The Real Mother’s Day History – Anna Jarvis the “Mother of Mother’s Day”

Anna Jarvis Mother's Day History
Photo: Wikipedia

Wondering how this special day honoring moms came about? Most people assume it’s a “Hallmark Holiday” created by the greeting card industry and other companies to guilt people into buying gifts for the mothers and mother figures in their life. It’s true that the holiday has become seriously commercialized in the years since it was founded. From florists to card manufacturers, restaurants, and gift sellers, aggressive advertising has produced big profits for businesses on this day.

But we did some digging and found the real Mother’s Day history — and it surrounds one specific woman.

Anna Jarvis is recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day. Though she never married or had children, she is considered the “Mother of Mothers Day” — an apt title for a woman who worked so hard to bestow the honor on all mothers.

Anna Jarvis got the inspiration of celebrating Mother’s Day in her childhood from her own mother Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis. An activist and social worker, it was said that Mrs. Jarvis had expressed her desire that someday someone should honor all the mothers living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.

A loving daughter, Anna never forgot her mother’s passion and when her mother died in 1905, she resolved to fulfill her desire of having a mother’s day.

It all started when Anna sent Carnations for her mother’s funeral service in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her late mother. Carnations were her mother’s favorite flower and Anna felt that they symbolized a mother’s pure love.

Later, Anna along with her supporters wrote letters to  lobby for an official declaration of a Mother’s Day holiday. The hard work paid off, and by 1911 Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union. On May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in several countries including the US, UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, and Belgium. (Here’s an example of how they celebrate it around the world.) People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. The day has become so popular that in several countries phone lines crash under the flood of calls.

Anna was deeply hurt by the commercialism of the holiday. Indeed, she is quoted as saying: “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

Ms. Anna Jarvis never profited from the day, and spent many of the later years of her life with her sister Lillie. By 1944, she was placed in the Marshall Square Sanitarium in West Chester, Pennsylvania and died on November 24, 1948. She is buried next to her mother, sister, and brother at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, near Philadelphia.

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