Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Mother’s Day Carnations, 1920

Mother’s Day Carnations, 1920

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 07, 2010

While today’s mothers are as apt to be handed a rose or a pot of primrose, carnations are the flowers originally associated with Mother’s Day. Everyone was supposed to wear a carnation at Sunday School in honor of his mother, regardless of whether she was present or not. To that end, baskets of boutonnieres were provided at the doors. You pinned a red carnation on your dress or jacket if your mother was living; you chose a white one to indicate that she had passed away.

In 1920, a special service honored mothers with this program featuring a marching drill (remember that Primary marching we keep being mystified by?), singing, and poetry:

Carnation Exercises for Mother’s Day.

by Pearl Evans.

Twelve girls (or as many as desired), ages from 8 to 14, dressed in white, carrying carnations in right hands. Sweet music for drill and tableau.

Six girls march in from one side of stage and six from the other side. Meet at center back, march to center front in couples. Turn: six go to right, six to left. March to corners (i.e., march to front side of stage turn and march to back corner of stage, turn and march toward center) , meet at center back, march to center front in couples. Girls on right march around to form a wheel at right side of stage; girls on left same at left of stage. Forming two wheels, march around twice, holding carnations aloft. march to center back, then march to center front in single file, girls on left falling in line at back of partner.

March around stage twice forming one large wheel, carnations held aloft second time around. March around to form a large half circle facing front of stage. Remain at attention twelve counts. Salute twelve counts (this is done with carnations in right hands: move arms over four counts, to forehead four counts, down to position four counts). At attention twelve counts.

One girl recites:

Mother, oh, how sweet the name.
No other, to me is just the same.

All sing “Mother” (song purchased at any music store). In chorus, have girls step gracefully into places, forming letters as they sing them.

Chorus of song as follows:

M is for the million things she gave me
O is only that she’s growing old.
T is for her tender, sweet caresses.
H is for a heart as pure as gold.
E is for her eyes with love light shining,
R is for right, and right she’ll always be.

Put them all together, they spell Mother,
A word that means the world to me.

One girl recites:

We should be kind to mother
And do more to brighten her way,
To lift some heavy burden,
From her careworn mind each day.

All sing, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” substituting the word “Mother” where “Lord” and “Savior” appear.

Have one girl recite:

’Tis to mother we tell our tale of woe;
To her with our aches and pains we go.
All day she’ll plan, work, and sow,
To make us all happy; that we know.

All girls sing first and second verses of ‘Unanswered yet.’ Have girls stop singing at the words: “You Shall Have Your Desire, Sometime, Somewhere.” Have two good sopranos and two good altos at back of curtain sing the last two lines. Have girls on stage sing second verse as before, and have four singers back of curtain answer as before.

Unanswered yet? The prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of heart these many years?
Does faith begin to fail, is hope departing,
And think you all in vain those falling tears?
Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer;
You shall have your desire, sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Though when you first presented
This one petition at the Father’s throne,
It seemed you could not wait the time of asking,
So urgent was your heart to make it known.
Though years have passed since then, do not despair;
The Lord will answer you, sometime, somewhere.

One girl steps to center front of stage, holds carnation aloft and recites:

Carnation, oh how beautiful you are; how well you represent the pure noble life of our mothers. May each of us, little girls and young ladies here assembled tonight, so shape our lives, so build our characters that we may become mothers grand and true. That our lives can be as pure and holy as those of the mothers we are honoring tonight.

She steps back to position in half circle. (Soft, sweet music.) All at attention twelve counts.

Move right foot out. Hold carnations aloft. Gaze at them twelve counts.

All at attention twelve counts.

Every other girl kneels. Those standing step close to kneeling girls, hold carnations aloft and gaze at them twenty-four counts.

Girls march down from stage and pass carnations to the mothers. Music while this is being done.



  1. Obviously, Ardis, we all stand in awe of the extraordinary achievement of Mrs. Pearl Evans–the entire herd of Keepapitchininnies has been rendered speechless.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 7, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  2. Oh my goodness. I just barely read this and I am speechless. That’s… that’s…

    (“Absurd” is the word that comes to mind.)

    Comment by Researcher — May 7, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  3. Well, well. We have two ‘ninnies who aren’t afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes!

    I really wondered if I dared post this — it would be equally bad if it unleashed a torrent of “I hate Mother’s Day” complaints, or if readers thought I endorsed this piece of … of … I’m going to adopt Researcher’s word and say “absurdity” … from our past and were afraid to tell me what a stinker it is.

    Whatever happens in your wards this Sunday, remember: It could be worse.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  4. All I’m going to say about that is that I’m relieved we had Mother’s Day in March in the UK!!!

    Comment by Alison — May 7, 2010 @ 11:34 am

  5. It could be worse, but we won’t know. We usually boycott sacrament meeting on mother’s and father’s day.

    Comment by queuno — May 7, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  6. We complain sometimes about the formulaic simplicity of our sacrament meetings and such, but … it could be worse! :)

    Comment by queuno — May 7, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  7. All we are lacking here are the Young Pioneers red bandannas and a closing speech by the political commissar of the Dnepr Agricultural Collective.

    The other mental image is of the girls dressed up like the Village People when they form the various letters of M_O_T_H_E_R.

    Comment by kevinf — May 7, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

  8. kevinf, I always liked how you could rearrange M O T H E R I N L A W to W O M A N H I T L E R.

    Comment by queuno — May 7, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

  9. Officially gobsmacked. (I just deleted my next sentence. Don’t want to be banned!)

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — May 7, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  10. But, do tell, would this program be worse than another colonoscopy?

    Comment by Mark B. — May 7, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  11. I can’t remember a thing about the procedure, although I seem to have slept most of today :-) It’d be a tough call against the three days of not eating in advance, though!

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — May 7, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  12. Hahaha! This post was so wonderful.

    (Hint: It becomes even funnier if you say the parts aloud and do the actions. Oh my.)

    Comment by Hunter — May 7, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

  13. I had a hilarious time singing the hymn and substituting “Mother” for “Lord” and “Savior.” Talk about deifying motherhood!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  14. I think a YouTube performing this would be a wonderful gift for all mothers. Any takers? Hunter could read the parts and the others could do the actions.

    Comment by Maurine — May 8, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

  15. Even if Hunter is willing, I’ll have nothing to do with a YouTube video of this.

    And although we probably won’t have anything this bad tomorrow, I’m not looking forward to another talk about the mothers of the stripling wariors.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 8, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  16. Wow. Wow! My favorite part, other than the whole seance vibe, is this simple line:

    “O is only that she’s growing old.”

    Solid gold.

    Comment by sister blah 2 — May 8, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

  17. Substituting “Mother” for “Lord” and “Savior” in “I Need Thee Every Hour” is just awesome.

    Obviously a much more sentimental time (and not in a good way.)

    Comment by Ann — May 9, 2010 @ 12:21 am

  18. O make me thine indeed thou blessed Mum …

    Comment by anothernonymous — May 9, 2010 @ 7:13 am

  19. Someone sang that M-O-T-H-E-R song from the pulpit in fast and testimony meeting last week. I finally scrub the tune from my brain, then happen upon ths post. Thank you Ardis. I will now light myself on fire.

    Comment by Jon — May 9, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  20. I woke up yesterday morning thinking about this post. Ever since Eric Boysen kindly reminded us one time that these were real people, doing the best that they could, I’ve tried to be careful about what I say on funny posts like this. So I thought I should give the program a second chance, and try and factor in the element that it came from a different era.

    Nope. It’s even more absurd the second time around.


    Comment by Researcher — May 9, 2010 @ 11:24 am

  21. Thanks, Ardis–magnificently, stupendously awful! (offal?)

    [I’ll have to check to see if “offal” is on my trash list — can’t think of any other reason why this was sent to spam. Sorry for the delay in posting. It *is* delightfully dreadful, isn’t it? — Ardis]

    Comment by Kristine — May 9, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

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