Abraham Lincoln expressed the reason to celebrate Mother’s Day eloquently: “All that I am or every hope to be I owe to my angel mother!” When I read these words of Lincoln in primary school, I assumed he was talking about his mother’s influence on him before her untimely death. Later I realized that he was referring to the fact that she had brought him into the world. None of us would be here if it had not been for our mothers.
Motherhood is not a walk in the park. It is a lifelong commitment to family, the foundation of society, with both demanding responsibilities and rewarding gratifications.
For most of the last 100 years we have set aside a day to honor mothers, but caught up in feminist movements, politically correct campaigns for gender equality and same sex marriage, represented as anti-discrimination measures, society has seriously devalued the institution of motherhood and its key importance to human well being. We now have a generation of women who feel they should have a right to kill their unwanted children.
Several have claimed credit for founding Mother’s Day. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words for the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” proposed Mother’s Day in 1872 as a day to promote peace.
Albion, Mich. has posted an historic marker that reads: “On May 13, 1877, the second Sunday of the month, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped into the pulpit of the Methodist Episcopal Church and completed the sermon for the Reverend Myron Daugherty when Daugherty, distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son to spend the night in a saloon, was unable to continue.
“Proud of their mother’s achievement, Charles and Moses Blakeley encouraged others to pay tribute to their mothers. In the 1880s, the Albion Methodist Church began celebrating Mother’s Day in Blakeley’s honor.”
In 1907, Ana Jarvis began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. She persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, W.Va., to celebrate Mothers’ Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday in May. By the next year, with the help of John Wanamaker, Mother’s Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Jarvis and her supporters began a letter-writing campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. By 1911 Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. The National Mother’s Day Association was incorporated in 1912 to promote the day.
On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war. Clearly Wilson was responding to organized public pressure to formalize the celebration honoring mothers of the nation. In 1934, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved a stamp commemorating the holiday.
The Grafton’s church, where the first celebration was held, is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine and is a National Historic Landmark.
More recently, honoring Mother’s Day has become a far more sensitive political issue. In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution commemorating Mother’s Day. There were no opposing votes, but 21 representatives did not vote. Is it possible a vote recognizing the sanctity of motherhood carries implications for politicians seeking the support of pro-abortion groups?
As business interests began to promote Mothers’ Day for profit, Mrs. Jarvis became bitter because of the commercialization of the holiday. Shortly before her death in 1948, she told a reporter she was sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day.
As we observe Mother’s Day, we should ask ourselves: What does the future hold for a society that regards motherhood as less important than other vocations for women?
Murvin H. Perry of Johnson City is a retired professor of journalism.