Mom’s Day lesson in appreciation
Did you know that the woman responsible for creating Mother’s Day ended up getting thrown in jail for leading protests against it?In 1907 a Philadelphia schoolteacher, Anna M. Jarvis, held a ceremony to commemorate her late mother by passing out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church. Soon afterward she began to campaign for a national holiday in honor of mothers, a campaign which went all the way to the White House and culminated in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.But wait – there’s more!
Overjoyed greeting card merchants, florists and candy makers cashed in on the new holiday, causing Jarvis to bitterly regret her efforts. In fact, for the rest of her life she tried to get the holiday repealed, saying, “I wanted Mother’s Day to be a day of sentiment, not of profit.” Of greeting cards, she complained that they were “a poor excuse” for the letters to Mom that people were “too lazy to write.”After years of lawsuits and lobbying, she ended up by going to jail in 1923 for “disturbing the peace” by protesting at a Mother’s Day celebration in New York.For those of you who are just a bit weary of the over-commercialized hearts-and-flowers, greeting-card sentimentality of Mother’s Day, I’ve compiled a purely subjective list of the Worst Mothers in History. These are the mothers who, despite their fame – or actually, because of it – DON’T get talked about on Mother’s Day.
And for those of you 40-plus types who are saddled with dysfunctional mom baggage, it will help you to know that you’re not alone. If anything, it will make you grateful for the mother you’ve got.So to counteract the crass commercialism of the day, here is my short list of women who, without doubt, had to be the Worst Mothers in History:Ma Barker: Notorious mother hen of the Barker-Karpis Gang, responsible for a four-year Depression-era crime spree from 1931-1935. While some surviving gang members later said that Ma didn’t actually participate in the crimes, it’s pretty clear that she very much knew about them and kept her mouth shut. Guilty or not, she was gunned down by the feds in 1935 – fortunately not on Mother’s Day.The Female Tree Shrew: While some animals eat their young, the female tree shrew does much worse than that – she nearly starves them. After birth, the female tree shrew only visits her young for three to five minutes EVERY TWO DAYS. During that time, the poor little mites drink as much milk as their (fortunately) flexible tummies can hold. Tree shrew babies qualify as the original latch-key kids of the forest.
Mother Bates: Fictional, but nevertheless frightening, the “Psycho” mother-from-hell changed the whole perception of motherhood in American popular film culture. Much of Norman Bates’ relationship with his mother is left to the imagination in the original version of “Psycho,” which makes it even creepier. And if you take into account the sequels, you end up being just as confused as Norman as to who his mother really was – which is probably just as well. Mama Rose: Famous for her fictionalized counterpart in the musical “Gypsy,” legend tells us that the real Rose Hovick was a far worse parent than her stage incarnation. Family members later admitted that her burlesque-queen daughter Gypsy Rose Lee whitewashed the worst of Mama’s faults to make the musical’s storyline more palatable to the public. Stories put out by her relatives claim that the matriarch forced her daughters into vaudeville, threatening that she would give them away to other relatives if they didn’t do well. During their years on the road she taught them to steal supplies from hotels and sneak out without paying, and even once pushed a hotel manager out the window. In addition, she pulled a gun on both her girls’ husbands and, according to some sources, later shot and killed her own boyfriend – although to be fair, the official verdict was suicide. According to internet sources, before she died, her last words to her famous daughter Gypsy Rose Lee were, “Wherever you go, I’ll be right there. When you get your own private kick in the ass, just remember – it’s a present from me to you.” Thanks, Mom!So kids everywhere, be glad your mother isn’t a gang leader, tree shrew, knife-wielding-shower-stabbing corpse, or psychotic stage mother. Me, I think I’ll spend the rest of the day reading about some of my favorite Cool Mothers in History – Mother Maybelle, Ma Rainey and Whistler’s Mother.Go and give your mothers a big kiss, everybody – and Happy Mother’s Day.
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