Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother’s Day History

As we celebrate Mother’s day, let us reflect to its origin.  It all started with Anna Jarvis who was born May 1, 1864 in Webster, W.Va.

Her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, lost 8 of her 11 children due to illness.  She learned from her brother, Dr. James Reeves, how to use boiled water to cleanse wounds and then bandage them.

Civil War soldiers –north and south- would bivouac in a park near the Jarvis home.  Mrs. Jarvis would go out and help care for the soldiers’ wounds.  She founded “Mothers Friendship Clubs” across the state and urged them to care for their children and soldiers – whether north or south.  As a result, thousands of women in Mothers Friendship Clubs learned how to protect their children and help care for the Civil War soldiers.

In 1865, the Jarvis family moved four miles away to Grafton, W.Va., when Anna was one year old.  She completed high school and enrolled at the Augusta Female Academy.  After graduating, she returned to Grafton, WV, where she taught school for seven years.  Anna’s mother taught Sunday school to children at the Andrews Methodist Church for many years.

When Anna was 12 years old, she overheard her mother praying that she hoped someday someone would found a day honoring mothers of the world.  Anna never forgot that prayer.  At her mother’s grave service in 1905, she said “By the grace of God, you shall have that Mother’s Day!”

In 1907, Anna began an aggressive campaign to establish a nationwide Mother’s Day.

The next year, 1908, she led a tribute to her mother and all mothers at Grafton’s Andrews Methodist Church on Main Street.  The next year a Mother’s Day service was held in Philadelphia.

Anna and her supporters began writing hundreds of letters to people in power nationwide.

Anna gained the support of Philadelphia’s merchant and philanthropist, John Wanamaker. By 1909 forty-five states plus Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico celebrated Mother’s Day.  By 1911 nearly every state in the Union celebrated Mother’s Day!

Anna Jarvis became a friend of President Woodrow Wilson who, in 1914, declared Mother’s day a national holiday on the second Sunday in May.

Anna decided that her mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation, should be worn by those whose mothers were deceased. Those whose mothers were alive should wear a red carnation.  Anna became angry when florists began selling paper carnations to wear on Mother’s Day.  When printers began making Mother’s Day cards, she became more disillusioned that sons and daughters would send a card instead of visiting or phoning their mothers.

Anna used most of her money combatting the commercialization of Mother’s Day.  She spent time in a mental institution and died at age 84, on November 4, 1948.  

The Grafton church where Anna had celebrated the first Mother’s Day in 1908 was named the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

So dear Moms for all you do and all you are, we love you. Happy Mother’s Day!