(NEXSTAR) – Perhaps no one hated the more modern traditions of Mother’s Day as much as the woman who created it. Anna Jarvis, who successfully campaigned to establish a national Mother’s Day in the early 20th century, eventually became so horrified by the commercialization of the holiday that she tried to have the whole thing canceled.
“Mother’s Day is being desecrated,” Jarvis once said, according to an article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Mother’s Day in 1944. “The telegraph companies with their ready-made greetings, the florists with their high-pressure campaigns and the awful prices, and the candy manufacturers and greeting card manufacturers have made a racket out of my ideas.”
When Jarvis initially had the idea for what would become Mother’s Day, she envisioned a nationwide day of remembrance and togetherness, to be observed with visits (if possible) and symbolized by her own mother’s favorite flower: a white carnation. But within decades of organizing the first official Mother’s Day observance in 1908 — and successfully campaigning to get it recognized on a national level in the coming years — she grew unhappy with how the holiday had taken shape across the country.
Jarvis didn’t like greeting cards, calling them a “poor excuse for letters” preferred by “lazy people,” and she believed that candy was a meaningless gesture because “somebody other than the mother usually eats it.”
In 1935, Jarvis even traveled to Washington, D.C., to admonish the postmaster general for the release of commemorative Mother’s Day stamps, calling it “sheer commercialization,” according to the Post-Dispatch article.
So how did Jarvis — who wasn’t a fan of candy, cards, or even commemorative stamps — expect the nation to celebrate its mothers? Well, by going to visit her — or sending her a long, handwritten letter.
“She said, you know if really want to do something for your mother … If you could go see her, you really should do that,” said Olive Ricketts, director of the Anna Jarvis Museum, in a 2016 interview with NPR. “But she said the second-best thing is to write her a long, handwritten letter. Don’t use other people’s words to tell your mother how you feel because they don’t really know how you feel about your mother.”
But by 1943, Jarvis had had enough of the candy and cards. She began to petition for Mother’s Day to be rescinded altogether, but her efforts were interrupted when she “wandered into Philadelphia General Hospital,” where the workers observed that she was emaciated and nearly blind, the Post-Dispatch reported. She was placed in the Marshall Square Sanitarium in Westchester, where she lived until her death in 1948 at the age of 84.
Having never profited from Mother’s Day, Jarvis also had no money when she entered the sanitarium. Executives from the greeting card and floral industry, however, took care of her bills.