Teach PA History
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Mother's Day: The Creation of a Holiday
Equipment & Supplies
  • Scissors Glue or Tape


Day One
1. If possible, make one of the copies of Mother's Day pin into an actual pin and wear it during the school day. When it is time for the lesson, ask how many students noticed your pin. Hand out some copies of Mother's Day pin so the students can closely look at the design. Discuss the pin and ask students the following questions:

· What kind of flower is it? [Carnation.]
· What color is the flower? [White. Anna, the founder of Mother's Day, chose the color white because it is a traditional color used when honoring someone.]
· Why do you think there is a white carnation in the design of this pin? [Explain that the woman who is credited for founding Mother's Day, Anna, had a mother whose favorite flower was the carnation.]
· What do you notice about the design? [Point out how the stem and leaves of the carnation form some of the letters.]
· Do you know what your mother's favorite flower is?
· Do you know when Mother's Day is? [Second Sunday in May.]
· What are some examples of how you celebrate Mother's Day?

2. Tell the students that 100 years ago Mother's Day was not a Federal Holiday. Show Mrs. Anna Jarvis and daughter Anna Jarvis. In 1905, Anna Jarvis committed her life to creating a National Mother's Day after her own mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis, died. Two other women also had contributed to the Mother's Day idea - Julia Ward Howe (who also wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic) and Juliet Calhoun Blakeley. But, it was Anna Jarvis who saw the dream become reality when Mother's Day was proclaimed a Federal Holiday in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.

3. However, Anna's story is a good example to the old adage "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." As the years passed after Mother's Day was established, Anna fought against a rising tide to commercialize (to make money off ) the day. The cost of flowers went up, and the greeting card companies made special cards for people to buy to give their mothers. This commercialization of Mother's Day infuriated Anna. While she protested the pre-made cards, she did still purchase them and send them to friends. Show Mother's Day Greeting Card from Anna Jarvis to Mrs. Reist p1 and Mother's Day Greeting Card from Anna Jarvis to Mrs. Reist p2.

4. Anna did accept the creation of a Mother's Day postage seal similar in design to the pin you saw. Show Mother's Day Seal. Anna protested when the United States Postal service wanted to make a stamp with Whistler's Mother and the words Mother's Day. She wrote to the President, and he agreed to remove the words. Show Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1: the Artist's Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1871and U.S. Postal Stamp of Whistler's Mother and compare the two images. Ask the students to look at the two pictures.

· What did the president not have removed? [The vase of white carnations!]
· What did the white carnations symbolize? [They were the symbol Anna used for Mother's Day. Remember, it was her mother's favorite flower!]
· How much did the stamp cost? [Three cents.]
· How much does a stamp for a letter cost today? [(fill in # of cents!]

Tell the students that Anna spent the rest of her life trying to keep Mother's Day a day of "sentiment" (feeling/emotions) and not one of profit.

5. If a timeline is a new concept, spend 5 minutes with the students creating a simple timeline on the white board of the events that have occurred so far in the school year. For example, they might include the first day of school, the first school holiday, a talent show or theater show, and a future date of the end of school, etc. Once students are familiar with creating timelines, hand out Student Worksheet 1 - Mother's Day Timeline.

6. Group the students in pairs. Explain to the students that they are to cut out the pictures and descriptions on Student Worksheet 1- Mother's Day Timeline. They are to arrange them in the proper place on the timeline, pairing the appropriate picture and description. The students will need to stagger the height of some of these pictures, as some of them will be close together on the timeline. Once they have them in the correct spot on the timeline, they are to glue or tape them in place.

7. After they show you their completed timeline, give each student a copy of Student Worksheet 2- Mother's Day Timeline Questions. They can work together using the timeline to answer the questions, but each student should write out their own answers on Worksheet 2. If class time is done, the students can take home their finished outline and Student Worksheet 2- Mother's Day Timeline Questions to complete as homework.

8. At the end of this class, mention to the students that in the next class they will get to create their own holiday. Suggest that they think about what holiday they would like to celebrate, and what reasons they would use to justify that holiday.

Day Two

1. Explain to the students that there are different types of holidays:

· Federal Holidays: A Federal Holiday is one that the government has mandated for its workers.
· State Holidays: State holidays are declared by the governors.
· Corporate-sponsored holidays: These are created by companies or groups that wish to gain support or notoriety for their particular product or concern. Examples might be "Celebrate Sun Dried Tomatoes Month" or "National Book Month".

2. Reinforce that Anna campaigned to make Mother's Day a federal holiday. Using the board, brainstorm with the class some ideas for holidays. Steer them away from well-known, existing holidays such as Martin Luther King Day or President's Day. However, if they pick days that really exist but are not well known (i.e., Grandparent's Day) you may choose to leave them on the list. You may wish to have some suggestions for holidays: Pet's Day, Firefighter's Day, Teacher's Day, etc. After several holidays have been suggested, pick a few and ask the students to give reasons explaining why those would be good holidays.

3. Explain that when Anna Jarvis lived, Congress had to approve all new Federal Holidays, and then the President had to agree and sign the proclamation. However, in 1995 Congress stopped doing this because it takes too much time from other tasks. Now, governors can make proclamations for their individual states. The President can also still make proclamations. Anna had to convince many people to support her cause, and she - along with her supporters - wrote hundreds of letters to politicians, clergy, and businessmen in order to get help for the Mother's Day Proclamation to actually happen. Anna had to be able to explain clearly, simply, and concisely why mothers deserved to have a holiday of their own.

4. Your students also need to be able to state clearly why they think their holiday should become reality. They will write a letter to the governor of their state explaining what their holiday idea is and why it should be celebrated. Each student can use any of the ideas that were generated by the entire class working together, or he/she may create a holiday that was not mentioned. Hand out Student Worksheet 5- Letter to Governor. Explain that the student's letter will be evaluated by the criteria on the worksheet directions.
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