Inheriting a Mother’s Resilience and Commitment to Community

Posted May 12, 2023 By Amanda Gassé

Did you know the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in Philadelphia in 1908?

Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis conceived of the day after her own mother passed away in 1905 to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. While Anna Jarvis never had children of her own, she sought to have the day become a national holiday contending that American holidays are often biased toward male achievements. Steadfast in her mission, she began a huge letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians requesting an official day designated to honor motherhood. In 1914, Jarvis’s persistence was realized when President Woodrow Wilson officially established the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day.

Amanda’s mom and aunt, Lori (left) and Jan (right), at the Women’s March in Seneca Falls

As I read about Anna Jarvis’s story, I was reminded of my own mother’s tenacity and the ideals she instilled in me and my two sisters. My mom has a calm persistence in her leadership and many of my memories from childhood revolve around her commitment to the community we grew up in. As a young girl, I often tagged along with her to women’s group meetings, luncheons, and community service events. I watched my mom organize rummage sales, mitten drives, potluck dinners, and “circle” meetings for women to gather, share, and organize to support our community and its women and children. My mom taught me and my sisters to boycott products from brands that violated human rights, we wrote and mailed letters to politicians together, and we sewed doll clothes to give as gifts throughout the year.

As a teenager, my mom required that my sisters and I volunteer our time for organizations that aligned with our values. Perhaps my mom will read this and think that “required” is a strong word, but she strongly encouraged us, and it was through my volunteerism that I found my passion for environmentalism and sustainability. I joined my middle and high school Environmental Club and spent my afternoons picking up litter from trails and educating the community about recycling. When I reflect on my career, I believe it was my mom’s teachings that laid the foundation for my interest in the work we do at ILLUME and in the energy efficiency industry.

Amanda and her family (Ethan, Eriq, Ryan, and Ken) after her sons’ Eagle Scout ceremonies

I’m grateful that my mom instilled in me an understanding to give back to my community, to stand up for my beliefs, and to step up and lead when a group needs a leader. I’m constantly trying to live up to the ideals my mother instilled in me as I raise my own children. My boys are all young men now, and I often marvel at their social activism, care for humans and our planet, and innate capacity to be responsible citizens. I am constantly impressed at how my boys can dial into their idealism, creativity, and angst to actively organize, mobilize, and speak up to influence change. It’s heartwarming to watch my boys march in rallies, be actively engaged in their communities, and continue the legacy of my mother’s belief that we all need to donate our time and energy to a greater cause.

Amanda, her mom, and two of her sons in Ithaca, NY

As we approach Mother’s Day this year, let’s take a moment to honor and thank all the mothers in our lives, whether they are our biological mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, aunts, or any other maternal figures. Let’s celebrate their resilience, their love, and their unwavering commitment to their families and communities. And let’s also remember the legacy of Anna Jarvis and her dedication to honoring mothers and their sacrifices. Let’s not just give flowers and chocolates, but let’s strive to continue their legacy by supporting and uplifting mothers and families and valuing their contributions to our society.