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Anna Jarvis
Anna jarvis.jpg
Anna Maria Jarvis

(1864-05-01)May 1, 1864
DiedNovember 24, 1948(1948-11-24) (aged 84)
Known forFounder of American Mother's Day

Anna Maria Jarvis (May 1, 1864 – November 24, 1948) was the founder of Mother's Day in the United States. Her mother had frequently expressed a desire for the establishment of such a holiday, and after her mother's death, Jarvis led the movement for the commemoration. However, as the years passed, Jarvis grew disenchanted with the growing commercialization of the observation (she herself did not profit from the day) and even attempted to have Mother's Day rescinded. She died in a sanitarium, her medical bills paid by people in the floral and greeting card industries.

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  • ✪ Anna Jarvis' Big Mistake
  • ✪ The Feminist Who Invented Mother's Day: Anna Jarvis Exposed?! Revelation 17:5 @LOJSociety #RasTafari
  • ✪ Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis and the Establishment of Mother's day


Most moms are pretty great, so great in fact that in the early 20th century a woman called Anna Jarvis campaigned tirelessly to recognise them on a national scale- a decision Jarvis would later come to regret culminating in her more or less dedicating her life and life’s savings to destroy the Frankenstein’s monster of a holiday the greeting card industry molded her creation into. First celebrated on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day was a somewhat sombre affair marked by a touching speech given by the aforementioned Anna Jarvis in memory of her late mother, social activist Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, who’d passed away some 3 years earlier. The approximately 70 minute speech, which was delivered in the auditorium of the Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia to a reported crowd of about 5,000 people, was by all accounts profoundly moving and resonated deeply with the audience in attendance. Around the same time, Jarvis paid to have 500 white carnations sent to the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where she once taught Sunday School, with attendees encouraged to wear these as a small token of their gratitude for all their own mothers had done for them. While this was by no means the first attempt Jarvis had made to celebrate mothers as a concept, it was the first that had a big ol’ stack of cash behind it, with noted Philadelphia businessman and former U.S. Postmaster General John Wanamaker (who owned the store Jarvis gave the aforementioned speech at) backing Jarvis financially and politically. Spurred by the success of the event, Jarvis began a letter writing campaign to have Mother’s Day officially recognised as a national holiday. After six years, she got here wish, with Mother’s Day being acknowledged by no less of an authority than the President of the United States himself, Woodrow Wilson. On May 9, 1914, he issued a presidential proclamation that read that this is the day we “[publicly express] our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” The thing is, as soon as Mother’s Day became officially recognised as a national holiday, the greeting card and floral industry began circling it like hungry sharks that had smelled the unmistakable whiff of a seal basting itself in BBQ sauce. Jarvis responded by denouncing any commercialization of Mother’s Day, thinking any attempt to make money off of Mother’s Day – even if it was for a good cause – was wrong and not in the spirit of the thing. After all, something like a hand written note expressing your personal feelings is far superior, in her opinion, than some store bought card. As she said, 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. She went on in a 1924 interview with the Miami Daily News, The white carnation is the emblem of Mother’s Day because it typifies the beauty, truth and fidelity of mother-love. This emblem is used on the Mother’s Day association printed matter and official buttons. But it does not mean that people should wear a white carnation. This false idea has led to florists flagrantly boosting the price of white carnations for the Mother’s Day trade. The red carnation has no connection with Mother’s Day. Yet florists have spread the idea that it should be worn for mother who has passed away. This has boosted the sale of red carnations. Confectioners put a white ribbon on a box of candy and advance the price just because it’s Mother’s Day. There is no connection between candy and this day. It is pure commercialization. Thus, offended by the amorphous blob of empty saccharine sentiments her creation had been morphed into, Jarvis spent the rest of her life trying to destroy Mother’s Day, among other things filing countless lawsuits against various entities related to the holiday, including one against a non-profit Mother’s Day organization headed up by none other than First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Although, it should be noted that while Jarvis hated the commercialization of Mother’s Day, in fact, it is very possible that had it not been commercialized it would have been largely relegated to a minor holiday, or disappeared altogether, as has happened to numerous other such holidays over the centuries. As you look at the history of holidays, the ones that survive and become extremely popular are nearly always the ones that get commercialized in some way. If there’s money to be made on a certain holiday, businesses will literally advertise the holiday, making sure that it is as popular as it can be and that it sticks around. Of course, this would have been little consolation to Jarvis, who would rather have seen Mother’s Day die completely than see the commercialized version survive, with Jarvis lamenting “that she was sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day.” In the end, Jarvis was unable to stop Mother’s Day from becoming something she didn’t want. She subsequently went into reclusion in the final years of her life. In debt, angry and in failing health, she lived for a time in a giant brick mansion in Philadelphia with her blind sister, Lillian. Outside the mansion was a sign alerting visitors “Warning — Stay Away.” Eventually her health declined to the point where she herself went blind and she needed outside care, at which point she was put into the Marshall Square Sanitarium in Pennsylvania. As she didn’t have any money to pay for the care she was receiving there, ironically, the bill was reportedly largely paid for by a group of businessmen in the floral industry that so benefited from her great idea. Naturally so as to avoid upsetting the elderly Jarvis, it appears she was never told of their part in paying for her care. Jarvis ultimately lived to the ripe old age of 84, dying penniless and, as she never married nor had children, more or less alone in the sanitarium… If you’ve ever wondered why it is “Mother’s Day” and not “Mothers’ Day”, that is largely thanks to Jarvis who stated it should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.”



Family and early life

Anna Maria Jarvis was born to Granville E. and Ann Maria (née Reeves) Jarvis on May 1, 1864, in Webster, Taylor County, West Virginia, the ninth of eleven children. Seven of her siblings died in infancy or early childhood.[1][2][3] Her birthplace, today known as the Anna Jarvis House, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.[1] The family moved to Grafton, West Virginia, also in Taylor County, later in her childhood.[4]

Ann Reeves Jarvis was a social activist, founder of Mothers’ Day Work Clubs.[5] As a woman defined by her faith, she was very active within the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church community. It was during one of her Sunday school lessons in 1876 that her daughter, Anna Jarvis, allegedly found her inspiration for Mother’s Day, as Ann closed her lesson with a prayer, stating:

I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.

— Ann Reeves Jarvis[6]

At the encouragement of her mother, Anna Jarvis attended college and was awarded a diploma for the completion of two years of course work at the Augusta Female Seminary in Staunton, Virginia, today known as Mary Baldwin University.[7] Jarvis returned to Grafton to work in the public school system, additionally joining her mother as an active church member, maintaining a close link to her mother.[7]

After her uncle, Dr. James Edmund Reeves, persuaded her to move to Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jarvis worked there as a bank teller for a year.[8] The following year, Jarvis again moved, this time to live with her brother in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in spite of her mother’s urging to return to Grafton.[9] Jarvis was successful in Philadelphia, taking a position at Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, where she became the agency's first female literary and advertising editor. Another accomplishment was becoming a shareholder in the Quaker City Cab Company, her brother’s business.[9]

Even while she was away from Grafton, Anna Jarvis maintained a close correspondence with her mother. Ann Reeves Jarvis was proud of her daughter’s achievements and the letters themselves served to keep mother and daughter closely linked.[10] After the death of Jarvis’ father, Granville, in 1902, she urged her mother to move to Philadelphia to stay with her and her brother.[11] Both brother and sister worried about their mother’s health and Ann Reeves Jarvis ultimately agreed to move to Philadelphia in 1904 when her heart problems necessitated it.[11] Jarvis spent the majority of her time taking care of her mother as Ann Reeves Jarvis' health declined. She died on May 9, 1905. [12]

Movement towards Mother's Day

On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother's death, Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, today the International Mother's Day in Grafton, West Virginia, marking the first official observance of Mother's Day.[13] The International Mother's Day Shrine has been a designated National Historic Landmark since October 5, 1992.[14]

Although Jarvis did not attend this service, she sent a telegram that described the significance of the day as well as five hundred white carnations for all who attended the service. As she spoke in Philadelphia at the Wanamaker's Store Auditorium, she moved her audience with the power of her speech.[15]

Commercialization, conflict, and later life

Although the national proclamation represented a public validation of her efforts, Jarvis always believed herself to be the leader of the commemorative day and therefore maintained her established belief in the sentimental significance of the day to honor all mothers and motherhood.[16] Jarvis valued the symbolism of such tangible items as the white carnation emblem, which she described as:

Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity and broad-charity of mother love; its fragrance, her memory, and her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying. When I selected this flower, I was remembering my mother’s bed of white pinks.[17]

Jarvis frequently referred to her mother’s memory during her efforts to maintain the sentimental heart of the day while also maintaining her own role as the founder of the holiday. In addition to her efforts to maintain her position and recognition as the holiday’s founder, Jarvis struggled against forces of commercialization that overwhelmed her original message. Among some of these forces were the confection, floral and greeting card industry.[18] The symbols that she had valued for their sentimentality, such as the white carnation, easily became commodified and commercialized.

By the 1920s, as the floral industry continued increasing prices of white carnations and then introduced red carnations to meet the demand for the flower, Anna Jarvis' original symbols began to become re-appropriated, such as the red carnation representing living mothers and the white carnation honoring deceased mothers.[19] She attempted to counter these commercial forces, creating a badge with a Mother’s Day emblem as a less ephemeral alternative to the white carnation.[20] Her negative opinion of these commercial forces was evident in her contemporary commentary:

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.[21][22]

However, her efforts to hold on to the original meaning of the day led to her own economic hardship. While others profited from the day, Jarvis did not, and she spent the later years of her life with her sister Lillie. In 1943, she began organizing a petition to rescind Mother's Day.[23] However, these efforts were halted when she was placed in the Marshall Square Sanitarium in West Chester, Pennsylvania.[24] People connected with the floral and greeting card industries paid the bills to keep her in the sanitarium.[23]

Jarvis died on November 24, 1948, and was buried next to her mother, sister, and brother at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.[25][26] Although the Anna M. Jarvis Committee supported her and helped to continue her movement during her declining health, it ultimately disbanded with the assurance that the Jarvis family gravesite would remain under the care of her grandniece who was the only heir to the estate, her oldest brother's granddaughter, as she herself never married or had any children.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b Anatolini, p. 74.
  2. ^ Anatolini, p. 26.
  3. ^ Wolfe, p. 175.
  4. ^ Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis profile, (archived); accessed March 7, 2017.
  5. ^ Anatolini, pp. 27, 30, 32.
  6. ^ Anatolini, p. 25.
  7. ^ a b Anatolini, p. 75.
  8. ^ Anatolini, pp. 75–6.
  9. ^ a b Anatolini, p. 76.
  10. ^ Anatolini, p. 77.
  11. ^ a b Anatolini, p. 78.
  12. ^ Anatolini, p. 79.
  13. ^ Anatolini, p. 1.
  14. ^ "Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved October 13, 2007.
  15. ^ Anatolini, p. 80.
  16. ^ Anatolini, p. 81.
  17. ^ Anatolini, p. 82.
  18. ^ Anatolini, p. 103.
  19. ^ Anatolini, pp. 115–6.
  20. ^ Anatolini, p. 116.
  21. ^ Forbes, Malcolm S.; Bloch, Jeff (1991). Women Who Made a Difference. Simon & Schuster. p. 135. ISBN 0-671-74866-1.
  22. ^ Arnold Gingrich, David A. Smart (ed.), "Unknown Title", Coronet, 18, retrieved March 7, 2017
  23. ^ a b "Take A Second To Salute Anna Jarvis, The Mother Of Mother's Day". Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  24. ^ Anatolini, p. 267.
  25. ^ "Anna Jarvis and Mother's Day". West Virginia Division of Culture and History. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  26. ^ Anatolini, p. 272.
  27. ^ Anatolini, p. 273.

Main references

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 16 September 2019, at 04:33
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