Regular Doses of Common Sense™

Did You Get the Mother’s Day Apostrophe Right?

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Did You Get the Mother’s Day Apostrophe Right?

If you misplaced the apostrophe in ‘Mother’s Day,’ you have the chance to redeem yourself with Father’s Day next month.

The apostrophe in Mother’s Day comes before the s, which means it’s a singular possessive day.

It’s not necessarily what would seem to be the natural selection: you’d think that since it seems like a day to honor all mothers, it would be “Mothers’ Day,” with the apostrophe after the s.

But to understand the logic of the ’s, you have to know the story of the day itself.

Anna Jarvis worked to create a day to honor her own mother, Ann Jarvis, who was a Sunday school teacher and who created “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs,” early parenting classes that evolved into a resource for Civil War soldiers and their families. In 1868, with the Civil War over and Reconstruction underway, she created a “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” which she hoped would unify North and South through moms.

In both cases, you’ll note that the apostrophe came after the s, because it was an effort meant to include all moms.

A historian who browsed through Anna Jarvis’s documents explained to the Washington Post that Jarvis’s mother once prayed after a lecture in 1876 that somebody would create a day commemorating mothers for their service for humanity.

When the older Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter hadn’t forgotten that prayer and vowed to make that dream come true for her mother, who by then had come to be known as “Mother Jarvis.”

The first Mother’s Day service was held in 1908 and President Woodrow Wilson made it a nationally-recognized holiday in 1914.

Jarvis intended Mother’s Day to be a day of “personal celebration” between mothers and their families and visualized people wearing a white carnation — her own mother’s favorite flower — while visiting one’s mother or attending church services.

But Jarvis spent the rest of her life fighting the day she had helped create, coming to bitterly resent the blatant commercialization that had become then (and remains now) such a critical part of the occasion.

The best-laid plans….

In any case, Mother’s Day should have been spelled with the apostrophe placed to refer to a singular mother, though every mother was part of the celebration.

If you put the apostrophe in the wrong place, you have a chance to redeem yourself in June for Father’s Day.

Don’t blow it.

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