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.”

Clearly, not many listened, and Mother’s Day is now one of the three or four most commercially-important occasions on the American calendar, a multi-billion dollar spur to the economy.

That said, if Anna Jarvis had avoided the malls and taken a tour instead of the Sonoma Plaza on Sunday, she might have mellowed just a bit. It was a gloriously sunny day, with crowds of shoppers – mothers prominently in attendance – filling Plaza shops and restaurants, and flowing through adjacent parks.

Families picnicked all over the Plaza and a mother duck shepherded 11 newborn ducklings around the duck pond as a swarm of excited children tossed showers of breadcrumbs at them.

Witnessing this Sunday scene it was difficult not to conclude that commerce and community were happily joined, that shopping with and for Mom was, in fact, a whole lot more than a business transaction. And it reminded us that one mother of our acquaintance, in particular, deserves credit and recognition for some of the continuing health of the local business community.

Jennifer Yankovich, until March the executive director of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, put her heart and soul into promoting the local economy. She was a relentless cheerleader for local business, the effusive chair of countless chamber breakfasts, meetings and business gatherings and a tireless promoter of the Valley’s business-survival mantra – “Shop Sonoma.”

Critics branded Yankovich as a business shill, conveniently ignoring the fundamental importance of her work to defend the economic health of the community. We didn’t always agree with her position on issues, and said so, but we understood and respected the job she was doing, as well as her formidable intelligence and tenacity. She knew what her job was and she did it exceptionally well.

Yankovich resigned in part because she is a mother, a mother determined not to let the remaining school years of her two children slip away. We applaud her for her service and hope she finds rich fulfillment in the opportunity to enjoy motherhood more.