THE HISTORY OF MOTHER’S DAY

MOTHERHOOD MYTHOLOGY

It’s our delight each yr to retell the story of M-Day. We begin with the ancient Egyptians’ Isis. She was the mother of Horus and the wife to Osiris. Isis was known as the ideal wife and mother. Honoring mother figures is a practice that is rooted 1000s & 1000s of years ago. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, all “worshipped” Motherhood. Cybele, a goddess, was known as THE Great Mother (6th Century BCE). Originally, she was worshipped in the mountains of Phrygia and was appropriately called the “Mountain Mother”. She wore a polos or a high cylindrical headdress with a whole body covering vail and a long belted flowing dress. A later version shows her more human like. She is seen with one hand resting on an attendant lion while her other hand held a tympanum, a circular drum like tambourine (paganwiccan.about.com/od/romandieties). One could argue that she is the prototype American woman who is blessed with motherly instincts and tenderness while still possessed of great strength.

As noted above mythology and motherhood are bonded forever. Titaness, a Greek “mothering” deity was the daughter of the earth goddess Gaia. Rhea is known as the “mother of gods” and therefore is strongly linked to Gaia and Cybele. In the 4th century BCE, the classical Greeks claimed that she was the mother of the Olympian goddesses and gods. The Romans identified her as Magna Mater (their form of Cybele) and the Goddess Ops. (ancienthistory.about.com/rgodandgoddesses) Mythology gives a deification of motherhood. Humanity gives motherhood reasons for that deification.

MOTHERING SUNDAY TO JULIA WARD HOWE TO ANNA JARVIS

Interestingly enough, the month of May is the mo of Mary (the Mother of Christ) in the Catholic Church. As such she is Christianity’s most sanctified and respected mother and human being. During the 16th century in the UK and various other parts of there was a Sunday called Mothering Sunday. It was celebrated on the 4th Sun of Lent. It was seen as the time when the faithful returned to their home church (parish) for a special service and brought her gifts. The founding of M-Day in the US really began in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” where she asked ALL mothers to come together for world peace every June 2nd. M-Day thereafter, has been used to advocate for woman’s rights. In 1968 Coretta Scott King led a M-Day march to bring awareness to underprivileged women & children. In the 1970s women’s groups used the pulpit of M-Day to speak about equal rights and the access to childcare.

In 1908 (the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series) Anna Jarvis founded the M-Day we celebrate today. (It was celebrated in many US cities and in particular in Grafton WV and Philly PA) where she was intimately connected. Jarvis believed that M-Day was a religious holiday (of sorts) and should be celebrated in churches. By 1914 Prez Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it as an official (federal) holiday. Based on M-Day’s great success, Jarvis (who never was a mother, herself) aggressively and constantly promoted its growth through her M-Day International Association. She urged journalists and politicians to adopt it b/c American holidays were basically male biased fests. (Her love and respect for her own mother came from the fact that her father was an abusive alcoholic.)

By 1920 Jarvis’ home grown monster, M-Day had become so BIG and so commercialized that she actively protested “her day” AND tried to halt all M-Day buying of gifts. Her rage became so great that she tried to stop the founding of F-Day b/c of its strong commercialization (History.com). She also disliked it b/c it was a “knock off” holiday.

M-Day is our 2nd biggest commercial holiday next to Xmas. (Xmas is $600B± vs $21½B for M-Day). We always like to recall the fact that one of the most successful holiday slogans ever, “Say it with Flowers” was authored by the Society of American Florists in 1918 to foster M-Day gifting (See LE Schmidt, Consumer Rts). Each of the Top 10 economies in the world celebrates M-Day in 1 way or another AND at 1 time or another with 6 of them (US, China, India, Japan, Germany and Brazil) celebrating it on the 2nd Sun of May (with gifting part of that celebration). JUST 4 THE RECORD the aforementioned 6 countries account for over 50% of the world’s GDP and almost 50% of the world’s population. Whether she likes it or not, Jarvis’ M-Day by any measure was a JUMBO success. Hppy M-Day!

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About bernacmd

For over 24 years, University of Detroit Mercy Marketing Professor Michael Bernacchi, Ph.D., J.D, has produced "uNDER tHE mIKE-rOSCOPE", a newsletter discussing current "marketing and advertising¹s bends, trends & ends." A well-know fixture in Detroit and national media, UDM's marketing guru has made several appearances on CNN's "Talk Back Live," the Voice of America worldwide radio network (VOA), ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and on the pages of Sports Illustrated, Time, TV Guide, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, to name a few. At University of Detroit Mercy, he has taught courses in Marketing Management, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Communications, Research and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sports and Entertainment Marketing. Michael Bernacchi can be reached at 313-993-1116 or bernacmd@udmercy.edu. Please appropriately attribute the following for their work on uNDER tHE mIKE-rOSCOPE: Yen Ju Lee Robert Rouse Vidhyasagar Natarajan Eric Baumgardner & Ian Young
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