Anna Marie Jarvis was born in Webster, West Virginia on May 1,
1864. According to historical records, at an early age, Anna heard
mother express hope that a memorial would be established for all
mothers, living and dead. Anna's mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis, had
been instrumental in developing "Mothers Friendship Day" which was
part of the healing process of the Civil War. Mrs. Jarvis had
established a group of Mother's Day Work Clubs in Webster, Grafton,
Fetterman, Pruntytown, and Philippi, (West Virginia) to improve
health and hygiene practices and conditions before the beginning of
the Civil War. During the Civil War, Mrs. Anna Jarvis urged the
Mothers's Day Work Clubs to declare their neutrality and to help both
Union and Confederate soldiers. The clubs treated the wounded and
fed and clothed soldiers that were stationed in the area.
Near the end of the war, the Jarvis family moved to the larger town
Grafton, West Virginia. Naturally, as West Virginians fought on both
sides during the war (the state, incorporated into the Union in 1864,
was part of Virginia before the war), there was great tension when
soldiers returned home. In the summer of 1865, Anna Jarvis organized
a Mothers's Friendship Day at the courthouse in Pruntytown to bring
together soldiers and neighbors of all political beliefs. The event
complete success promoting friendship and peace. Mothers'
Friendship Day became an annual event for several years.
After the death of her father in 1902, Anna --along with her mother
and sister, Lillie -- moved to Philadelphia to reside with her
Claude. It wasn't long after that her mother died. When Mrs. Jarvis
died on May 9, 1905, her daughter Anna was resolved to honor her.
She also felt that even though the U.S. was a hard working,
industrialized nation, the adult children of her generation had
negligent in the treatment of their parents. In 1907, Miss Anna began
campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. Anna led a small
tribute to her mother at Andrews Methodist Church on May 12 of that
year, the 2nd anniversary of her mother's death. It was from that
moment on that she dedicated her life to establishing a nationally
recognized Mother's Day. By the next year, Mother's Day was also
celebrated in her own city of Philadelphia.
Miss Jarvis and her supporters began to write to godly ministers,
evangelists, businessmen, and politicians in their crusade to
national Mother's Day. This campaign was a success. By 1911,
Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union. In
1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement
proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday that was to be held
each year on the second Sunday of May.
The one-woman crusade of Anna Jarvis is often overlooked in history
books. Women during the early 1900s were engaged in so many other
reform efforts that the history behind Mother's Day is often
It is likely, however, that it was these other reforms and the
they opened for women that paved the way for Anna Jarvis to succeed
in her campaign for Mother's Day.
It must be noted that, while Miss Jarvis spent most of her adult life
striving to create a special day to honor mothers, in the end, she
disappointed with the way Mother's Day turned out. As the popularity
of the holiday grew, so did its commercialization. What she had
intended as a day of sentiment quickly turned into a day of profit.
the end, shortly before her death, Anna Jarvis told a reporter that
was sorry she ever started Mother's Day.
Patricia Chadwick is a freelance writer and creator of History's
Women Website at http://www.HistorysWomen.com. Visit her site
and sign up for her FREE weekly newsletter.
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