A mother and six children posing for a photo.
An undated photo of the Postill children with their mother Eleanor. Happy Mother’s Day!

Social Justice Roots

The roots of Mother’s Day can be traced back to late-19th Century United States. After the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of Philadelphia initiated “Mother’s Friendship Day” to unite mothers from both Union and Confederate backgrounds. In subsequent years, Mother’s Day activities maintained a social justice focus, with activists like Julia Ward Howe and Juliet Calhoun Blakely organizing events promoting peace, abolitionism, and temperance.

Despite years of advocacy by Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Ann Jarvis, Mother’s Day did not gain national recognition in the U.S. until 1914. It was President Woodrow Wilson who ultimately designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, fulfilling Jarvis’s long-standing efforts to establish it as an official holiday.

Vernon Keeps pace

The relatively young City of Vernon kept pace with these social developments in the United States. During the 1910s, Mother’s Day services were held in several churches of varying religions. By 1921, the Vernon News claimed that “Mother’s Day is becoming more and more a recognized Sunday when everyone’s thoughts turn to mother, the best woman in all the world.” The newspaper also made note that the day could be observed by wearing a white carnation, emblematic of the purity, beauty, fidelity, and peace of motherhood.

During the 1930s, various local businesses started to view Mother’s Day not just as a chance to honor maternal figures but also as a commercial opportunity to promote and sell their products. In May 1938, Nolan’s Drug Store promoted their chocolates, perfume, greeting cards, and photo frames, urging readers not to overlook their mothers on Mother’s Day.

By the 1940s, Mother’s Day had gained recognition in numerous countries worldwide. The Vernon News described how the occasion was marked in Canada and elsewhere, emphasizing the importance of gestures like acts of kindness, visits, letters, gifts, or tributes to honor mothers. The newspaper then tenderly suggested that perhaps every day of the year should be treated like Mother’s Day, recognizing the profound debt of gratitude owed to those who fulfill nurturing roles in our lives.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager

 

A black and white photo of women and children in front of a wooden structure. A sign in between the people reads "Baby Clinic." A nurse is standing to the left with her hands on the shoulders of a little girl. Women in hands holding babies are to the right. Several people are looking out from two windows on the building in the background.
Mothers and babies at a clinic in Oyama in 1923.

The WORK OF THE MoTHER

A beige page with slight rust/water stains along the edges. The words "The Canadian Mother's Book" are listed in the middle.
The Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book.

Mother’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to pull out the Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book, a 1936 publication from the Department of Pensions and National Health, to see how parenting has changed over the years.

The unassuming little book begins with a dedication from the Government of Canada to mothers of all forms, saying that “no national service is greater or better than the work of the mother.” This is followed by several pages on what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth.

hAPPY, hEALTHY cHILDREN

Once the baby has arrived, the Canadian Mother’s Book provides guidance on raising happy and healthy children. For example, it recommends several “indoor airing” sessions before taking babies outside in the sun for the first time, and then for only a few minutes at a time.

It also recommends giving children a few drops of cod liver oil each day starting when they are a week old, and a little orange juice or strained raw tomato juice at four weeks. For older babies, the book suggests feeding them barley, rice, or oat jelly throughout the day. It also states that “it is no kindness” to give children cake or candy instead of attuning their senses to healthier foods.  

eCONOMIZE AND CARE FOR YOURSELF

The book provides many ways to save money on children’s items (it was published during the Great Depression, after all). For example, it suggests that a good cot can be made from an orange box or banana crate, and a small mattress stuffed with chaff or bran, for a total cost of only a few cents. It also provides several patterns for making clothing and diapers by hand.

Finally, it also emphasizes the importance of mothers caring for themselves and meeting their own needs at all stages of their children’s lives. Throughout the book, adorable photos of babies dot the pages, including a set of twins waving goodbye at the end.

While some of the ideas in the Canadian Mother’s Book are obviously outdated, it authentically acknowledges the labor of love that is motherhood.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator