Anna Jarvis was born May 1, 1864, in Webster, West Virginia, to Granville and Ann Reeves Jarvis. Anna was the tenth of fourteen children, and only one of four Jarvis babies to survive to adulthood. I like to imagine that Ann and Anna shared a special mother-daughter bond. The elder Ann was a peace activist during the American Civil War, and she cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
In an era where few women worked outside of the home, Anna became the first female stenographer at the Edison Electric Company after moving to Philadelphia in 1892. She later became the first literary and advertising editor at Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance. Did Ann push her daughter to defy cultural norms, or did she support Anna in her quest to pursue a fulfilling career? Mothers have a way of knowing when to comfort and soothe, and when to apply pressure to their offspring’s backside.
Ann died on May 10, 1905, and Anna began a campaign to honor her mother by establishing a Mother’s Day. Anna trademarked the words “Mother’s Day,” “The Second Sunday in May,” and a white carnation emblem when she incorporated her association in 1912. She said she wanted everyone to celebrate “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” She attended the first celebration of Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 10, 1908. Anna held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation making Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914. Anna spent the rest of her life fighting the commercialism and “anti-mother propagandist” who sought to exploit the day for their own gain. It seems nothing really changes.
How will you commemorate Mother’s Day?
Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer