Ann Reeves Jarvis sometimes referred to as “Mother Jarvis, ” (born Sept 30th, 1832) birthed eleven, (some research says twelve) children. She lost 7 (some research says 8) children, under the age of seven, to childhood diseases. Her personal experience and her relationship with her brother, Dr. James Reeves—a man known for his work with typhoid epidemics in Virginia— is how she came to understand the connection between disease, sanitary conditions, and the ridiculously high rate of childhood mortality. This understanding led to action.
In the late 1850’s, Ann Reeves Jarvis founded the Mother’s Day Work Clubs. (Some research says the name was changed later to “Mother’s Friendship Clubs.”) The Clubs were staffed and run by mothers. Tireless in their efforts, they educated other mothers about the connection between sanitation and disease. They raised money for medicine, inspected bottled milk (milk bottled in filthy conditions is a medium for typhoid and tuberculosis), arranged for nursing the sick, and help for mothers at home with tuberculosis.
When the Civil War hit Jarvis and her Clubs refused to take sides and nursed both confederate and union soldiers. If you know anything about history you know that was an incredibly dangerous position to take. Equally perilous was Jarvis’s work after the war as a peacemaker and her plans for the “Mother’s Friendship Day Picnic." Ostensibly a family picnic, the point was to reunite the community split into Yankee and Confederate factions by the war. Soldiers and families from both sides were invited to sit and share a meal.
“Despite threats of violence, Ann Jarvis successfully staged the event in 1868. She shared with the veterans a message of unity and reconciliation. Bands played "Dixie" and the "Star Spangled Banner" and the event ended with everyone, north and south, joining together to sing "Auld Lang Syne."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Jarvis
It was Jarvis’s fervent hope that one day mankind would formally recognize the importance of a mother’s work. Clearly that work included birthing, raising children, and intense community involvement, and social activism. After her death, Anna Jarvis, who clearly adored her mother, committed her life to making Mother Jarvis’s hope a reality. Because of her persistence and a singularity of focus that boggles the mind, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914.
Anna was so appalled by the subsequent commercialization of Mother’s Day that five years later she was fighting to remove the holiday she worked so hard to establish. The point of Mother’s Day was to celebrate social reform lead by the mothers of the world—not revenue. The battles, the lawsuits, the petitions, to do away with Mother's Day, broke her financially and put her over the edge. Anna died in Marshal Square Sanatorium, in West Chester, Pa, in 1948.
Clearly the roots of today’s Mother’s Day are in social activism (Mother’s Day Work Clubs) feminism (the Clubs were staffed and run by mothers/women) anti-war sentiment (refusing to take sides and nursing Confederates and Yankees). The posts on this page will reflect that today. As for me I am reclaiming the original meaning of Mother’s Day so yes I will be wishing my friends who are mother’s, happy happy Mother’s Day.
From my heart to yours.
Live loud, love fierce, and suffer no fools. Katherine Manaan MAWT
Lefty, feminist, progressive, pro-choice, pro-humanity, pro-environment, anti-corporation, resister.....