The story of the Christ Child Society begins with Mary Virginia Merrick’s strong desire to serve Christ by serving children. And by serving children, she served their mothers. She reflected that, “Love in the heart of a child for Christ…was the inspiration which gave birth to the Christ Child Society” and “When I read ‘She wrapped him in swaddling clothes,’ I longed to do the same, and He Himself taught me that I might still do so in the person of His poor, and a great desire was born within me to go out and find the poor that I might find Him.” The start of her organized service was a layette sewn in 1884 by Mary, at age 16, and her sisters and friends for a young couple she knew needed warm clothing and blankets for their baby.
The history of Mother’s Day in the US includes the efforts of 3 women. Ann Jarvis was a lifelong activist in West Virginia working to combat unsanitary conditions and teach young mothers how to care for their children. She proposed a Mother’s Friendship Day to promote healing and peace after the Civil War. Julia Ward Howe, a poet and reformer who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, volunteered with the Sanitary Commission to ensure hygienic care of injured soldiers during the Civil War. She called for a Mother’s Day of Peace in 1870. In 1907, Anna Jarvis memorialized her mother’s activism at the church where her mother taught Sunday School. On the following year a service was held there to honor all mothers. Soon other local Mother’s Day celebrations became popular and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day.
I don’t know if Mary Virginia Merrick was aware of these women also striving to improve the lives of mothers and children. And it's hard to imagine how many thousands of layettes have been given to support mothers since 1884. They have been lovingly assembled since 1887 by Christ Child Society members over the years and across the country. Layettes still include hand made items - blankets, tiny hats and sweaters, and more. Take time while being thankful for your mother to be thankful for the spiritual motherhood of Mary Virginia Merrick and her mission of love for countless children that continues via the members of the
Christ Child Society.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Yours in the Christ Child,