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Memorial For Mothers

May 26, 2008
Yesterday, May 11, 2008, marked the 100th anniversary of the first celebration of Mother's Day. Although Mother's Day officially became a national holiday in 1914, it was first celebrated as memorial service in a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, Anna Jarvis, credited as the founder of Mother's Day, proposed the service as a dedication to her late mother, who had believed that it would be a nice idea to have a memorial to mothers.

Americans honor motherhood in other ways; we call this our mother country. I realize that we might have taken that idea from Great Britain and the Queen Mother during the last 18th century, but our nation has kept the phrase alive, despite the fact that the United States has never been a monarchy. The Statue of Liberty, our most important symbol of freedom is also a mother figure. The interior of the statue's pedestal is inscribed with a poem, Emma Lazarus' New Colossus, calling her the Mother of Exiles. Our soldiers at war and our athletic gladiators on their fields have always for motherhood, although now they simply shout "Hi Mom!" to get the message across on camera.

The church where the first Mother's Day service took place is considered an official shrine to motherhood, and according to Cyndi Mason, its director, it reminds us "of the issues that mothers still deal with today, trying to do the balancing act of being everything to everyone." She expressed the perfect sentiment: mothers are our real heroes and sometimes, they have their own adventures to share. I've become friends with several single moms through the Internet, and I sometimes swear I don't know how they do it all. I've never been a father myself, but I'd feel overwhelmed balancing work and family. My home state legislature recently passed a paid family leave bill, over the objections of the business community. Any one who has any respect for motherhood should not object to such a bill; they should look at their support as an expression of empathy.

I know this a little, firsthand. My father was raised through most of child life by a single mom who immigrated to the United States from Romania in search of a better life. She passed by our Mother of Exiles as she entered the country through Ellis Island. My mother entered the United States from German-occupied Austria in 1940, just before America entered World War II. Rumor was that my mother was allowed to leave Austria because her mother had red hair, a more Germanic characteristic of the day; she didn't "look Jewish." It's very safe for me to say that I am living in a free country because of my mom, and for that I dedicated my first novel to her. I'm sure that I also speak for some of you who are reading this post, and that you have your own stories to tell. If nothing else, share them with your family.

I realize that a West Virginia church is where Mother's Day was first observed, I don't dare suggest that the church's importance be diminished in any way, but I wonder if we need a more prominent memorial to mothers in our nation's capital, something each and every member of Congress, and others who help govern our country, could see on their way to work.

It would remind each and every of one of them about who they're really working for.
About the Author
Contact Stuart Nachbar at Educated Quest, a blog on education politics, policy and technology or read about his first book, The Sex Ed Chronicle, a novel on education and politics in 1980 New Jersey, at Sex Ed Chronicles.
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