Cautionary Tales – The Dark Money Behind Mother’s Day

28th April, 2023

Anna Marie Jarvis wanted a national holiday to honor the dedication and sacrifice of America’s mothers. She wasn’t the first person to propose a Mother’s Day – but her campaign caught the imagination of the people and the ears of the politicians.

Congress officially recognised Jarvis’s Mother’s Day in 1914 – but the indefatigable campaigner had allied herself with businessmen with vested interests in such an annual event. Mother’s Day soon span out of its creator’s control and caused an embittered Jarvis no end of heartache.

Correction: The initial release of this podcast made reference to Grafton, Virginia instead of Grafton, West Virginia. I apologise to listeners for the error.

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Further reading

Two indispensable sources for this episode were Katherine Lane Antolini, Memorializing Motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the Struggle for Control of Mother’s Day, and Leigh Eric Schmidt Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays.

Other sources include

Planet Money “The Holiday Industrial Complex

Howard Wolfe Behold Thy Mother: Mothers Day and the Mothers Day Church

Norman Kendall Mothers Day: A History of Its Founding and Its Founder

Bruce Handy and Barbara deWilde “Op-Art; The Mother of All HolidaysThe New York Times May 13, 2007

Vibeke Venema “Anna Jarvis: The woman who regretted creating Mother’s Day” BBC News 10 May 2020

Jonathan Mulinix, “Why Mother’s Day Founder Anna Jarvis Later Fought to Have the Holiday Abolished”  Mental Floss

Time Magazine “Mother’s Day, Inc.” 16 May 1938   

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