Mother’s Day is celebrated across the U.S. on the second Sunday in May. But what do we really know about the founding and evolution of this holiday?
According to information I found on the life of Anna Jarvis, her mother, Ann Maria Reeves, was born September 30, 1830 to Reverend Josiah Reeves and Nancy Reeves in Culpeper, Virginia. The family later moved to Philippi in Barbour County, West Virginia when the Reverend was transferred to a Methodist church in that county.
Ann Maria married Granville E. Jarvis in 1850, and they subsequently moved to Webster in Taylor County, West Virginia. She organized “work clubs” for mothers and women, helping to improve poor women’s quality of life. During the Civil War they raised money to provide medicine for soldiers. She tirelessly helped care for wounded soldiers despite personal tragedies in her life.
In 1865 she began a friends group for mothers. It became an annual celebration lasting several years.
Ann Maria Jarvis’s husband died in 1902. She lived with her daughters Anna and Lillian in Philadelphia until her death in 1905.
Anna Jarvis devoted her life making her mother’s wishes a reality.
In 1907 Anna had a memorial service for her mother at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1910, the first unofficial celebration of Mother’s Day occurred Sunday May 8 in Philadelphia. She received generous help from affluent department store owner John Wanamaker. After a church service there was a celebration in the auditorium of the Wanamaker department store. By 1914, the popularity of this day spread and President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1915 declaring Mother’s Day a holiday across the U.S. Presidents from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to George Bush have reaffirmed this Mother’s Day proclamation.
By the 1920s Anna Jarvis became distressed with the increasing commercialization of this holiday. She protested this until the end of her life. In 1948 she was arrested for disturbing the peace. She said that “people should write letters instead of buying greeting cards.” She died that year, but will be remembered for starting this beautiful tradition of Mother’s day.
In Boston, Julia Ward Howe had different ideas about the celebration and implementation of a Mother’s Day, according to the Perkins School for the Blind History Series Volume 1. Julia Ward Howe was a social worker, reformer and writer of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, was the first director at Perkins Institute. They lived at the school, which was in South Boston. In the 1870s she wanted the second Sunday in June to be set aside for mothers who were pacifists like herself.
Despite its rampant commercialization, with shopping and movie channels devoting this weekend to moms, Mother’s Day is a day to show appreciation for our mothers. The best gifts are our attentiveness and our love.
If you wish to know more about the history of this holiday go to look up the Wikipedia entry on the history of Mother’s Day or Google the life of Anna Jarvis. You can also find information on the history of Mother’s Day in the Perkins School for the Blind History Series Volume 1. This one volume book can be purchased from Perkins in Braille.