Everyone has a mother, so it isn’t surprising that throughout the world there are ways of honoring and celebrating mothers. Mother’s Day is a time to think about the legacies – personal and societal – mothers and grandmothers pass on.
Historically, mothers have had a key role in building and maintaining connections across generations. Even today, they are most often the “kinkeepers” in families and take the lead in passing down family stories, life lessons, and traditions. Honoring this role of mothers is part of the story behind Mother’s Day – but not all of it.
Many people may believe Mother’s Day was developed as a commercial holiday by Hallmark or some other company to sell cards, candy, and flowers. Or, they may believe it’s a day solely to celebrate the domestic role of women in the home and family. Neither of these perceptions is accurate. Our consumerist market may have fueled the commercialism around the holiday, and the role of mothers in families is indeed important, but Mother’s Day is not only about honoring a woman’s devotion to her own family. The history of the day has its roots in honoring the broader networks, social ties, and political concerns of women. The day is about women’s commitment to the past, present, and future at both the personal and political levels. It honors women who have acted not only on behalf of their own children but also on behalf of an entire future generation.
Mother’s Day isn’t a new holiday. The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the mother of the gods. People would make offerings of honey-cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn.
The Romans also had a mother of all gods, Magna Mater, or Great Mother. A temple was built in Rome for her. In March of each year, there was a celebration in her honor called the Festival of Hilaria. Gifts were brought to the temple to please the powerful mother-goddess.
During the 1600s, England celebrated “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) as a way to honor the mothers of England. Many of England’s poor lived and worked as servants for the wealthy, far away from their homes and families. On Mothering Sunday, servants were given the day off to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the “mothering cake,” was often baked to add to the festivities.
Julia Ward Howe
The story of modern Mother’s Day begins in the peace movement and as a day recognizing women’s social action.
In the United States, Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), a Boston writer, pacifist, suffragist, and author of the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, first suggested a Mothers’ Day in 1872. She saw it as a day dedicated to peace.
Howe was greatly distressed to see Europe plunged into the Franco-Prussian War so soon after her generation had suffered through the American Civil War. For several years she worked toward the recognition of a “Mothers’ Day for Peace” on June 2. She organized meetings in Boston, MA as a rally for women, whom she believed bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else. Men showed little interest in her ideas, but she appealed to war mothers, the women who supported husbands and sons at war, pleading, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?”
Although her version of Mothers’ Day never really caught on, Howe went on to head the American branch of the Woman’s International Peace Association, which observed a day dedicated to peace.
Anna Jarvis and Her Mother
The official observance of Mother’s Day in its present form is credited to Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) of Philadelphia, PA. She wanted to honor the memory of her mother, Mrs. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, who died in 1905. Before getting into the story, it’s important to clear up two popular misconceptions. According to historical records provided by the curator at the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum near Grafton, WV, Anna Jarvis’ mother was not, as is popularly believed, also named Anna. Her mother was simply Ann. Second, Anna Jarvis’ name has no middle initial.
Mrs. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis (sometimes referred to as “Mother Jarvis” to distinguish her from her daughter Anna) organized several “Mothers Day Work Clubs” in the 1850s in the West Virginia area (the name of the clubs was later changed to “Mothers Friendship Clubs”). Mrs. Jarvis lost eight children under the age of seven (she gave birth to a total of twelve children), and wanted to combat the poor health and sanitation conditions that existed in many areas and contributed to the high mortality rate of children. The social action brigades provided medicine for the poor, nursing care for the sick, and arranged help and proper medical care for those ill with tuberculosis.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis called together four of her Clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and goodwill would not be a victim of the conflict between the states. In a display of compassion, courage, and friendship, the members of these Clubs nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.
After the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis worked as a peacemaker encouraging families to set aside differences created by the polarization of the war. In 1868, she organized a “Mothers Friendship Day” to bring together families that had been divided by the conflict. Mrs. Jarvis spoke about the purpose of the day:
To revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. To be a home tie for the absent. To obliterate family estrangement. To create a bond of brotherhood through the wearing of a floral badge. To make us better children by getting us closer to the hearts of our good mothers. To brighten the lives of good mothers. To have them know we appreciate them, though we do not show it as often as we ought… Mothers Day is to remind us of our duty before it is too late. This day is intended that we may make new resolutions for a more active thought to our dear mothers. By words, gifts, acts of affection, and in every way possible, give her pleasure, and make her heart glad every day, and constantly keep in memory Mothers Day.
If friends and family were to be reconnected, Mrs. Jarvis believed it had to be done by appealing to that love and respect that everyone has for their mother. With great skill and courage, she created a very emotional event, with many people embracing and in tears at the end. Several other Mothers Friendship Days were held thereafter.
Mrs. Jarvis’ service to her community was not lost on her daughter, Anna. When her mother passed away, Anna was at her graveside and recalled something her mother often said:
I hope that someone, sometime, will found a Memorial Mothers Day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.
Then and there, Anna made a promise to her mother:
The time and place is here and the someone is your daughter, and by the grace of God, you shall have that Mothers Day.
Up until her own death, Anna continually referred to her mother as the real originator of Mother’s Day, despite the fact that it was Anna herself who worked tirelessly over several years to make it a national reality.
It began in 1907 when Anna had a small gathering of friends in her home to commemorate her mother’s life. She announced the idea of a national day to honor mothers. In 1908, Anna persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, WV to celebrate Mother’s Day on the anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. It was to be a day to honor all mothers, and also a day to remember the work of peacemaking, reconciliation, and social action against poverty started by her mother. That same year, Mother’s Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.
The role of women was changing rapidly during this period. During the first two decades of the 1900s (often referred to as the Progressive Era), women were entering into community building and political activities. Like other women of the time, Anna did not denigrate the role of mother, wife, and homemaker, but expanded the role into the public arena. Women saw government as being “enlarged housekeeping” and used their skills to help improve it. The definition of motherhood at the time gave women a moral responsibility outside their immediate home. Women who participated in civil rights and welfare reform saw this work as essentially maternal in nature. Women worked to ease social ills; they became scholars and scientists; they fought for the rights of various groups of people; and they raised their voices to have the right to vote. Many of these reformers were mothers as well as activists, but their contributions as mothers were often overlooked. The creation of Mother’s Day as a national holiday was to restore the status of mother as a cornerstone of the family and of the nation.
Anna and her supporters tirelessly wrote to ministers, business people, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother’s Day to honor all mothers. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made it official: Mother’s Day would be a national holiday held each year on the second Sunday in May. He stated that mothers were “the greatest source of the country’s strength and inspiration.” He ordered the United States flag displayed on all public buildings to honor mothers. Unfortunately, many officials of the time turned the intent of the holiday away from women’s activism and instead emphasized women’s role in the home and family. The apostrophe was moved so that “Mothers’ Day” as a day for organized social and political action by all mothers became “Mother’s Day” a day for celebrating the private service of one’s own particular mother.
Anna went on to incorporate herself as the Mother’s Day International Association and turned her attention to persuading other nations to celebrate Mother’s Day. Eventually, Mother’s Day would be observed in over fifty countries.
It was Anna Jarvis who also began the custom of wearing a carnation on Mother’s Day – colored if your mother is living, and white if she’s not. It was intended to be a simple, inexpensive symbol of love and respect for the person who loved you before you even knew how to spell the word.
Unfortunately, the story of Anna Jarvis has a bittersweet ending. At first, people observed Mother’s Day by attending church, writing letters to their mothers, and spending time together. As the years passed though, more people began buying cards, presents, and flowers. Anna felt that Mother’s Day became much too commercialized. She was outraged when the price of carnations rose significantly and attacked florists as “profiteers.” She filed a lawsuit to stop a 1923 Mother’s Day festival and was even arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mothers’ convention where women were selling carnations to raise money. Said Anna: “This is not what I intended. I wanted a day of sentiment, not profit.”
Years later, in a care home, Anna told a reporter that she was sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day. And yet, even though she had never had children herself, she was the mother of Mother’s Day, and each Mother’s Day her room would be filled with thousands of letters and cards from all over the world. One of them she prized highly, and hung on her wall. It read: “I am six years old and I love my mother very much. I am sending you this because you started Mother’s Day.” Carefully sewn to this letter from a little boy was a $1 bill.
Anna Jarvis died in 1948, at the age of 84.
Mother’s Day is the legacy of Anna Jarvis and her mother Ann Jarvis. At the heart of the traditions around Mother’s Day are themes of honoring mothers, compassion, peace, reconciliation, and social action.
Two simple tailors worked as partners in Vilna. They weren’t making much money in the large city, where there were already many established and well-known tailors around.
They decided to circulate among the small cities of the region to find their luck. With G‑d’s help, they were successful, serving simple villagers and peasants.
In one town they passed through, they saw that the Jewish village manager was distraught. He explained that the nobleman, who was the local landowner, would soon be holding a wedding, and had asked the manager to bring the best Jewish tailors to his service. However, the nobleman had not been satisfied with any of the work and was now threatening to fire the manager, and perhaps also expel the Jewish tenants from his properties.
Upon hearing this, the tailors said, “Why don’t you present us to the nobleman?”
“Well,” the manager warily replied, “you aren’t acquainted with high fashion clothing.”
“True,” they replied, “but the nobleman has been dismissing the high fashion, so maybe he’ll appreciate our simpler style.” The manager agreed to give it a shot.
The nobleman asked for a sample dress, and after seeing what they had created, he was thrilled. He contracted them to tailor the wedding clothing for his entire extended family and all of his servants.
After the job was done, they walked away with a hefty sum of money. They also felt good that they had saved the livelihood of the village manager and the Jewish people of the vicinity.
When the tailors were about to leave town, the nobleman’s wife spoke to her husband. “Look,” she said. “We see how these Jews care so much about their co-religionists. Perhaps we should tell them about our Jewish prisoner who couldn’t pay the rent for his inn and is still languishing in prison. Maybe these tailors would care enough to pay off his debt and free him.”
She approached the Jewish tailors. When they asked how much the man owed, they were told that he owed 300 rubles. One tailor said that this was too steep a price to pay. The other, however, said, “How can I just walk away from another Jew’s plight?”
He told his partner: “Let us split up our partnership, and see how much each of us truly owns.” It turned out that each was left with precisely the amount needed—300 rubles. The generous tailor immediately gave the money to the nobleman’s wife, and said, “Let the prisoner go free.”
Both tailors returned to Vilna. The one who kept his money was able to establish a professional business in the big city. The other was empty-handed, with no partner, and no cash with which to restart his business. He fell into a deep depression, and the only thing he could manage was to collect donations. He became a beggar, and it seemed to the local population that he had lost his mind.
Very desperate one day, he directly approached a wealthy man, asking him to spare a few coins. The wealthy man asked what he would receive in return, and the beggar answered, “I will pray for you.”
The wealthy man chuckled, and said: “What will your prayer do for me? But here’s a few coins either way.” The wealthy man went on with his business meetings that day and was very successful. He thought that perhaps it had something to do with the beggar’s blessing.
So the next time he was to have a business meeting, he made a point to pass by the beggar again. After giving him a few coins, he asked for a blessing. Again, he was fabulously successful with his business affairs.
This went on for quite a few months, until one day, while gathered with family, they asked what was the secret to his newfound, absolute success. He told them about the blessings he made sure to receive, and how they were always fulfilled.
Before long, the erstwhile tailor had a large following of people who would seek his blessings, which consistently came true.
A group of the Baal Shem Tov’s disciples were passing through town and heard the peculiar story of the beggar whose blessings were always fulfilled. They told their master about it, and he said that this must be a very special man, with an especially lofty soul. “Bring him to me,” he said. “I’d like to speak with him.”
The Baal Shem Tov questioned him, asking what special deeds he had done. The beggar said that he really did not know of any exceptional heroics he could claim. “I’m just a simple man,” he said, “No one unique or important.”
The Baal Shem Tov had the man tell his entire life story. When he reached the part where he parted with 300 rubles to save a man from prison, the Baal Shem Tov exclaimed, “Aha! This is it! This eminent and selfless action of yours is what causes your blessings to come true.”
Hearing this from the Baal Shem Tov, and realizing the uniqueness of his act, left a great impression on the man, and he was able to crawl out of his depression.
The Baal Shem Tov spent time with the sincere tailor and taught him Torah. Eventually, he became an accomplished scholar and a great tzaddik.
Have we had opportunities to effect profound positive change in another’s life? When have we done so? Can we help ourselves and others appreciate the good we have caused—as the Baal Shem Tov did?
Rabbi Hillel Baron is the rabbi and spiritual leader of the Lubavitch Center of Howard County in Columbia, Maryland. An avid collector of stories and spirited storyteller since his teenage years, Rabbi Baron has continued to tell stories to adults and youth through his 35 years in Maryland, most recently telling a story every week on his “Welcome Shabbos” zoom sessions.
Artwork by Alex Levin. Ukrainian-born Alex Levin lives in Rishon Lezion, Israel. His works, many of which depict Jewish life in Israel, have been admired by Israeli presidents and international celebrities. Alex has received the Award for the Contribution to the Judaic Art from the Knesset. Paintings can be viewed and purchased at ArtLevin.com.
On May 26th each year, National Paper Airplane Day honors the simple aeronautical toy that has been around for thousands of years.
National Paper Airplane Day provides an excuse to play! This inexpensive, healthy, and stimulating form of entertainment brings lots of joy, too. In other words, put down your smartphones and get outside for some primitive fun!
Did you know?
Many believe the use of paper airplanes originated 2,000 years ago in China.
The earliest known date of the creation of modern paper planes was said to have been 1909.
The largest paper aircraft had a wingspan of 59.74 ft. Students and employees from Germany created it on 28th September 2013.
Joe Ayoob recorded the longest distance flown by a paper airplane in February 2012. His plane flew 226 feet, 10 inches.
The longest-lasting paper airplane flight flew 29.2 seconds.
There is more than one way to fold paper for a test flight. Find tips for designs at www.foldnfly.com.
HOW TO OBSERVE #PaperAirplaneDay
You can celebrate in a variety of ways. From challenges to creating new designs, paper airplane making is for everyone! Whether you play all day or just a few minutes, invite someone to join you. It is a great way to share the fun.
Quiz Q: The four forces that influence the flight of a paper airplane are thrust, lift, gravity, and drag. How do these forces impact your paper airplane?
A: When you throw the plane forward, this is called thrust. Lift is a force that acts on the wings and helps the plane to move up. Big wings increase lift. Gravity pulls the plane down. The right materials create a lighter aircraft that stays up for longer. The tail of the plane causes drag. It is the opposite of thrust, and it makes the plane slow down.
Q: Paper airplane contests compete for the top place in what two categories?
A: Distance and Time to float.
How did you do?
NATIONAL PAPER AIRPLANE DAY HISTORY
We were unable to determine the origin of National Paper Airplane Day.
On May 24th, Aviation Maintenance Technician Day honors the men and women who have worked behind the scenes making and keeping aviation possible.
Charles Edward Taylor
We all know the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Kitty Hawk, and the experiment of human flight. But how many of us know the name, Charles Edward Taylor? He came to work for the Wrights in 1902 when the research turned to powered flight. The automobile companies couldn’t supply an engine both light enough and powerful enough for flight.
Enter Taylor. A machinist by trade, with a metal lathe, drill press, and other hand tools, he built the 12-horsepower engine, which propelled the Wright’s aeroplane 20 feet above the wind-swept North Carolina beach. The longest flight lasted 59 seconds for a distance of 852 feet. It took Taylor 6 weeks to build the engine, and yet, history books rarely mention the man who helped make the historic December 17, 1903, flight possible.
Beyond First Flight
Being on the cusp of the aeronautics industry, Taylor continued to design aircraft engines for the Wright brothers as well as teaching them to build their own. When the first airport was established (by the Wrights), he was named the airport manager.
The partnership continued when the Wright brothers were awarded a military contract for the first military plane with Taylor designing and building the engine.
Taylor’s adventures continued in 1911 when William Randolph Hearst offered up a cash award to the first pilot to fly across the United States in 30 days or less. Cal Rodgers, a young pilot, accepted the challenge and hired Charles Taylor as his mechanic.
Rodgers made it, landing and crashing from New York to Pasadena, with Taylor trailing along in a car.
Charles Taylor continued in the field of aviation maintenance for more than 60 years. Like Taylor, aviation maintenance technicians around the world work in the background, keeping civilian and military aircraft safe. On May 24th, we recognize their achievements and humble history.
HOW TO OBSERVE #AviationMaintenanceTechnicianDay
Celebrate the innovators of aviation who may be behind the scenes. Learn about aviation maintenance and thank those who get us in the air and keep us there. Use #AviationMaintenaceTechnicianDay to share on social media.
AVIATION MAINTENANCE TECHNICIAN DAY HISTORY
Through the efforts of Richard Dilbeck, in 2001, the FAA created the prestigious Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award to honor AMTs, who had served at least 50 years in aircraft maintenance. The following year, California Senator Knight introduced a resolution honoring Aviation Maintenance Technicians annually in honor of Charles Taylor’s birthday.
On May 23rd, National Lucky Penny Day hopes you’ll have good luck all day long.
See a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.
When you are out and about, look on the ground for pennies. It just might be your lucky day!
Years ago a penny was able to buy something. (Check out National Taffy Day – to see what we used to get for a penny.) Today, due to inflation, the penny does not buy much of anything. The metal value and cost of minting pennies exceed their face value. Many nations have stopped minting equivalent value coins and efforts are being made to end the routine use of pennies in several countries including the United States.
First U.S. Penny
The United States first issued a one-cent coin produced by a private mint in 1787. Benjamin Franklin designed it. On one side, it read “Mind Your Business” and the other “We Are One.” This coin was made of 100% copper and was larger than today’s penny. It came to be known as the Fugio cent. However, the first pennies struck in a United States Mint weren’t produced until 1793, but they were also made of copper.
But why are pennies lucky? Well at one time, metals, including copper were precious material. Finding a penny was a valuable find. Sometimes finding a penny had more to do with the daily battle between good and evil. Do you only pick up a penny if it’s head side up? Superstitions carry on from generation to generation. And with some of them the rule that says if you find a penny tail side up, you should flip it over and leave it head side up for the next lucky person to find.
On a wedding day, there’s also a saying that leads people to put a penny in the bride’s shoe. It’s more likely to lead to a blister than to bring good luck in that case.
HOW TO OBSERVE #LuckyPennyDay
See how many pennies you can find. It just might be your lucky day! Use #LuckyPennyDay to post on social media.