Just like Father's Day, Mother's Day is celebrated around the globe. Some countries celebrate the day on
various calendar days (anywhere from January through May), but the majority of countries celebrate this day on
the second Sunday of May. The extent of the celebrations varies greatly. And, in some countries, it is
particularly offensive to one's mother not to mark Mother's Day. The founder of Mother's Day, Anna Marie
Jarvis chose Sunday for Mother's Day to be observed because she intended the day to be commemorated and
treated as a Holy Day.
Anna was born in the tiny town of Webster in Taylor County, West Virginia. She was the daughter of Granville E.
and Ann Maria (Reeves) Jarvis. The family moved to nearby Grafton, West Virginia in her childhood. Anna had a
great love for her mother and after her mother died on May 9, 1905, Anna began a crusade to found a memorial
day for women.
On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother's death, she held a memorial to her mother at her mother's church,
St. Andrew's Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virgina and passed out 500 white carnations—one
for each mother in the congregation. She chose the carnation because it was the favorite flower of her mother
and chose the white carnation in particular to symbolize the purity of a mother's love.
Anna Marie Jarvis
The woman, who was the impetus for Anna's campaign for a recognized Mother's Day, was her own mother,
Ann Maria (Reeves) Jarvis. She was a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted
to improve sanitation through what she called Mother's Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil
War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and
The following article compiled by the West Virginia State Archives:
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis' work with women's organizations inspired the creation of Mother's Day as a national
holiday. She was born in Culpeper, Virginia, on September 30, 1832, the daughter of the Rev. Josiah W. and
Nancy Kemper Reeves. The family moved to Barbour County in present-day West Virginia when the Rev.
Reeves was transferred to a Methodist church in Philippi.
In 1850, Ann married Granville E. Jarvis, the son of a Philippi Baptist minister. Two years later, Granville and Ann
Jarvis moved to nearby Webster in Taylor County. Jarvis organized a series of Mothers' Day Work Clubs in
Webster, Grafton, Fetterman, Pruntytown, and Philippi, to improve health and sanitary conditions. Among other
services, the clubs raised money for medicine, hired women to work for families in which the mothers suffered
Ann Maria Jarvis
from tuberculosis, and inspected bottled milk and food. In 1860, local doctors supported the formation of clubs in other towns.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad made Taylor County a strategic site during the Civil War. Ann Jarvis urged the Mothers' Day Work Clubs to
declare their neutrality and provide relief to both Union and Confederate soldiers. The clubs treated the wounded and regularly fed and clothed
soldiers stationed in the area. Jarvis also managed to preserve an element of peace in a community being torn apart by political differences.
During the war, she worked tirelessly despite the personal tragedy of losing four of her children to disease. In all, eight of her twelve children died
before reaching adulthood.
Near the end of the war, the Jarvis family moved to the larger town of Grafton. Tensions increased as both Union and Confederate soldiers
returned at war's end. In the summer of 1865, Ann Jarvis organized a Mothers' Friendship Day at the courthouse in Pruntytown to bring together
soldiers and neighbors of all political beliefs. The event was a great success despite the fear of many that it would erupt in violence. Mothers'
Friendship Day was an annual event for several years.
Ann Jarvis' life revolved around the church. Under Granville's leadership, the Andrews Methodist Church was built in Grafton and dedicated in
1873. Anna taught Sunday School at the church for the next twenty-five years. After Granville's death in 1902, Ann moved to Philadelphia to live
with her son Claude and daughters Anna and Lillian. Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis died in Bala-Cynwyd, west of Philadelphia, on May 9, 1905. Her
daughter Anna led a small tribute to her mother at Andrews Methodist Church on May 12, 1907, and dedicated her life to establishing a nationally
recognized Mother's Day. The first official Mother's Day ceremonies were held at Andrews Methodist in Grafton and the Wanamaker Store
Auditorium in Philadelphia on May 10, 1908. Six years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Congressional Resolution setting aside Mother's
Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday in May. In 1952, the General Conference of the Methodist Church officially
designated Andrews Methodist Church as a National Methodist Shrine.
Thereafter she embarked upon a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday. The first unofficial "Mother's Day" was celebrated on
May 10, 1908 in the same church which Anna handed out the carnations the year before. From there, the custom caught on—spreading
eventually to 46 states. The holiday was declared officially by some states starting in 1912, beginning with West Virginia. Anna officially
succeeded in her quest for national observance, when on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared "Mother's Day" a national
holiday, proclaiming the second Sunday in May a “Flag Holiday” – honoring the nation’s mothers.
Anna had incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association and although no one ever learned of another member of the
corporation she always spoke of the group as “We.” She drew no income from the corporation. She even trademarked the phrases "second
Sunday in May" and "Mother's Day", including in it an official Mother’s Day program bearing the legend – “Official Program, all others are
infringements”. And, she was very specific about the location of the apostrophe; it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to
honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world. This proper placement of the apostrophe is also used
in the language of the presidential declaration.
The success of the movement led Miss Jarvis to give up her former work as clerk for an insurance company. In times her correspondence with
churches, business men, governors and others overflowed the red brick house in which she lived with her blind sister, Elsinore. She bought the
house next door for storage.
Sadly, by the mid 1920's, Anna had become adverse to the mass commercialization and what the holiday had become and spent the rest of
her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration. She became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed
greeting card. As she said, "A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than
anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!" Additionally, her original
symbolism of the use of the white carnation was changed for reasons of commercialism. In part due to the shortage of white carnations, and in
part due to the efforts to expand the sales of more types of flowers in Mother's Day, the florists promoted wearing a red carnation if your
mother was living, and a white one if she was dead. This was tirelessly promoted until it made its way into the popular observations at
The grey-haired woman who founded the day out of sentimental devotion, reverence and love went to war against money-makers and the
publicity seekers. She once threatened to sue Governor Al Smith of New York over plans for a gigantic Mother’s Day meeting in 1923. Eight
years later she tangled with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt over a rival Mother’s Day committee. And, in 1948 she was arrested for disturbing the
peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother's Day, where she finally said that she "wished she would have never started the
day because it became so out of control."
Spending all her life and inheritance campaigning against the holiday, Anna's battle, however, was a losing one. Finally, retiring in semi-
seclusion, she tended flowers grown from her mother’s grave and cared for her blind sister, Elsinore, her only close relative. Anna Marie Jarvis
never married and had no children and died penniless on November 24, 1948. In accordance with Anna's request, her funeral services
consisted of a private graveside and simple Christian ceremony in the Jarvis family plot at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Montgomery County,
Mother's Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions. According to the National Restaurant
Association, Mother's Day is now the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States. For example, according
to IBISWorld, a publisher of business research, Americans will spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts—
like spa treatments—and another $68 million on greeting cards. Mother's Day will generate about 7.8% of the U.S. jewelry industry's annual
revenue in 2008, with custom gifts like Mother's rings.
Honor thy father and mother.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
|May your Mother's Day celebrations be filled with the love of family,
the laughter of friends, and the many blessings of the Lord.
A Mother's Love
There are times when only a Mother's love
can understand our tears,
can soothe our disappoints
and calm all of our fears.
There are times when only a Mother's love
can share the joy we feel
when something we've dreamed about
quite suddenly is real.
There are times when only a Mother's faith
can help us on life's way
and inspire in us the confidence
we need from day to day.
For a Mother's heart and a Mother's faith
and a Mother's steadfast love
were fashioned by the Angels
and sent from God above.
No gift to your mother can ever equal her gift to you - life.