Anne Jarvis, Mother’s Day, and Your Mom

Mothers DayWho is Anne Jarvis and what does she have to do with the history of Mother’s Day?

  • Anne Jarvis, both mother and daughter, are known as the founders of the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States.
  • Anne Jarvis is the reason Mother’s Day is a singular possessive rather than a plural possessive.
  • Anne Jarvis is the reason Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May.
  • Anne Jarvis is the one who prodded for Mother’s Day to be a U.S. holiday.
  • Anne Jarvis is one of the reasons it is often celebrated with carnations, scriptures, and prayers.

How is Anne Jarvis responsible for all of these things? Well, first, it is important to understand that there are two Anne Jarvis. There is Anne Maria Reeves Jarvis, who was born September 30, 1832. The other is her daughter Anne Maria Jarvis, who was born in 1864.
Anne Maria Reeves Jarvis, the mother, was a social activist and organizer during the American Civil War. She was very influential, especially to her daughter Anne Maria Jarvis.  She died in May 9, 1905 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In order to honor her mother, Anne Jarvis passed out 500 white carnations to the mothers in her church. This was in 1907. The church was St. Andrew’s Church in Grafton, West Virginia.

Then, a year later, on May 10, 1908 she held a memorial for her mother in Grafton. She wanted to honor her mother, and she then embarked upon a campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday. This campaign would take years to find results, but it eventually did, and she can be credited with this.

In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”. She wanted to use that date for the holiday she hoped to create. She then created the Mother’s Day International Association. During her campaign for the holiday she was very specific about how the holiday would be named, as Mother’s Day, a singular possessive rather than a plural possessive. She wished it to be a holiday where each family would honor their mother singularly, not commemorating all mothers together. She wanted it to be a personal celebration and honoring of mothers. Her goal was achieved. Mother’s Day was established as a holiday, where everyone celebrates mothers, and individually.

President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914. He also kept the singular possessive that Anne Jarvis wanted. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson used this spelling in the law making official the holiday in the U.S., it was also used by the U.S. Congress on bills, and by other U.S. presidents on their declarations.

The history of Mother’s Day, and some of the specifics about when it is, etc. can be attributed to Anne Jarvis and her daughter.