This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for May 14, 2017: Nurse

May 14, 2017: holiday: Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day, first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her own mother at a church in Grafton, West Virginia. Jarvis’s mother had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, and Jarvis campaigned her entire life for a national day to honor all mothers. She wrote letters to anyone who had influence, like President Teddy Roosevelt, former Postmaster General John Wanamaker, and even Mark Twain. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed an official proclamation declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday. It’s held on the second Sunday of every May.

Almost as soon as Wilson signed his proclamation, companies began selling greeting cards, flowers, and gifts. Jarvis felt handwritten letters could express love more honestly than greeting cards, and she filed numerous lawsuits against card companies like Hallmark.

Anna Jarvis lived the last years of her life in a nursing home, nearly blind, and almost penniless. On her wall was a letter with a $1.00 bill sewn to it. The letter read: “I am 6 years old and I love my mother very much. I am sending this to you because you started Mother’s Day.”