More Americans are expected to make long distance calls on this day than on any other holiday. With greater emphasis on sentimental cards, flowers, candies and taking Mom out to dinner, Mother’s Day has become a day to spotlight the maternal parent like no other.
According to Forbes, in previous years, the National Retail Federation has estimated Mother’s Day spending at $14 billion, slightly more than Easter. Mothers — young and old — in and around Cleveland made sentimental expressions concerning the privilege of giving birth and raising children. Their comments were as diverse and distinct as the community itself. Sarah Ritterhouse, a young mother, said her son, James Christian Ritterhouse, has made her whole and helped mature her in a short time.
“I love being a mother,” Sarah said. “Being a mother to me is the most rewarding and important thing I will ever do. Everything I do in my life is for my son. When in doubt I often ask myself; ‘Is what I am doing something I want my son to see and possibly do in the future?’ Children notice what you do, even if you do not realize it. With that in my mind, I make my choices based on my son’s future security and how I want to reflect myself. Everything from my job, choosing to rent a nice apartment, staying committed in school, studying and making good grades, going to church — all down to the way I eat and spend my money — I have to set a good example.”
The 19-year-old who recently started CNA training said, “My son is my influence as I am his. Christian makes me the happiest person in the world, I love him more than I could ever describe to anyone. When he feels pain I do also. When he cries I tear up inside. When he’s happy my heart leaps for joy. The day I had him, was the day I found myself. He completes me. I want to give him the best life I possibly can. I have committed myself 110 percent to being his mother. I work hard at my current job and will continue to get great grades in college because that means I can give him a better life.
“I look forward to teaching him how to play baseball, basketball and other sports. I want to be the one who takes him fishing — the person who teaches him about life, love and the person who is there for him when he is hurt. I especially want to teach him about God’s grace. I have no fear for the future because God is in control. I cherish every single moment that I have with my son. Every day that I get another moment with him is the greatest moment of my life. I love being a mom! Mother’s day is my day to celebrate how happy I am to be James Christian’s mother!”
Jenny Hoffman, mother of two, said, “I was told many times of the love that would come with the birth of a child. However, it wasn’t until my first daughter was born that I truly understood the concept of unconditional love. I remember quite clearly the moment a nurse placed Kylee in my arms for the first time. I was overcome with the feeling of absolute love and adoration. In that moment I knew without a doubt there was nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for this precious child.
“Three years later when my second daughter was on the way I wondered how a heart that was already so full of love would manage another child. Again, in the moment a nurse placed Taylor in my arms, I was amazed that my heart doubled all on its own. The capability of true love in a mother’s heart is indeed an amazing thing.”
One of the oldest mother-daughter relationships in Cleveland is that of Julia Kyle, 95, and her 80-year-old daughter, artist Margarite Owens. Owens said her mother is her best friend and the two find something to be joyful about each and every day.
“It’s hard to describe,” Owens admits. “By our ages being so close — 15 years apart — we kind of grew up together as best friends. We’re more like sisters now. We’re like sisters but I still give her honor as being my mother. It’s a wonderful blessing to have her with me for 80 years.” Owens, who lived in Washington, D.C., while her mother lived in New York before they eventually returned to Cleveland, said, “We find something to be thankful about and to be joyful about regardless of our circumstances. We laugh and have a good time every single day. And since she is my sister in the Lord, it’s even better!”
When asked about celebrating Mother’s Day, Owens said, “We don’t celebrate one day as Mother’s Day. According to the Bible, Christians should honor their mother and father each and every day. That’s what we do.”
The appearance of a Mother’s Day celebration in modern times actually surfaced as a protest of the Civil War by women who had lost their sons, according to historians. It was not a celebration of a mother’s devotion to her family. Ironically, it urged women to put on hiatus their care for husband and home and work toward peace through political and social change.
Anna Jarvis, a community activist, who provided nursing care during the war began to work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors in 1868 in Grafton, W.Va. Her agenda was to heal the wounds of war and bring families and communities together again.
In 1870, Jarvis’ contemporary, Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” proposed her Mother’s Day Proclamation as a call for peace and disarmament, saying in part: “Arise, then women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”
But Howe failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for peace. Jarvis, called “the mother of Mother’s Day” by many, died May 9, 1905. Two years later, in 1907, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, commemorated her mother’s life in Philadelphia with several friends and announced her idea of a national celebration in honor of mothers.
Anna wrote the superintendent of Andrews Methodist Church Sunday School in Grafton, W.Va., suggesting the church in which her mother had taught for 20 years celebrate a Mother’s Day in her honor.
The following year, on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day service was held in the church. West Virginia Gov. William E. Glasscock issued the first Mother’s Day proclamation on April 26, 1910. In 1912, at the General Methodist Conference in Minneapolis, Anna Jarvis was recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day.
A joint resolution in the U.S. Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson approved Mother’s Day as a national holiday.
Regarding its ancient history, the Encyclopedia Britannica described Mother’s Day as “a festival derived from the customs of mother worship in ancient Greece” with “ceremonies to Cybele, the Great Mother of the gods.”
The New York Times of May 10, 1953, reported, “In spite of the popularity of Cybele ... and sporadic occasions honoring mothers during the Middle Ages, it was not until 1914 that the proper combination of sentimentality, idealistic promotion and hard business sense impelled the United States Congress to designate the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.”
By the 1920s, Jarvis had reportedly become so disillusioned by the commercialization of Mother’s Day that she and her sister, Ellsinore, spent their family inheritance campaigning against the holiday. Both died in poverty.
Recent surveys suggest what mothers want most is, not excessive spending, but good behavior, a day of leisure, a simple visit or phone call from their children with kind words of love and sincere appreciation.