What You Don’t Know About Mother’s Day … and What You Should Remember

By Alan Knight

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I hope you and yours enjoyed a warm and heartfelt Mother's Day.

Did you know that while not the actual beginning of today’s Mother’s Day celebration, the ancient annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to their maternal goddesses is generally regarded as somewhat of a precursor to it?  Admittedly, some pundits are divided on this issue.  Nonetheless, the Greeks used the occasion to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.  Ancient Romans, too, celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria, which was dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. 

It may be noted that ceremonies in honor of Cybele began some 250 years before Jesus was born.  The celebration during in the Ides of March was made by making offerings in the temple of Cybele, which lasted for three days and included parades, games and masquerades.  Over time, the celebrations became so notorious that followers of Cybele were eventually banished from Rome. 

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Early Christians celebrated a Mother's Day of sorts during the festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.  However, the roots of today’s present Mother's Day history can also be traced in UK where a “Mothering Sunday” was celebrated much before the festival saw the light of day in the U.S.   It was expanded to include all mothers.  A more recent history of Mother’s Day dates back to 1600s in England.  It was celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40-day period leading up to Easter) to honor mothers.  After a prayer service in church to honor the Virgin Mary, children brought gifts and flowers to pay tribute to their own mothers.  On this occasion, servants, apprentices and other employees staying away from their homes ― and there were many of them ― were encouraged by their employees to visit their own mothers and honor them. Traditionally, children brought gifts and a special fruit cake or fruit-filled pastry called a simnel.  Yugoslavs and people in other nations have observed similar days celebrating mothers.  While most countries celebrate Mother’s Day in May, usually the second Sunday of the month, in other parts of the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated at different times of the year and with different customs.

Origins of Mother's Day in the Land of Lady Liberty

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The idea of the official celebration of Mother’s Day in the U.S. was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe. An abolitionist, activist, writer and poet, Julia Ward How is known for her famous Civil War song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  She wrote a passionate appeal to women and urged them to rise against war in her famous “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” which she had written in Boston in 1870.  In 1872, Julia Ward Howe suggested that June 2nd be annually celebrated as Mother’s Day, asking women from around the world to join together for peace.  Unfortunately, her efforts proved unsuccessful, and she openly began to wonder if Independence Day on July 4th could be reconfigured into her vision of “Mother’s Day.” Her idea evolved and was later replaced by the Mother's Day holiday now celebrated in May.

Last year, our modern-day Mother's Day celebrated its 100th birthday.  It was founded for the mourning women to remember soldiers who’d died in battle and to work for peace.  When the holiday began to take on overtly commercial overtones, another of its greatest champions, Anna Reeves Jarvis, tried vehemently to fight it, but ended up dying a pauper and broken in a sanitarium.

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According to an article, “Mother’s Day Turns 100: Its Surprisingly Dark History,” published last year by “National Geographic”: “In the 1850s a West Virginia woman, 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.  The group also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.  In the postwar years, Jarvis and other women organized Mother's Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist strategies to unite former foes … Around this same time, Jarvis had initiated a Mother's Friendship Day for Union and Confederate loyalists across her state.  But it was her daughter, Anna, who was most responsible for what we call Mother's Day ― and who would spend most of her later life fighting what it had become.”

While Anna Jarvis didn’t have children of her own, the death of her own mother served as inspiration for her to organize some of the first official Mother’s Day observances in her hometown of Grafton West Virginia in 1908. On May 10th of that year, families gathered at a church, which has since been renamed the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Other Mother’s Day events were held in Philadelphia, where Jarvis was living at that time and in several other US cities. It was primarily from Anna Jarvis’ work that Mother’s Day became a national holiday, as seven years later, in 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed the second Sunday in May as the official holiday.

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Originally devoid of all the commercial trappings associated with it today, Jarvis’conception of Mother’s Day included spending time with one’s mother and personally expressing gratitude for all that she did. “It wasn't to celebrate all mothers.  It was to celebrate the best mother you've ever known ― your mother ― as a son or a daughter,” states West Virginia Wesleyan College graduate Katharine Antolini, who authored “Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Defense of Her Mother’s Day” as her Ph.D. dissertation. That's why Jarvis stressed the singular “Mother's Day,” rather than the plural “Mothers’ Day,” Antolini explains. However, the increasing commercialization of the holiday eventually led Jarvis to perceive her initial success as a failure.

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“Anna Jarvis's idea of an intimate Mother's Day quickly became a commercial gold mine centering on the buying and giving of flowers, candies, and greeting cards ― a development that deeply disturbed Jarvis,” according to the “National Geographic” article. “She set about dedicating herself and her sizable inheritance to returning Mother's Day to its reverent roots.  Jarvis incorporated herself as the Mother's Day International Association and tried to retain some control of the holiday.  She organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother's Day to raise funds for charities … Jarvis's fervent attempts to reform Mother's Day continued until at least the early 1940s.  In 1948 she died at 84 in Philadelphia's Marshall Square Sanitarium.

“‘This woman, who died penniless in a sanitarium in a state of dementia, was a woman who could have profited from Mother's Day if she wanted to,”Antolini says. ‘But she railed against those who did, and it cost her everything, financially and physically.’”

Money Mother's Day  

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Today, Mother's Day, like many other contemporary holidays, comes gift wrapped in overt consumerism.  According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $162.94 on their mothers this year, down from a survey high of $168.94 last year.  Total spending is expected to reach nearly $20 billion. The National Restaurant Association states Mother’s Day is the most popular holiday for dining out.  Furthermore, more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than on any other day of the year. These holiday chats with mom can cause the phone to traffic to spike as much as 37%.

We can, of course, argue the points regarding how Mother's Day has become so commercialized.  Of course, the same can be said of many other religious and non-religious holidays.  But the commercial element embracing mommy dearest is here to stay. Retailers stay in business to make a profit, while we have that not-so-gentle nudge to do something nice for someone we love. 

Presenting the Best Presents

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In recent years, adult children have started to take a look at where they spend their money in expressing their love and appreciation for their mothers (and nowadays, mother’s in law, grandmothers, aunts, etc.).  In some cases, help in purchasing a home, help in purchasing a condo or renting an apartment in a retirement community, or perhaps something even more personal.  For example, the Walk-in Bathtub has become a product of need among seniors.  Many have seen commercials about them on TV, Internet and in print, and maybe even received information by mail.  The Walk-in Tub is something many seniors need, which may not be affordable, especially for someone living on a fixed retirement income. Companies such as Tub King, Inc. have always strived to make these tubs affordable for seniors.

Unlike some companies that try to bilk would-be buyers out of their hard-earned money to buy a Walk-in tub, (read our previous blog, “Is the Walk-in Tub a Scam?”) since its inception 14 years ago, Tub King has always done its very best to keep both the purchasing and installation fees on its various models as affordable as possible.  My brother, Kerry (now retired from Tub King) and I have an elderly mother, so we empathize with those who want to ensure that their parents are safe and comfortable, particularly in the bathroom, which statistically is the most dangerous room in the house for the elderly.

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This unique, high-tech but easy-to-operate bathtubs offer the opportunity for independent bathing, safety from falling when getting in and out of the bathtub due to its low threshold, hydrotherapy options for various pains and ailments that are associated with aging, and importantly, peace of mind for users and their children.  They’re a great way to tell your mom “I love you” on Mother's Day.

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Another product that mothers of adult children are gravitating towards these days are Tub King’s new Safety  Suite Showers. There are two main designs ― a low threshold and a zero threshold ― and each comes with a variety of options such as the drain orientation (left, center, right), the type of in-shower seat, the type/color of tile, etc. There are also safety-designed accessories that are fitted with built-in grab bars such as towel racks, paper roll stands, shelves, etc. 

In this article, I discussed the origins and history of Mother’s Day, heralding back to ancient Greece and Rome. I also talked about two of its main proponents in the U.S., Julia Ward Howe and Anna Reeves Jarvis. The article goes on to discuss two very popular bathroom products for mothers (and dads, too), Tub King’s Walk-in Tub and Safety Suite Showers.

Tub King Customer Testimonial for Walk-in Tub

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Alan Knight has many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. His companies not only provide superior products, they are also multi-award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact Tub King, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to Alan@tubking.com.

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