News Post

The Spirit of Mother’s Day

11 May 2019

by Eric Zaklukiewicz, FBB Staff

Are you put off by the commercialism of Mother’s Day? You're in good company. The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, died institutionalized and broke decrying the commercialization of the very day she created.

To have Mother's Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other holidays have become, is not our pleasure. If the American people are not willing to protect Mother's Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a mother's day.  – Anna Jarvis

Jarvis campaigned for the foundation of a National Mother's Day inspired by her own mom, Ann Reeves Jarvis. The elder Jarvis was a champion of humanistic service work; she organized service clubs to lower infant mortality rates via improved sanitary conditions, cared for wounded Civil War soldiers on both sides, and started a Mother’s Friendship Day to unite families divided by the Civil War.

After originally being ridiculed, a 1914 proclamation designated Anna Jarvis' Mother’s Day a national holiday. Its intent was to promote intimate family celebrations of motherhood, symbolized by the carnation— Ann Reeves Jarvis' favorite flower. The idea was quickly exploited and commercialized by florists, card companies, and retailers.

How can you stay true to the original Mom's Day spirit?

"Old School" Mother's Day:


Jarvis intended families to honor mothers with an intimate celebration and hand-made card or letter thanking her for all that she has done. Think about getting back to basics with a simple act like this. Get creative: you can spend some time on personalized arts, crafts, or even a song.

Have a screen-free family game night, or go adventuring. Try hiking, rock climbing, or boating for example. Forget the carnations. Instead of shelling out for a short-lived bouquet, plant some seeds in the garden and watch them grow throughout the year.

Mother's Day— Ann Reeves Jarvis-style:


Bring the spirit of humanist service into the occasion. Substitute evergreens for carnations and plant some trees to combat climate change. Form a Mother's Day service squad to volunteer serving homeless families. Help an organization fighting against family separation at the border. (Some ideas can be found here.)

Make a Donation to a (thoroughly-vetted) Charity


Technically, Anna Jarvis was bitter about charities who fundraised off Mother's Day, mainly because the (largely religious) foundations of the time had little transparency and were prone to corruption. However, times have changed, and today's online resources can help you vet charities for profiteering, discrimination, and religious bias.

Make a sincere, informed contribution to a non-profit like FBB, or to organizations like's #FreeBlackMamas campaign. (This initiative works to bail African American mothers out of jail and draw attention to problems with the cash bail system.)

Let us know if you come up with other ideas, and how your day turns out. We hope you're able to warm your mother's heart this weekend in a way you can both be proud of.


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