Anna Jarvis—the founder of Mother’s Day—came to my mind several times last weekend as Americans celebrated our mothers while also trying to protect them from the devastating pandemic that has upended our lives.

Jarvis began campaigning in 1905 to make Mother's Day a national holiday, but it took almost a decade for Woodrow Wilson to sign his 1914 proclamation setting aside the second Sunday in May to honor mothers.

Three things impress me about Jarvis:

  • She fought hard, and with admirable persistence, for what she believed in.
  • She was a woman of principle. She spent years railing against the commercialization of Mother’s Day, all the while insisting that a genuine appreciation of mothers must always translate into tangible action.
  • She respected and honored her own mother. Jarvis believed that a mother is "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”

I like to think Jarvis would have been pleased with how LeadingAge celebrated Mother’s Day this year.

First, we invited all Americans to join us in the fight to protect the older people in our lives—women and men who, truly, have done more for us than anyone in the world.

Second, we launched a national social media campaign asking Americans to honor the men and women who have dedicated their lives to caring for our mothers (and fathers). Right now, these workers show courage simply by coming to work every day in nursing home, assisted living, hospice, home care, and affordable senior housing settings. Each day, they demonstrate a keen dedication to our mothers, because they have spent years building deep and caring relationships with them. These aren’t just “workers.” They are part of our families.

Third, we’re calling on states to implement policies that underscore the need for all Americans to make sacrifices for the older Americans who have sacrificed so much for us. Our sacrifice—staying at home to slow the spread of this deadly virus—seems minimal in comparison with their sacrifice. That’s why we’re asking states not to reopen unless they have well-thought-out plans to keep older Americans safe and protected. It’s the least we can do.

Finally, we’re demanding tangible federal support for our mothers (and fathers), and for the people who care for them. We’re not looking for a ceremonial pat on the back for our workers, or Mother’s Day platitudes for our elders. Instead, we’re calling on Congress to act boldly.

Specifically, we want the next Congressional relief package to allocate $100 billion to cover COVID-19 needs and to provide critical support for aging services: hazard pay for frontline workers, federal housing assistance, support to deliver telehealth, access to loans, Medicaid increases, and administrative relief.

We’re going to need your help to send that important message to Congress.

Watch for the Action Alert we will send later today about the relief bill introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Ask yourself, “What would Anna Jarvis do?”

And then speak up—loudly—for our mothers (and fathers).