Happy Mother's Day

May 11, 2014

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers on my lists!

There are two persons generally given credit for the creation of this memorable holiday.  I am pleased to report that my favorite university has a connection to the establishment of Mother’s Day. 

(From Wikipedia)  The modern American holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her beloved mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Anna’s mission was to honor her own mother by continuing work she had started and to set aside a day to honor mothers, "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world." Anna's mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.

Due to the campaign efforts of Anna Jarvis, several states officially recognized Mother's Day, the first in 1910 being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers. In a thank-you note to Wilson Jarvis wrote of a “great Home Day of our country for sons and daughters to honor their mothers and fathers and homes in a way that will perpetuate family ties and give emphasis to true home life.” [6]

Various observances honoring mothers existed in America during the 1870s and the 1880s, but these never had resonance beyond the local level.[8] Jarvis never mentioned Julia Ward Howe's attempts in the 1870s to establish a "Mother's Day for Peace", nor any connection to the Protestant school celebrations that included "Children's Day" amongst others.[9] Neither did she mention the traditional festival of Mothering Sunday.[9] Jarvis always said that the creation was hers alone.[9] For more information on previous attempts, see the "United States" section in this article.

(From The Huffington Post)      The first national observance of Mother's Day in America took place exactly one hundred years ago. Contrary to what one might think, it was not the brainchild of florists or greeting card marketers. Instead, much of the credit goes to Frank Hering, who made the first public appeal for a national day celebrating mothers ten years before President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. If historians view activist Anna Jarvis as "the mother of Mother's Day," then Hering is the "father."

Frank Hering got the inspiration for the idea when he visited a fellow professor's classroom at the University of Notre Dame. Hering was both a history professor and the school's first athletic director (also called "the father of Notre Dame football" for transforming the program from intramural to intercollegiate). Hering was curious why the instructor was distributing penny postcards to all the students.

"What are they writing?' Hering asked his colleague. "Anything," replied the professor. "Anything at all as long as it's to their mothers. We do this every month in this class. One day a month is mother's day."

On February 7, 1904, Hering addressed a memorial service organized by the community service organization Fraternal Order of Eagles in Indianapolis when he decided to bounce the idea of establishing a national day honoring mothers to his audience. The organization jumped on the idea. Thanks to the grassroots campaign of Eagle membership, several states and municipalities established local Mother's Day observances. Hering used his influence as elected national leader of the organization in 1909 and 1911 to continue to help spread the idea. Thanks to those efforts and work by Anna Jarvis, the U.S. Congress passed the act in 1914 that President Wilson signed into law.

Anyone can come up with a great idea, but to galvanize people into action around it no doubt drew benefit of Hering's leadership skill as the football coach he was. "It was a natural for a group like ours to buy into Frank Hering's idea and support it," explains Wayne D. Clark, a Past Grand Worthy President of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and current chair of their museum and archives committee. "The qualities he possessed as a person spoke to the bedrock values of the organization--truth, liberty, justice and equality. It never ceases to amaze me the extent of his contribution to our organization and the country. It is no surprise that he rose very quickly to the leadership of the Eagles not long after his speech proposing the idea of Mother's Day."

In addition of his work for Mother's Day, Hering demonstrated his visionary leadership and humanitarian spirit when he established the Hering House in 1925 as a community and recreational center for South Bend's burgeoning African American population. For more than four decades, the Hering House (also called "the House of Hope") provided vital services for African Americans similar to the YMCA during the predominantly segregated reality of the times.

Hering was a remarkable man.  He played football for legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, at the University of Chicago.  Later, he came to Notre Dame as Quarterback and then Head Coach.  He was also ND’s first basketball coach and coached the Irish baseball team.  While a student at Notre Dame, he wrote poetry for the student magazine.  He later taught English at Notre Dame.  When Notre Dame Stadium was dedicated, in 1930, Hering was brought back for the ceremony.

He is the only Notre Dame Head Football Coach who had previously scored a Touchdown against the Irish.  Hering was one of the pioneers of spring football practice.  While Rockne was coaching, Hering also created medals, later called the Hering Awards, for the top player at each position, during Spring Football.  These awards were still given, 40 years later when I was a student.  I, for one, am sorry they are no longer given out.

Happy Mother’s Day!


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