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Carnations, Anna Jarvis, and Mother's Day

Mother's Day History




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  • Anna Jarvis used carnations at the first Mother's Day celebration, because carnations were her mother's favorite flower
  • wearing a white carnation is to honor a deceased mother, wearing a pink carnation is to honor a living mother
  • Anna Jarvis and the florist industry ended up disagreeing over the selling of flowers for Mother's Day
  • as the industry publication, Florists' Review, put it, "This was a holiday that could be exploited."
  • in one press release criticizing the floral industry, Anna Jarvis wrote "What will you do to route charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?"
  • when, in the 1930s, the U.S. Postal Service announced a Mother's Day stamp with the image of Whistler's Mother and a vase of white carnations, Anna Jarvis responded by campaigning against the stamp. She persuaded President Roosevelt to remove the words, Mother's Day, but not the white carnations
  • Jarvis disrupted a meeting of the American War Mothers in the 1930s, protesting their sale of white carnations for Mother's Day, and was removed by the police
  • in the words, again, of the Florists' Review, "Miss Jarvis was completely squelched." Mother's Day remains, in the United States, one of the best sales days for florists
  • Anna Jarvis was confined to a nursing home at the end of her life, penniless. Her nursing home bills were paid, unbeknownst to her, by the Florist's Exchange

Mother's Day: What You Need to Know

Text copyright 1999-2005 © Jone Johnson Lewis

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