This year marks the 100th anniversary since President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation in 1914 designating the second Sunday in May as an annual, national observance of Mother’s Day. The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum in Staunton, Virginia is honoring the signing of the Mother’s Day proclamation with a special exhibit, 100 Years of Celebrating Mothers, highlighting this centennial anniversary.
The exhibit includes copies of correspondence President Wilson received from the woman who founded Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, while she lobbied for this national observance. A copy of the proclamation, signed by the president on May 9, 1914, is part of the display. Smaller items and photographs of Wilson are also included.
Hallmark Cards partnered with the museum for this exhibit to show how Mother’s Day cards have reflected the changing role of women over the past 100 years. There are approximately 30 cards on display ranging from the 1920s to more modern times. The earlier designs and verses reflect the predominantly domestic role of women. The illustrations of spinning wheels and cast iron stoves take visitors back to when mothers did not work outside the home. The Hallmark Visitors Center at the Kansas City headquarters is having a simultaneous Mother’s Day exhibit that includes copies of correspondence, items that belonged to the president, and examples of greeting cards.
Even though the Woodrow Wilson Library & Museum is honoring the signing of the Mother’s Day proclamation with a centennial exhibit, the founder of the holiday did not like the commercialization that soon became part of the celebration. Jarvis tried, without success, to get it removed from the nation’s calendar. Her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had established a precursor of Mother’s Day prior to the Civil War to help mothers learn how to take care of children. During the war, mothers’ groups took care of wounded soldiers. Reeves envisioned Mother’s Day as a time for children to honor their mother, not as a time for lavish gifts and candies.
Wilson’s birthplace is a pre-Civil War home built as a residence for a Presbyterian Church minister and his family. The manse, or minister’s residence, was where Wilson was born in 1856. His family had moved there in 1855 when his father had accepted an offer as the pastor of Staunton Presbyterian Church. This National Historic Landmark offers guided tours that trace Wilson’s life from his early years through his presidency. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the house in 1941 after its restoration, he said it was a “shrine to freedom.”
The exhibit, 100 Years of Celebrating Mothers, has been open since April 11, 2014. For Mother’s Day only, mothers will receive free admission Sunday, May 11. While the museum honors the meaning behind Mother’s Day and Wilson’s signing of the proclamation, the centennial is as much about the importance of mothers today and tomorrow, as in the past. The museum will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information about the Woodrow Wilson Library & Museum and the Mother’s Day exhibit, the links are provided below.
By Cynthia Collins
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