Enrichment and Inspiration for Beta Sigma Phi Sisters from Marilyn Ross
Paraphrased by Marilyn Ross - April 2003
She was never a mother herself. She was a spinster schoolteacher. She was the daughter of a Methodist minister. At one point she was an advertising executive with a Philadelphia insurance firm. And for 15 years she devoted her life to caring for her ailing mother.
After her mother's death in 1905, she yearned to find something to honor the memory of her beloved mother, and wished to create a special day of appreciation for her. Then she remembered the picnics that her mother had helped to organize back home in Grafton, West Virginia. They were called Mother's Friendship Day picnics, and others gathered at them in an effort to heal the hatred lingering after the Civil War. Then came the idea: Why not a national day to honor all mothers?
She announced her vision to a group of friends that were gathered to observe the first anniversary of her mother's death. In the ensuing year, she enlisted the help of civic organizations and business leaders to help her bring her concept into being. Chief among her supporters was John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia merchant prince and philanthropist, who campaigned with her to "make Mother's Day happen."
The first Mother's Day was celebrated May 10, 1908, at her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia. It was a remote country church that was forever to become a national shrine dedicated to American and, eventually, international motherhood.
It didn't take long for the Mother's Day idea to take off. By 1910, Governor William Glassman had declared Mother's Day to be a West Virginia State holiday.
Afterward, she carried her proposal for a nationwide Mother's Day to Washington, where it stalled in the Senate ... until she launched a one-woman letter-writing campaign. She wrote to the U.S. Patent Office and obtained a copyright for "Mother's Day." Then tirelessly she pressed her idea on governors, state legislators, congressmen, senators, clergymen, even the White House, to get "her" day recognized. On May 8, 1914, her idea finally became a reality, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day.
For the rest of her life she campaigned to keep the holiday from becoming too commercialized. "Give your mother something useful," she once told a friend, "a pair of comfortable slippers, or shoes, new eyeglasses, an eiderdown if she isn't warm at night, or fix her stairs if they need fixing."
Upon her death in 1948, a wreath of 43 carnations was placed on her grave, 43 because that many countries celebrated Mother's Day due to her efforts. And why carnations? The carnation is the flower she suggested be worn on the holiday. It was her mother's favorite flower.
And it remains an enduring reminder of Anna M. Jarvis, the woman who gave birth to Mother's Day.