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Mother's Day

Anna Jarvis: Founder of Mother's Day
by Patricia R. Chadwick, www.HistorysWomen.com

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 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 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's 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 so many other reform efforts that the history behind Mother's Day is often neglected. It is likely, however, 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 its 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.

Patricia Chadwick is a freelance writer and creator of History's Women Website at www.HistorysWomen.com. Visit her site and sign up for her FREE weekly newsletter. Patti is also author of the newly released book "History's Women - The Unsung Heroines" available in both e-book and print format.

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