Mothers’ Day Founded in West Virginia

Anna Jarvis, daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis, who had moved from Grafton, West Virginia, to Philadelphia, in 1890, was the power behind the official establishment of Mother’s Day. Anna swore at her mother’s gravesite in 1905 to dedicate her life to her mother’s project, and establish a Mother’s Day to honor all mothers, living and dead.

On May 10, 1907 she passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church, St. Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia — one for each mother in the congregation, thus marking the cite of the first celebration of mothers. On May 10, 1908, St. Andrew’s church responded to her request for a Sunday service honoring mothers. John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia merchant, joined the campaign for Mother’s Day. By 1909, Mother’s Day services were held in 46 states plus Canada and Mexico. In 1912, West Virginia became the first state to adopt an official Mother’s Day.

But, Anna Jarvis became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother’s Day: “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She opposed the selling of flowers and also the use of greeting cards: “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.” in 1923, Anna filed suit against New York Governor Al Smith, over a Mother’s Day celebration. When a court threw the suit out, she began a public protest and was arrested for disturbing the peace. Anna Jarvis never had children of her own. She died in 1948, blind and penniless, and was buried next to her mother in a cemetery in the Philadelphia area.

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