Mother’s Day and the Mother-In-Law Apartment

Next week we celebrate Mother’s Day. The misanthrope will tell you that Mother’s Day is the invention of the card and flower industry. But history tells a different story.

The earliest celebrations of a mother deity can be found in ancient Egypt during the annual festival honoring the goddess Isis. She was worshiped as the ideal mother and the patron of nature and magic. Mother’s Day in Europe goes back to Mothering Sunday in the 16th Century. On the fourth Sunday in Lent, Christians went back to their ‘mother church’. Household servants were given the day off in order to make this pilgrimage.

Mother’s Day in the U.S. is not related to Isis and has very little to do with church. Our holiday has two different sources: Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis. In the 1870s, pacifist feminist Julia Howe appealed to women to unite for peace by recognizing a “Mother’s Day for Peace” on the 2th June of every year. By most accounts, her campaign was not successful.

It is generally believed that Anna Jarvis’s holiday had nothing to do with Julia’s, though both were advocates for peace. Anna’s celebration actually honored her mother who had founded Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to improve sanitary and health conditions and to treat the wounds of both Union and Confederate soldiers without judgement or partiality.

But after just a few short years of the holiday’s national recognition, Anna had already become disenchanted with the commercialization of the day. Our misanthrope from the first paragraph may find some satisfaction in this.

In any case, Mother’s Day is about honoring moms. The Mother-in-law apartment, on the other hand, has a different history altogether. Originally known as the Secondary Suite, what we know today as the Mother-in-law apartment gets its name from a technicality. The renting out of secondary suites was prohibited in many local jurisdictions unless the lessee was a relative. This lead to the use of the term “mother-in-law” house or apartment.

Regardless of its etymology, you can celebrate Mother’s Day in a Mother-in-law apartment right here in Addison County. Happy Mother’s Day.

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