Hope we're not surprising you with this news, but Mother's Day is Sunday. And here's something else that may come as a surprise. Mother's Day was not invented by Hallmark. It actually came from one woman's devotion to her mother's memory. One hundred years ago a woman named Anna Jarvis handed out carnations in church in honor of her mother. It only took a few more years for Mother's Day to become a major commercial event. Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her life protesting the holiday that she had created, as NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

Anna Jarvis would undoubtedly be appalled to learn that nearly $16 billion will be spent on Mother's Day this year.

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Unidentified Man#1: Tell mom you love her this Mother's Day with a gift from Friedman's.

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Unidentified Man#2: Happy Mother's Day from Ross. Ross has a fantastic selection of gifts for mom.

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Unidentified Woman #1: Make her sparkle with a pair of half-carat diamond studs, $199. Macy's one-day sale this Wednesday, preview Tuesday. Let mom know she's special.

KAUFMAN: Shoppers will spend more than 1.5 billion on clothes and accessories, more than two billion on jewelry, according to the National Retail Federation. And restaurants? They love Mother's Day. It's the biggest day of the year. In fact, it's a big day for foodies everywhere.

Unidentified Woman #2: This is our truffles, and then we had just sprinkled some of our peanut butter mousse on top of it.

KAUFMAN: At a gourmet food store in a suburban Seattle mall. (unintelligible) is passing out samples of the confectionary people have always bought for Mother's Day.

Unidentified Woman #2: A lot of chocolate. They know women. It's chocolates to get to. To make them happy, it's always been chocolates.

KAUFMAN: Still, it's greeting cards that are the biggest draw. Maria Kwivelepova(ph) is checking out singing cards at a Hallmark store.

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Mr. WILLIE NELSON (Singer): You are always on my mind...

Ms. MARIA KWIVELAPOVA (Consumer): Kind of creepy, but - you're always on my mind - but I think it shows a message. I like it. And there's this other one. You're some kind of woman. You're some kind of mom. And then it says...

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Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) My baby, she's all right.

Ms. KWIVELAPOVA: I love them.

KAUFMAN: But at the same time, she says Mother's Day has become too commercial and gifts too obligatory.

Ms. KWIVELAPOVA; I think people feel really obligated to just go way out of their way because of all the hype and advertisement. Yeah, I think it's gotten a little commercialized. A little too much.

KAUFMAN: And that's what troubled Anna Jarvis. During the civil war, Jarvis's mother organized mothers' workdays to try to improve basic sanitary conditions for soldiers and others. After her mother's death, the younger Jarvis wanted to honor her along with other mothers.

In May 1907, 100 years ago, Jarvis handed out hundreds of flowers at a church service. It was the beginning of the tradition. Nearly four decades earlier, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" penned a Mother's Day proclamation - a call for peace and disarmament. Historian Sally Roesch Wagner says those two strands formed the basis for Mother's Day, made official by President Wilson. But Wagner says Jarvis was mortified by the commercialization of Mother's Day that quickly ensued.

Ms. SALLY ROESCH WAGNER (Historian): She actually filed a lawsuit in 1923 to stop a Mother's Day festival because it was too commercial. And ironically, she was arrested for disturbing the peace.

KAUFMAN: It didn't stop her from continuing her crusade, but to no avail. Today, Mother's Day is bigger than ever.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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