When Mother’s Day approaches, I’m sure many of us recall the sacrifices our mothers made for us and wonder how they survived our “growing up” years. My own mom was a widow at the age of 29, left with three small children—a six-year-old son, a seventeen-month-old daughter and me—I was six weeks old when my father contracted spinal meningitis and died. To this day, I marvel that my mother not only survived that tragic event, but continued to overcome many other obstacles with grace and dignity. I could go on and on about her many good deeds and sacrifices, but suffice it to say that she loved and served the Lord, as well as her family, with an unrelenting fervor. She was quite a lady. The picture of my mom, brother and sister is one of my favorites.
Of course, I couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by without a bit of history about the “mother” of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis of Grafton, West Virginia. Having family who hailed from West Virginia, we frequently traveled Route 119, the road that fronts the Jarvis homestead. My ties to West Virginia run deep enough that I set one of my recent books, The Potter’s Lady, along the banks of the Tygart River in Grafton, West Virginia.
While doing a bit of my research, I discovered some things I didn’t know about Mother’s Day. The following is from history.com and speaks to the forward-thinking ideas of Ann Marie Jarvis, the mother of Anna Jarvis:
The origins of Mother’s Day include Ann Marie Jarvis, the mother of Anna Jarvis. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Marie Jarvis helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.
Her Mother’s Day Work Clubs raised money for medicine and hired help for moms suffering from tuberculosis.
During the American Civil War, Ann Marie lost four of her children to disease; in total, eight of her 12 offspring died before reaching adulthood. Despite her personal tragedies, Ann Marie never stopped her community service.
These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.
The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Ann Marie’s daughter, Anna Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.
Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.
By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
So, there you have it. A bit of my personal history, and a little history of Mother’s Day. To each of you mothers out there, I hope you have a blessed Mother’s Day.