Why We Need to Remember to Keep It Real…
The bullet point history of Anna Marie Jarvis and how she fought to fulfill her mother’s dream.
- 1870- Julia Ward Howe, (activist, writer and poet) – writer of the famous Civil War song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” first suggests the idea of Mother’s Day.
- Julia Ward Howe writes the Mother’s Day Proclamation as a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War as an appeal to woman to rise up against war. She suggests that the second Sunday in June be celebrated as “Mother’s Peace Day”.
- 1873- 18 cities across America hold Mother’s Peace Day gatherings.
- Mrs. Ann Jarvis, of Grafton, West Virginia, a unifying figure during the Civil War, organizes Mother’s Day Work Clubs to improve sanitation and raise awareness for the poor health conditions in her community. (Mrs. Jarvis had lost eight children under the age of seven; she gave birth to a total of 12 children) The Mother’s Day Work Clubs also treat wounds, feed and clothe both Union and Confederate soldiers with neutrality.
Ann Jarvis organizes Mother’s Friendship Day to unite the community after the war. All soldiers are asked to attend with their mothers and lay down their guns. After playing the songs, “Dixie” and the “Star Spangled Banner”, the band bursts into “Auld Lang Syne”- not a dry eye in the house.
- Mrs. Ann Jarvis dies in 1905, the second Sunday in May.
- Her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, remembers a day in Sunday school when she was 12 years old. She recalls her mom, while teaching a class on woman in the Bible saying, “I hope and pray that someone will found a memorial Mother’s Day; there are many days for men but none for women”
- Anna, sinking into a pit of despair over the loss of her mother, begins her crusade to create a day in honor of her mom; using the large inheritance she has been left.
Her vision is to create “Mother’s Day”, observed by attending church, writing letters to mothers, and spending time together as a family.
- Anna Marie Jarvis gives up her job. She begins to work full-time writing letters to politicians, clergy members, and influential business owners – anyone she thinks can help her get this dream off the ground.
- She enlists the help of the wealthy Philadelphia merchant, John Wanamaker to help her get this holiday on the map.
On May 10th, 1908, the first Mother’s Day celebration is held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton where her mom taught Sunday School – Yay!
- Anna does not attend but sends 500 carnations (her mom’s favorite flower) to the celebration.
Anna attends a ceremony the same day at Wanamaker Department store in Philadelphia – 15,000 people show up, capacity 5,000 – not enough seating.
- For years following, Grafton and Philadelphia fight over the honor of the first Mother’s Day celebration.
- Grafton wins- it is the official Home to the “International Mother’s Day Shrine”.
- In 1912, the Governor of West Virginia proclaims Mother’s Day, followed in 1913 by the Governor of Pennsylvania.
1914, President Woodrow Wilson- reportedly a longtime friend of Anna’s (small world), signs the Mother’s Day Proclamation – “… assigning Mother’s Day as a National Holiday- on the second Sunday in May, to commemorate the anniversary of Mrs. Anne Jarvis’s death.”
- Anna, instead of being ecstatic, becomes enraged and filled with anger as she begins to feel the holiday is being hijacked by florists and greeting card companies. She feel the holiday is rapidly losing its meaning. “This is not what I intended. I wanted a day of sentiment, not profit.”
Anna demands a shrine be built in honor of her dear mom, hoping to draw attention back to the root of the holiday. The town agrees and honors Mrs. Anna Jarvis with a shrine. They begin to worry about Anna.
- Anna feels that this is her baby, her legal property. She claims to have had it trademarked in 1912 – not true.
- Anna tries to claim the rights to the phrase “Mother’s Day” to prevent card makers from creating Mother’s Day cards and/or to force them to place her mom’s name on them. That does not happen.
- 1923: Anna files a lawsuit against New York Governor Al Smith, over a Mother’s Day celebration. When a court throws the suit out, she begins a public protest and is promptly arrested for disturbing the peace. This is not the only time she will be arrested.
In 1930, a Mother’s Day stamp, with carnations and the famous Whistler’s Mother on it is created; Anna flips out and fights to keep the words, “Mother’s Day” off the stamp – she succeeds. You go girl!
- Anna finds herself going door to door for signatures for a petition to rescind Mother’s Day completely.
- Anna begins to fall apart, trying desperately to rein back control of the holiday that she had created in honor of her mother. The commercialization of the holiday and loss of her original intent continues to chip away at her sanity. She regrets having pursued her mother’s dream.
In 1944, Anna emotionally spent and penniless – having squandered all of her inheritance on legal fees to claim the rights to Mother’s Day, is placed in the Marshall Square Sanatorium, a mental asylum. Some say the only way Anna was able to afford to go on was that the local florists helped to support her in her old age.
- Anna died in 1948 at the age of 84
“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.” – Anna Marie Jarvis
Today say a special prayer for Anna Marie Jarvis; she gave this day everything she had. Make it the day she meant it to be- filled with hugs and love and kisses- and maybe a carnation!
Probably not a card…
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