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Celebrating Canadian mothers on their own day

The Story


Carnations and chocolates and breakfast in bed - it's become a child's traditional offering on the second Sunday of May, Mother's Day. But what was once a spiritual celebration of motherhood has by 1963 become a big, booming business with florists, restaurateurs, and greeting card companies cashing in. Has Mother's Day become a commercialized scam or is it still a sweet, loving gesture? Panelists debate this subject in this CBC Television feature.

Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: May 10, 1963
Guests: Janet Monk, Emily Stephenson
Moderator: Paul Soles
Duration: 7:57
Photo: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada / e000761767

Did You know?


• American poet and activist Julia Ward Howe first promoted the idea of Mother's Day in 1870 with her Mother's Day Proclamation, a poem promoting pacifism in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

• Howe, a mother of six, also wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Following the civil war, she dedicated herself to the promotion of peace.

• Anna Jarvis, a school teacher in West Virginia, organized the first Mother's Day in May 1907 in honour of her own late mother. Jarvis decorated the church with her mother's favourite flower, white carnations. Over the course of the next year, Jarvis promoted the idea of having a formal Mother's Day by writing to community leaders, businessmen and politicians. Her idea caught on and in May 1908, a church in Grafton, Va., and one in Philadelphia, Pa., held ceremonies. All attendees wore carnations - red in honour of mothers who were still living and white in memory of mothers who had died.

• Jarvis spoke at the Philadelphia ceremony and sent a telegram to the Grafton event in which she said children should strive to: "Revive the dormant filial love and gratitude we owe to those who gave us birth. 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 have them know that we appreciate them, though we do not show it as often as we ought."

• By 1911, many American states and Canadian provinces had begun celebrating Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May.

• American President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed May 8, 1914, the first official Mother's Day. The joint resolution put forward by Congress and Wilson declared, "the American mother is doing so much for the home, for moral uplift, and religion, hence so much for good government and humanity."

• Jarvis later become angry that the holiday was becoming a commercialized event. In 1923, she filed a lawsuit against a New York governor who established a Mother's Day festival. Just two years later, Jarvis protested when mothers in Philadelphia sold white carnations as fundraiser to support the war effort. She was arrested for disturbing the peace.

• In 1943, an ailing Jarvis was admitted to a nursing home. Unbeknownst to Jarvis, florists who had financially benefited from her idea helped to pay for her care. To the very end, Jarvis regretted ever creating a Mother's Day.

• According to a 2001 survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid and Canadian Tire, 53 per cent of Canadian mothers say that they would like to receive gifts of plants and flowers. Another 15 per cent indicated they wanted sporting goods and equipment, 13 per cent wished for garden tools and lawn decor, and 11 per cent desired kitchen housewares and gadgets. Five per cent wanted presents of hand and power tools.

• In 2004, a study commissioned by Moneris Solutions found that florists experience a huge 119 per cent sales boom in the week leading up to Mother's Day, which translates into a $53.5 million increase. In comparison, jewelry stores enjoy an increase of $68 million, lawn and garden stores average a $94 million boost, gift and card stores experience a $44 million upsurge and restaurants savour a $422 million increase.


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