University of Pittsburgh
May 5, 2008

Pitt Story Angles on Mother's Day: The Mother of Mother's Day and Moms as Breadwinners and Political/Social Movers

This year marks the 100th anniversary of first public celebration
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first celebration of Mother's Day, which was founded by West Virginia native Anna Jarvis to honor her mother. The following University of Pittsburgh faculty can discuss Jarvis' life and efforts to create and promote the holiday, the changing role of mothers, and the use of motherhood to promote social movements.

Motherhood as a Powerful Political Tool

Kathleen Blee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, says motherhood is not just something to be viewed as private and domestic-it can also be a powerful political tool. From the Million Mom March or Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to the annual Mother's Day Peace Vigil sponsored by CodePink to honor the mothers of the soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, various social movements often use motherhood to promote their agendas. Blee studies social movements and has taught and written extensively about how they provide a forum for women and draw women into politics. She can be reached at 412-648-7590 (office) or or through Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell) or

Mothers as Family Breadwinners

"The responsibilities of providing care and being the family breadwinner frequently fall upon a woman's shoulders," says Lisa Brush, professor of sociology and women's studies. Brush has written extensively on the problems of single mothers, welfare reform, poverty and the state, feminist self-defense, and feminist research, and she has a growing interest in issues of race, class, and gender as it pertains to economic development. She is the author of "Gender and Governance" (Altamira Press, 2003). Brush has studied women's perceptions of the risks they run when they go to work. She finds that in many cases, working outside the home aggravates verbal abuse and other tactics used by men in an effort to control women. She can be reached at 412-648-7595 (office) or or through Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell), or

Growing Up With the Mother of Mother's Day

Maxine Bruhns, director of Pitt's Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, is a second cousin to Anna Jarvis, who initiated a letter-writing campaign that resulted in establishing Mother's Day as a national holiday. Jarvis worked with her former pastor in Grafton, W.Va., to hold the first public celebration of Mother's Day, on May 10, 1908. Bruhns was born in Grafton, W.Va., where Jarvis was raised and where the International Mother's Day Shrine stands in honor of Jarvis and her efforts on behalf of all mothers. Bruhns can relate family stories and West Virginia lore and about Jarvis. Bruhns can be reached at 412-624-6150 (office) or or through Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or