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Mother's Day: The Creation of a Holiday
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Anna Jarvis is credited with founding the Federal holiday of Mother's Day. She was born in Webster, West Virginia on May 1, 1864. Anna and her family moved to Grafton, West Virginia when Anna was almost 2 years old. After her father died in 1902, the Jarvis family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Anna was very close with her own mother, Mrs. Anna M. Jarvis. Mrs. Jarvis was instrumental in starting several groups in which mothers reached out to the less fortunate in their communities. These groups helped to improve health and hygiene in the community. During the Civil War her group helped to take care of any ill soldier, both Union and Confederate. Afterwards she helped many families and communities to unify after the divisiveness of the Civil War.

Anna observed her mother's life work of peace and unity and compassion. Several times during these years she heard her mother say that she hoped "sometime, somewhere, someone will found a Mother's Day." When Mrs. Jarvis died on May 9, 1905, Anna is said to have stated her intention to establish that day to honor her own mother, and all mothers.

The first anniversary of her mother's death was held with friends honoring Mrs. Jarvis in a small celebration. However, on the second anniversary, in 1907, Anna led a tribute to her mother at her mother's church, Andrews Methodist Church, in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna had white carnations handed out to everyone at the service. She chose carnations because they were her mother's favorite flower, and the color white was to honor all mothers. It was in 1907 that Anna formed a committee to campaign for the establishment of Mother's Day. She and her supporters wrote hundreds of letters to clergy, businessmen, and politicians. One of her most important contacts was John Wanamaker, a wealthy Philadelphia philanthropist and department store merchant. He shared her devotion of celebrating mothers and also probably saw a chance for his business to expand. On the third anniversary, the second Sunday in May in 1908, tributes were held at Andrews Church and also planned at Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia. However, when 15,000 people desired to attend, the celebration was moved across the street to the plaza in front of City Hall. Anna spoke for over an hour at the Philadelphia celebration. While she could not attend the Grafton, West Virginia celebration on the same day, she did send a telegram that was read by Mr. L.L. Loar. Many other cities began to add Mother's Day celebrations of their own. By 1909, forty-six states, Canada, and Mexico were celebrating Mother's Day. West Virginia's governor issued the first official Mother's Day proclamation in 1910.

It was John Wanamaker who prompted the introduction of a bill to the United States Congress to make Mother's Day an official holiday. Anna was again wholeheartedly leading the campaign. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday in the month of May stating: "Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

It is sadly ironic that Anna came to dislike the celebration of Mother's Day. She felt that it was too commercialized; she was furious with the greeting card industry and the florist industry alike. She wrote many letters, staged protests, and was even arrested in her fervor to protect Mother's Day. She is quoted as objecting to greeting cards as "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write," and the sale of flowers and gifts for mothers as turning a day of "sentiment" into one for "profit." Yet, though she did not approve of commercial cards, she did send them to friends in celebration of Mother's Day.

On the political front, Mother's Day was used by conservatives in their campaign against women's suffrage. A Mother's Day holiday provided conservatives with a way to honor women, without allowing them to vote.

Anna Jarvis died penniless and blind at the age of 84. She never knew that grateful florists paid for her last years at a sanitarium.

Anna Jarvis was not the only woman who influenced the creation of Mother's Day. Two other women also played roles. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, organized "Mother's Day for Peace" meetings in Boston, starting in 1872. Many cities held these celebrations, but most ceased when Howe stopped paying for them.

Juliet Calhoun Blakeley was also instrumental in Mother's Day, although unintentionally. In May 1877, while attending church, the pastor had to leave the pulpit before services were over. Mrs. Blakeley was sitting close to the front, and she went to the pulpit to finish the service and called on other mothers to join her. Her sons then set out to honor their mother, and chose the second Sunday in May because it was near her birthday and also the day when she finished the service. The church where this occurred, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion, Michigan, was the first to celebrate Mother's Day in the early 1880s as a tribute to Juliet Calhoun Blakeley and all mothers.

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