Anna Jarvis
Founder of Mother’s Day

“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.” These words came from the Mouth of Anna Jarvis, Founder of Mother’s Day.

Anna Marie Jarvis was born in Webster, West Virginia on May 1, 1864. According to historical records, at an early age, Anna heard her 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 Mothers’ 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’ 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 of 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 the soldiers returned home. In the summer of 1865, Anna 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 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 brother, 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 become negligent in the treatment of their parents. In 1907, Miss Anna began a 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 establish a 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 many other reform efforts that the history behind Mother’s Day is often neglected. But it is likely that it was these other reforms and the avenues 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 was disappointed with the way Mother’s Day turned out. As the popularity of the holiday grew, so did it’s commercialization. What she had intended as a day of sentiment quickly turned into a day of profit. In the end, shortly before her death, Anna Jarvis told a reporter that she was sorry she ever started Mother’s Day.