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The Face Of Love

She gave you your first kiss. She knew you were wonderful, a miracle, a pure and precious thing to be loved and cherished. And if you were her first, you can’t blame her if she didn’t know what was coming.

Nevertheless, she stood by you when the school principal called. All those times you aggravated her, she still loved you. When life knocked you down, she said, “Be brave,” and cried inside.

She never forgot your birthday; she attended your athletic and musical events; she made you eat broccoli and do your homework, taught you good dental hygiene, and to be kind to others. In short, she was your first, best, and most loyal friend.

Mothers have always been important to family and world order. Ancient Greeks and Romans honored their mother goddesses with festivals. Throughout history and around the world there have been varying celebrations honoring mothers.

During pre-Civil War times, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia instituted Mother’s Day Work Clubs to educate local women in proper child care and public health issues. She was also a peace activist, caring for Civil war soldiers of both the North and the South.

Her daughter, Anna, a strong-willed woman who deeply loved her mother, desired an official Mother’s Day in which each family would honor its own mother for her sacrifices, a day of private family sentiment.

In 1908 she began writing letters to newspapers and politicians, asking for an official Mother’s Day. Six years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Contrary to Jarvis’ vision however, Mother’s Day rapidly became commercialized, and is now one of the biggest consumer holidays with spending in the billions of dollars and boasting the highest phone use of any other day.

With the advent of its commercialization, Jarvis fought to have the day removed from the calendar, spoke out against all businesses making profits from the day, and urged the public to stop supporting flower, candy, and greeting card companies.

Jarvis, who remained single and childless, exhausted her wealth with law suits against every business, organization, and charity who profited from using the emblem and name of Mother’s Day, and finally went broke.

Desiring to be known as “the Mother of Mother’s Day,” Jarvis stood against antiwar activist Julia Ward Howe (“Battle Hymn of the Republic” author), who had started a Mother’s Peace Day.

Jarvis also objected when Frank Hering, a former Notre Dame football coach, called on the Fraternal Order of Eagles to honor mothers with an annual holiday. Having fought so long and hard to be recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day, she objected to the day having a “father”.

President Franklin Roosevelt designed a Mother’s Day postage stamp featuring the famed portrait of Whistler’s Mother, but Jarvis refused to approve both the design and use of the words “Mother’s Day” on it.

Despite Jarvis’ countless efforts to create a pure and private family Mother’s Day, crass commercialism prevails. But she did plant the fact of a mother’s value at the forefront of a nation’s appreciation. (And a mother doesn’t have to be perfect to have value.)

This year, Mother’s Day shines on May 13th. Don’t forget the card, the flowers, and candy.

Constance Watkins