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Commerce, community and motherhood

It’s not too hard to guess what Anna Jarvis would make of Mother’s Day had she been anywhere near an American mall on Sunday.

Jarvis was the mother of Mother’s Day (surprise – it wasn’t Hallmark), an event she promoted to honor her own mother, a Civil War peace activist who cared for soldiers on both sides of the conflict and founded a number of “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in West Virginia to promote public health and sanitation.

Anna Jarvis, who became a successful businesswoman, devoted much of her life to promoting the Mother’s Day cause, which President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed a national holiday in 1914.

But despite that success, Jarvis fought almost as hard to resist the relentless commercialization that swiftly followed, as the cut-flower, greeting card and candy industry climbed on the Mother’s Day bandwagon. She protested angrily against the marketing of Mother’s Day, committed acts of civil disobedience and even got herself arrested as a result.

At one point she wrote, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother – and then eat most of it yourself.”


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