13 May 2024

A Holy Day

The first Mother's Day was celebrated through a service of worship 
at St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, 
on Sunday, May 10, 1908.

Boxes and boxes of carnations!
Have you ever seen so many?
All white. 
They say 25 are in each box,
and there are one, five . . . twenty boxes!
That’s why we’re lined up to enter church—
they’re asking each of us if we’re mothers
and giving each mother a flower.
I heard that they’ll ask who has a mother
who is no longer living,
and then deliver to each another flower.
Can’t be more than 100 of us, really more like half that.
The Bishop is going to bless us.
It’s kind of sweet being honored this way,
though it’s not the same as if
my own children brought me a flower or two.
I wonder where they are today?
And what will happen to the rest of the carnations?
Do we have enough vases to keep them all in the church?
Could they all be for that crazy lady’s Mom?
She was a sweet lady.  May she rest in peace.


This year was my first Mother's Day since Mom died. I stayed home with good memories of her, and then turned to my prompt to describe an historical event in poetry.  Why not Mother’s Day?  The first official Mother’s Day was in 1908.  Founded by Anna Jarvis, it was held in only two places: Grafton, West Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The next year, 45 states and Canada and Mexico celebrated the day; and in 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for the observance of Mother's Day.  I found no descriptions of the very first day—except that on that day Anna Jarvis sent 500 white carnations to her mother’s church in West Virginia to be distributed to mothers.  And I found enough about Anna herself to understand that she had a very conservative view of Mother’s Day.  Her mother had wanted to develop a day for mothers to use as they wished, but Anna wanted to—and did—develop a day to honor woman’s role as mothers.  There is nothing wrong with thatbut only in the church?  And without ever taking a stand for or against?  My own mother would not have been honored because she isn't part of a church and doesn't claim mothering as exclusive to women.  She cared about love, neighbors, being inclusive around the world.  In the following poem, I chose to let Anna Jarvis speak for herself: 

Anna Maria Jarvis 
(May 1, 1864 – November 24, 1948)

A Holy Day

I, Anna Jarvis, invented the Mother’s Day—
a holy day to honor my deceased mother
and other individual mothers, living
as well as dead.  But it’s a Mother’s Day,
with a singular apostrophe, because it’s
a personal day about you and your mother, not
you and all the other mothers in the wide world.
Let’s honor her devotion and sacrifice.  Let’s
use the second Sunday in May, when my mother
died.  Let’s keep it sacred and simple: give her a
single carnation and an intimate letter.
Mother’s Day is more appropriate to church than
the marketplace.  I’ll have no commercial claptrap
like store-made and mail-delivered cards and bouquets. 
I will sue those who perjure the day’s true meaning
and profit from it.  No Mother’s Day special luncheons,
please.  And no attaching it to causes like peace
as poet Juliet Ward Howe did way back in
1872.  Besides, that was in June,
not May.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt should have
known better than to use the day to fundraise to
lower high maternal and infant mortality.
That was in 1935.  I tried to stop it. 
I will fight 'til my last breath. You may not believe
motherhood is holy, but it is.  Marriage is sacred.
Don’t desecrate what every state in the Union
believes in: the love of mothers for their children. 
You may think mothers should stand up against guns, war,
and killing of all kinds—and I may agree, too. 
But pick another day, take 364 days, and leave
my Mother’s Day alone. Leave it in the church, please,
where it belongs. Preserve its beauty, like an un-
touched photograph.  Frame it.  Remember it is mine.

For my prompt "An Historical Moment" at What's Going On?

Four Sources:
The Surprisingly Sad Origins of Mother’s Day
Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'
Mother’s Day in the USA: Holy Day or Marketing Bonanza? 

Anna Jarvis

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast


  1. I really enjoyed learning about the history of Mother's Day, which I had never known or questioned, and about Anna Jarvis. I appreciate greatly the research that went into your poetry. A few of the lines that struck me strongly were:

    "You may think mothers should stand up against guns, war,
    and killing of all kinds—and I may agree, too.
    But pick another day, take 364 days, and leave
    my Mother’s Day alone".

    Powerful writing, Susan!

  2. Loved this poem - it really touched my heart - Beauty lasts forever.

  3. This is very interesting history I had not known about. Love both poems. It is amazing that one woman can begin something that grew as big as Mother's Day. Very cool.

    1. I especially love the closing lines in the second poem.

  4. It's so wonderful to learn about the origin of Mother's Day, Susan. It is indeed a holy day. I love the way two very different poems are penned on the same subject. The first one is so full of innocent joy that it reads like a blessing. The second poem truly suggests the right way to honor the day.

  5. We celebrate Mothering Sunday at the end of March in the UK, and although I knew the day originated in the USA, I didn’t know the history behind it. Thank you for filling in the gaps, Susan. I remember my first Mother’s Day following my mother’s death, and your poem resonated with me. I like that you chose Anna Jarvis to be the speaker of the second poem.

  6. Susan,
    Thank you for sharing your link to this week's prompt. A very informative and emotional topic.
    I was thinking about you last Sunday, especially as you lost your dear mother a few weeks ago.
    It's a day which I always remember holding with great reverence for my mum, moreso than her birthday. I think it was because it was a direct link, mother and daughter.
    I used to save my pocket money to buy as special a gift as I could afford. Usually a little gift with Mother, printed on the item.
    It was Mother's Day in the UK on Sunday 24th March.
    It will be Mother's Day in France on 26th May.
    I think it was a great idea to have a special day to thank, or remember mothers...
    A lovely link for the prompt...

  7. A touching and visually captivating poem which really leaves us questioning but also understanding - a wonderful tribute to your mother - Jae

  8. I enjoyed reading your poem. Although we are told to celebrate Mother's Day in a commercial way it is good to remember that it is personal day that has nothing to do Hallmark cards. Suzanne - Wordpress blog 'Wayfaring'.

  9. Thank you this was very interesting and the poem was a great tribute. REally worked well with the prompt. Well done.

  10. Susan, I had no clue of the history behind Mother's Day and it's truly fascinating. Making us see it through the inventor's eyes was cleverly done.

  11. Ahhh Susan ... you brought me to tears...a lovely poem and perfectly meshed with the pain and sweet memories of this your first mother's day without.. Hugs and love..and thank you

  12. You my dear I wanted to add are a shining legacy of your mother who you will feel with you always..and a day. May her name be a blessing evermore.

  13. An informative and interesting poem. I am sorry for the loss of your mother. May the perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.....Rall

  14. My own mother gave me a strong work ethic, and PTSD. I hope that I broke the chain, at least to some degree, with my son. (I suspect him in regard to the Mother's Day card I received this year from my dog. My dog can't buy stamps!)

    I had no idea about this first Mother's Day that you've described so well, here. The carnations really made the scene, for me. Very nicely and even-handedly done, Susan.


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