other states, participated in these annual celebrations.  The A.B.A. was the archetype of a poignant Pennsylvania story:  how successive waves of industrialization and economic development create then destroy industries and communities, leaving large groups of people longing for the associations and comforts of family, friends and home.  The Mother’s Memorial stands as a symbol of this sentiment.

At an A.B.A. reunion in 1933, it was proposed to honor all Ashland mothers by erecting a monument or memorial.  Members felt that such a memorial would represent the very foundation of the organization, because their motto was, “Come on home” and home evoked thoughts of one’s mother.  A committee was formed in 1936 to investigate and plan the memorial.  Some A.B.A. members, as well as many residents of the town, advocated the establishment of a library instead, but the memorial was decided upon and eventually gained the full support of the organization and the town.

The idea of commissioning a sculpture based on the painting known as “Whistler’s Mother” was a unique one.  The A.B.A. responded enthusiastically and raised over $6000.00 for the project.  The seven foot high three-dimensional sculpture was designed by Emil Siebern and sculpted by Julius Loester.  Both artists were sculptors from New York who specialized in public art – funerary decoration, memorials, park statuary, etc.  Although they did not routinely work together, both participated in several projects overseen by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The completed Ashland monument was made of bronze and placed atop an impressive stonework terrace built by the WPA in 1938.

There you have it.. The convoluted and interesting history of the day today.. Carnations in hand! Gifts galore.. Mother’s Day again, but what is it for?

Jarvis is gone.. her idea is not.
Corporations came and against them  she fought..
Flowers and food, Mother’s and son,

All of that said, don’t ruin the fun.

happy mother’s day!



Show more