Storming Mother's Day
Anna Jarvis's idea of an intimate Mother's Day quickly became a commercial gold mine centering on the buying and giving of flowers, candies, and greeting cards—a development that deeply disturbed Jarvis. She set about dedicating herself and her sizable inheritance to returning Mother's Day to its reverent roots. (See National Geographic's pictures of motherly love.)
Jarvis incorporated herself as the Mother's Day International Association and tried to retain some control of the holiday. She organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother's Day to raise funds for charities.
"In 1923 she crashed a convention of confectioners in Philadelphia," Antolini said.
A similar protest followed two years later. "The American War Mothers, which still exists, used Mother's Day for fund-raising and sold carnations every year," Antolini said. "Anna resented that, so she crashed their 1925 convention in Philadelphia and was actually arrested for disturbing the peace."
Jarvis's fervent attempts to reform Mother's Day continued until at least the early 1940s. In 1948 she died at 84 in Philadelphia's Marshall Square Sanitarium.
"This woman, who died penniless in a sanitarium in a state of dementia, was a woman who could have profited from Mother's Day if she wanted to," Antolini said.
"But she railed against those who did, and it cost her everything, financially and physically."