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Bringing Mother's Day back to its feminist roots

Mother’s Day isn’t all about last minute pressies and homemade cards, it’s about celebrating those badass, inspiring folk in our lives. So let’s hear it for all the strong figures who helped shape us, from Beyonce to our grandmas.

Months before Mother’s Day hits, rows of lovey dovey, pink greetings cards line the shelves and we’re reminded to say a big thank you to our mums. But Mother’s Day wasn’t always this fluffy - festivals celebrating motherhood date back to ancient Greek and Roman times, while the early Christian holiday ‘Mothering Sunday’ actually had very little to do with mothers. Held on the fourth Sunday in Lent, this was originally when Christians would return to their ‘mother church’ for a service. Over the years, the holiday has been transformed. Perhaps most interestingly, the official U.S holiday was begun as an anti-war movement by poet, author and social activist Julia Ward Howe and social activist Anna Jarvis in 1872. Howe worked for and aided many women’s rights and suffrage groups and helped to promote a ‘Mother’s Peace Day’ after the American Civil War and Europe’s Franco Prussian War. This was a call to women to gather once a year to support the peace movement. The holiday was officially added to the calendar in 1914.

But Mother’s Day’s feminist image eventually faded into commercialism, and the women who initially fought to put the holiday on the calendar then fought to erase it. This Mother’s Day, we can do more than the usual last minute flowers and chocolates - here are a few empowering ways to celebrate the significant people in your life and while we’re at it, let’s lose the traditional sense of ‘mother’ - single dads, grandparents, single-sex parents, foster parents, close friends, co-workers, or the nice lady at your local supermarket deserve some love too.

Whatever tickles their fancy  

Let’s stop assuming mum wants a box of choccies or a cream tea in a venue lifted straight from a Jane Austen novel and let her decide what she wants to spend the day doing. Whether it’s some time for self-care, a knees up at a music concert or to sack the whole thing off completely, put the decision back in her hands.

Ladies who brunch together stay together

The link between brunch and women’s rights may not be an obvious one, but it turns out that your French toast is laced with liberation. Before the turn of the 20th century, women weren’t allowed to dine out in public without a male chaperone. (pretty crumby huh?) The women who helped to overturn this rule were the same women who fought for women’s right to vote, and in 1907 Harriet Stanton Blatch, daughter of suffragist Elizabeth Candy Stanton, sued the reputable Hoffman House restaurant for refusing to let them eat there. After pressure from feminists, this rule eventually gave way. From the 1930s brunch was seen as a way to save time and money, cutting down the amount of hours women were spending cooking and cleaning - a far cry from the long, lazy brunches we enjoy today. Although our attitude towards it has changed, the sentiment behind brunch remains the same - a luxury meal to take time over. So relax, forget the washing up and sit back with ma to enjoy a lengthy brunch date somewhere nice.

Mums (not always) the word

People often forget that mums have things going on in their lives other than their children. Mothers have friends, hobbies and talents which aren’t exclusive to nappy-changing, child-rearing, lasagne-cooking or homework-nagging. This Mother’s Day, ask mum about her - find out something you didn’t know about the woman who brought you into the world, you might be surprised at some of the things she gets up to!

Take an inspiration trip

Why not use Mother’s Day as an excuse to reflect on all the strong figures in your life who’ve inspired you and your ma? Go to an art gallery, watch a classic film, listen to the musicians who you used to dance around your rooms to or introduce one another to some thought-provoking literature. Cross pollinate ideas - who knows, maybe you’ll even learn something new!

Whatever you choose to do this Mother’s day, why not take the tradition back to its feminist roots, smash the patriarchy and let mum know that she’s a strong, independent woman who don’t need no cards or chocolates to know she’s the one.

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