Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called “Mothers Friendship Day”. In the 1900’s, at a time when most women devoted their time solely on their family and homes, Jarvis was working to assist in the healing of the nation after the Civil War. 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 Confederate neighbors. Ann was instrumental in saving thousands of lives by teaching women in her Mothers Friendship Clubs the basics of nursing and sanitation which she had learned from her famous physician brother James Reeves, M.D. In parts of the United States it was customary to plant tomatoes outdoors after Mother’s Work Days (and not before).
It was Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis, who finally succeeded in introducing Mother’s Day in the sense as we celebrate it today. Anna graduated from the Female Seminary in Wheeling and taught in Grafton for a while. Later she moved to Philadelphia with her family. Anna had spent many years looking after her ailing mother. This is why she preferred to remain a spinster. When her mother died in Philadelphia on May 9, 1905, Anna missed her greatly. So did her sister Elsinore whom she looked after as well. Anna felt children often neglected to appreciate their mother enough while the mother was still alive. Now, she intended to start a Mother’s Day, as an honoring of the mothers. In 1907, two years after her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis disclosed her intention to her friends who supported her cause wholeheartedly. So supported by her friends, Anna decided to dedicate her life to her mother’s cause and to establish Mother’s Day to “honor mothers, living and dead.” She started the campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. With her friends, she started a letter-writing campaign to urge ministers, businessmen and congressmen in declaring a national Mother’s Day holiday. She hoped Mother’s Day would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.
As a result of her efforts the first mother’s day was observed on May 10, 1908, by a church service honoring Late Mrs. Reese Jarvis, in the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where she spent 20 years taking Sunday school classes. Grafton is the home to the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Another service was also conducted on the same date in Philadelphia where Mrs. Jarvis died, leaving her two daughters Anna and Elsinore. So it was more of a homage service for Mrs. Reeves Jarvis than a general one conducted in honor of motherhood. Nevertheless, this set the stage for the later Mother’s Day observances held in the honor of motherhood.
Following this, it gained a widespread popularity across the nation. The Mother’s Day International Association came into being on December 12, 1912, to promote and encourage meaningful observances of the event. Anna’s dream came true when on May 9, 1914, the Presidential proclamation declared the 2nd Sunday of May to be observed as Mother’s Day to honor the mothers.
It was here in the first observance that the carnations were introduced by Miss Jarvis. Large jars of white carnations were set about the platform where the service was conducted. At the end of the exercise one of these white carnations was given to each person present as a souvenir of Mother’s Day. All this was done because the late elder Jarvis was fond of carnations. From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states.
The first Mother’s Day proclamation was issued by the governor of West Virginia in 1910. Oklahoma celebrated it in that same year. It stirred the same way in as far west as the state of Washington. And by 1911 there was not a state in the Union that did not have its own observances for Mother’s Day. Soon it crossed the national boundary, as people in Mexico, Canada, South America, China, Japan and Africa all joined the spree to celebrate a day for mother love.
The Mother’s Day International Association came into being on December 12, 1912, to promote and encourage meaningful observances of the event. Starting from 1912, Mother’s day began to be officially declared a holiday by some states. Anna’s dream came true when in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
- Diana Butler Bass: The Radical History Of Mothers Day (huffingtonpost.com)
- The founder of Mother’s Day later disapproved of what it became (wqad.com)
- The Founder of Mother’s Day Later Fought to Have It Abolished (mentalfloss.com)
- Mother’s Day Founder Died Fighting Against Its Commercialization (addictinginfo.org)
- Today’s Birthday: ANNA MARIE JARVIS (1864) the tireless campaigner for “Mother’s Day (euzicasa.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day (waldina.com)
- Brief history of Mother’s Day and a look at mothers in the Bible (Photos) (examiner.com)
- The Inventor Of Mothers’ Day Later Tried To Have It Abolished Due To Its Commercialization (disinfo.com)
- Thoughts for Mother’s Day (cocoamill.wordpress.com)
- To all the many amazing moms: Happy Mother’s Day (theolympian.com)