In May and June, we celebrate two holidays – Mother’s Day in May and Father Day in June. Sadly, the war in Ukraine is continuing and we cannot celebrate world peace. This is an appropriate segue into the origins of Mother’s Day from Heather Cox Richardson, the well-known American historian. She tells us “As the reality of women’s lives is being erased” (i.e., by the potential elimination of Roe vs Wade) “in favour of an image of women as mothers”, she wanted to point out why Mother’s Day began in 1908.
At that time, Anna Jarvis decided to honor her mother. Richardson tells us “Mothers’ Day” actually “started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced American women that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage. Mothers’ Day was not designed to encourage people to be nice to their mothers. It was part of women’s effort to gain power to change modern society.” She noted, “Men were trampled into blood-soaked mud, piled like cordwood in ditches, or transformed into emaciated corpses after dysentery drained their lives away…. The women who had watched their men march off to war were haunted by its results. They lost fathers, husbands, sons. The men who did come home were scarred in body and mind.”
When First Lady Jill Biden celebrated Mother’s Day with an unannounced visit to western Ukraine, she was continuing this noble pursuit of gaining power though peace. She visited Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska at a school currently being used to house internally displaced Ukrainians. On her Facebook page, Biden posted: “On this Mother’s Day, my heart is with you, First Lady Olena Zelenska, and all of the brave and resilient mothers of Ukraine.”
Father's Day was inaugurated in the early 20th century to complement Mother's Day. Again, war was a feature of this day. Father’s Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis's Mother's Day she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them.
So, when we think of these days, let’s remember also that in today’s world we have all sorts of mothers and fathers. These mothers and fathers are not only in heterosexual relationships but also represent lesbian, gay and transgender families. They may also be part of immigrant, minority and oppressed groups. Let’s celebrate this diversity as we also remember our own parents.