it is Anna Jarvis of
Philadelphia who is credited with bringing about the official observance of Mother's
Day. Her campaign to establish such a holiday began as a remembrance of her
mother, who died in 1905 and who had, in the late 19th century, tried to
establish "Mother's Friendship Days" as a way to heal the scars of the
Anna was not
quite 2 years old when her family moved to Grafton, four miles
south of Webster, W.Va. According to historical records, Anna
heard her mother express hope that a memorial would be
established for all mothers, living and dead.
the death of her father in 1902, Anna --along with her mother
and sister, Lillie -- moved to Philadelphia to reside with her
brother, Claude. After Ann's death May 9, 1905, Anna began an
intense campaign to fulfill the wish of her mother.
May 10, 1908, the third anniversary of Ann's death, a program
was held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton and in
Philadelphia, launching the observance of a general memorial day
for all mothers.
the church observed Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May
each year, making Andrews the mother church of Mother's Day. The
church, no longer an active Methodist congregation, was
incorporated as an international shrine in 1962 and is open to
the public from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each weekday between
April 15 and Oct. 15.
the first official Mother's Day service in 1908, Anna sent 500
white carnations to the church to be given to the participating
mothers. During the next several years, she sent more than
10,000 carnations there. Carnations –- red for the living and
white for the deceased -– became symbols of the purity,
strength and endurance of motherhood.
her campaign to have Mother's Day recognized as a national
holiday, Anna called on clergymen, business leaders and
politicians for help. Those included John Wanamaker, who
presided over a Mother's Day service in the 5,000-seat
auditorium of his Philadelphia store on May 10, 1908. More than
15,000 reportedly tried to attend the event, where Anna spoke
for more than an hour.
first Mother's Day proclamation was issued by West Virginia's
governor in 1910. The day was celebrated in most states in 1911.
1914, the U.S. House and Senate approved a resolution
proclaiming the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day. President
Woodrow Wilson endorsed it, and Secretary of State William
Jennings Bryan proclaimed it.
Jarvis' accomplishment soon turned bitter for her. Enraged by
the commercialization of the holiday, she filed a lawsuit to
stop a 1923 Mother's Day festival and was even arrested for
disturbing the peace at a war mothers' convention where women
sold white carnations - Jarvis' symbol for mothers - to raise
money. "This is not what I intended," Jarvis said.
"I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit."
she died in 1948 in a sanatorium in West Chester, Pennsylvania
at age 84, Jarvis had become a woman of great ironies. Never a
mother herself, her maternal fortune dissipated by her efforts
to stop the commercialization of the holiday she had founded,
Jarvis told a reporter shortly before her death that she was
sorry she had ever started Mother's Day. She spoke these words
in a nursing home where every Mother's Day her room had been
filled with cards from all over the world. On the day of the
funeral, the bell on Andrews Church in Grafton tolled 84 times
in her honor.
home where Anna was born in the village of Webster, W.Va., has
been restored as a museum and is open for visitors from 10 a.m.
to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday and all holidays, March
most of us celebrate Mother's Day with little awareness of how
it began. But we can identify with the respect, love and honor
that Anna Jarvis displayed nearly a century ago. Women,
especially mothers, face new challenges in society today, but
motherhood remains a lasting influence on us as individuals and
as a nation.
DAY PROMOTER -- Anna Jarvis led a successful campaign in the
early 1900s to have Mother's Day recognized as a national
holiday. Anna had heard her mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis,
wife of a Methodist pastor in West Virginia, express hope that a
memorial would be established for all mothers, living and dead.
OF MOTHER'S DAY -- Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, the wife of a
Methodist pastor in West Virginia, is recognized as the
"mother" of the Mother's Day holiday in the United
States. Her daughter led a successful campaign in the early
1900s to have Mother's Day recognized as a national holiday.
CHURCH' -- Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, W.
Va., is recognized as the "mother church" of Mother's
Day in the United States.