And she asked me ‘Was I a good mother… ?’ Mothers Day, Sunday May 8, 2011.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. It occurred just the other day in England… and will occur around the globe at various times all year long as millions of people make a point of honoring mother and making this day special for her. Those of us whose mother has passed on will take time this day for remembrance… turning this into a day of bittersweet joy and sorrow.  There will be tears… but there will be smiles, too, as we recall every aspect of Mom with all the memories we cherish so. Yes, there most assuredly will be smiles, too… for Mom, even if gone, still has the power to lighten our lives and soothe us, just as she did so often once upon a time…

Anna Jarvis and the creation of Mother’s Day, 1914.

There have, of  course, been mothers’ days as long as there have been mothers. Kind-hearted fathers and grateful children undoubtedly saw to that… but one woman wanted more for mothers than a casual, occasional compliment. Her name was Anna Jarvis and she is the reason you are dropping by your mom’s today, your arms full of spring flowers and a myriad of affectionate tokens.

Anna Jarvis was born May 1, 1864 in Webster, Taylor County, West Virginia. She was the ninth of eleven children born to Ann Marie and Granville Jarvis. From childhood Anna idolized her mother, and she often heard her say that she hoped someone one day would establish a memorial for all mothers, living and dead.

Anna always recalled one particular incident that drove home her mother’s unceasing message. This incident occurred during a class prayer given by Mrs. Jarvis in Anna’s receptive presence. Mrs. Jarvis’ lesson was on “Mothers of the Bible”. She closed the lesson with the prayer “I hope that someone, sometime will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

Anna was just 12 years old… and not only did she never forget; she dedicated her life to achieving her mother’s desire. We can now see the contours of this story. Mrs. Jarvis, kept perpetually pregnant, laboring under a mountain of never- ending work, with a husband who never understood all she did and how much he relied upon her… and a daughter completely receptive to her mother’s urgent plea for recognition, assistance, and above all else — love. Mrs. Ann Marie Jarvis poured it all into her daughter’s dutiful ears… and whatever her resentments, disappointments and moments of chagrin… here at least she was abundantly rewarded. Her darling Anna saw to that…

After her mother’s death on May 9, 1905, Anna, now living with siblings Claude and Lillie, began her life’s work, to create a day that would fulfill her mother’s fervid desire. Fueled by love and the image of her overworked,  under loved (but never by Anna) mother… Anna put  her active pen to paper, determined  to achieve her goal of establishing a nationwide observance of Mother’s Day. Nothing was going to stop her, and so from love came the focused, unceasing activity that moves mountains. She bombarded hundreds of legislators, executives, and businessmen on both state and national levels.

Everyone was polite, muttering general words of support… but, despite her efforts and her skills as a notable and motivating speaker, Anna Jarvis was making no progress. Then one of the greatest marketers in history, John Wanamaker, merchant prince, entrepreneur, philanthropist heard Anna and saw at once that her idea was good for Wanmaker’s, good for business, good for America, and good for mothers everywhere. It was a win-win situation all round…

With the inventive genius, power, influence and energy of John Wanamaker (1838-1922) behind her, Anna Jarvis and her idea moved onwards and upwards at incredible speed. On May 10, 1908 15,000 folks eager to Honor Thy Mother showed up at Wanamaker’s Store Auditorium in Philadelphia to hear Anna Jarvis speak. 10,000 of them had to be turned away for lack of room… It was a magnificent event… thereafter success followed success, Wanamaker saw to that; he was a dynamo of a man, success his birthright.

By 1909, 45 states, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Canada  and Mexico observed Mother’s Day.  People by the millions wore the white and red carnations the movement had adopted as a visible means of showing that the wearer loved Mother and supported the cause. President Wilson proclaimed the first national Mother’s Day in 1914.  Everyone was happy now; a great goal had been achieved… everyone, that is, but Anna Jarvis.

Every time a florist sold a bouquet… every time a husband hard-pressed for time and with worries of his own bought a card… every time anyone made a buck off her Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis winced. And so as the number of participants grew into the millions, Jarvis who should have been the happiest of all became the most miserable. This isn’t at all what she had in mind for mothers… or the memory of her mother.

So began the sad decline of Anna Jarvis, the woman who now proceeded to burn every bridge and sunder her intimate connection to Mother’s Day until with the death of her sister, she was entirely alone… having nothing but memories and the assurance of her mother’s love. And so she went on, bitter, alone, forgotten, neglected until at last she died, November 24, 1948, her mother’s zealous defender until the end…

… but too much so. I like to think that Anna’s mother would have been glad for the card (even if store-bought), for the flowers (even if not picked from your own garden), and the candy you didn’t have time or talent to make… because each is a token of a love which cannot be celebrated too often… the love of mother. And so if your mother is alive today, do something, anything, indicating you care.

And as you are lavishing these gifts on your one and only mother, give a thought to Anna Jarvis and her troubled spirit. She is the reason you have the happy task of turning this otherwise ordinary day into the reassurance your mother requires that yes, resoundingly yes, she was and yet is a good mother, the best of all whatever her faults or limitations.  All she really needs is to hear you say so….


About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Dr. Lant is also the author of 18 best-selling business books.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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