It’s Mother’s Day. Not Mothers Day.


This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother, who’s been in heaven one year and four months, and for my wife, the mother of our children. For years I’ve said that Mother’s Day should focus on each living person thanking God for his or her mother and not on honoring all people who happen to be mothers. Here’s some historic support for that idea. From Wikipedia:

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died.

Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” 

In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers. 

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she resented the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday should be on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

She also specifically said that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his 1914 presidential proclamation, by the U.S. Congress in relevant bills, and by various U.S. presidents in their proclamations concerning Mother’s Day.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with honoring on Mother’s Day all who are blessed to be a mother. Yet doing so as the primary or sole focus of Mother’s Day observances can be insensitive to and painful for women whose blessings do not include motherhood. It’s Mother’s Day. Not Mothers Day.

The bottom line? This Sunday, and every day, take time to thank God for your mother!

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