Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis was born in Culpepper, Virginia in 1832. She later moved to West Virginia and married a minister. She formed a group with some members of her church and community to help improve the health of her neighbors. They were known as the Mother’s Day Work Club, and during the Civil War tended to the sick and wounded of both sides of the conflict. She organized a Mother’s Friendship Day after the war to try and heal the psychological wounds of a nation divided, and this became an annual event.
When Ann Marie died in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis organized a tribute to honor the work that she had done. She helped to erect a Mother’s Day Shrine in Ann Marie’s name, and campaigned to make Mother’s Day an annual, and National, holiday. President Woodrow Wilson signed a Congressional Resolution making the second Sunday of May officially Mother’s Day every year.
Ironically, Anna Jarvis, who never married or had children of her own, spent the rest of her life trying to stop Mother’s Day. It had become a commercial juggernaut. A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.
But Anna Jarvis was on to something. Mother’s are important. Just look at Abigail Adams. In addition being married to John Adams (America’s second President and according to legend a cranky man to be married to), she was the mother of John Quincy Adams, who went on to be President himself. Abigail, it would seem, was quite adept at running a farm, managing finances, and fighting for women’s equality while she was mothering and John was off founding a country. The letters between she and her husband show the mind of a woman with a keen understanding of politics and world affairs, and there is ample evidence that her thoughts on worldly matters greatly influenced his decisions.
Or perhaps Marie Curie? She won a Nobel Prize in physics, and then won one in chemistry. She’s the only person to have won a Nobel in two different sciences. More remarkably, she was a devoted mother. Her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, followed in her mother’s footsteps, winning a Nobel in 1935 for discovering artificial radioactivity. Like mother like daughter.
Which brings us to our reason for writing this. Mothers are awesome. We all have one. We even refer to our big blue marble as Mother Earth. So we were pretty excited when we landed this year’s Fancy Hat Party special guest: Debbie Phelps.
You might not immediately recognize the name, but if you saw her with her son, you’d know who she was. At the end of every race of his career, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps checked his time, and then immediately scanned the stands for his mother. He’s been doing the same thing since he was 7. Oh, and the Olympics thing? 19 Gold medals. That’s right up there with discovering radiation and being the President. At least in the eyes of a mother.
Debbie Phelps was the long-time principal of a Baltimore area middle school, but recently left to become the director of the Education Foundation, a group that seeks help from businesses to improve schools. She also is an advocate for parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) a condition that her son Michael has grown up with.
And on May 10th, she will don a Fancy Hat and share some stories with us.