Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world as a day that we honor our mothers and thank them for all that they do for us. Living or dead, mothers are celebrated on the second Sunday in May. However, how did this tradition and holiday come to pass? The founders of Mother’s Day are traditionally recognized as Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis and her daughter Anne Maria Jarvis.
Anne Maria Reeves Jarvis was born September 30, 1832, in Culpeper, Virginia. She was known for being a social activist. She was also well known for her role in the American Civil War as social activist and organizer. She passed away May 9, 1905, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After her death, her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis, who was born in 1864, decided to honor her mother. In 1907 she did so by handing out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church. There were 500 mother’s in the congregation at St. Andrew’s Church, which is in Grafton, West Virginia, and each was given a white carnation in honor of Anne Maria Jarvis’ mother. The following year, Anne Maria Jarvis had a memorial for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. It was held on May 10, 1908. This lead her to believe that Mother’s Day, or a day to honor and celebrate mothers, living and dead, should be established as a holiday. She started a campaign to make it happen, and 7 years later, her goal was realized when President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day to be a nationally recognized holiday in 1914.
Of course, before this happened, she had some say in when it was, and what it would be called. In 1912, Anne Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day” so that they could be used for the holiday.
Anne was very specific that it ought to be called Mother’s Day, with the apostrophe before the “s” so that it was a singular mother being celebrated, each individual mother celebrated by their families, not Mothers as a whole. This spelling of it is how it is recognized as the national holiday. President Woodrow Wilson agreed and in the law making of the official holiday in the US, the US Congress presented it as such in bills, and other declarations. Although some still use the plural possessive form of the word, referring to it as Mothers’ Day, the traditional singular possessive sought for by Anne Jarvis is the most common use. And so, thanks to Anne Maria Reeves Jarvis, and her daughter Anne Maria Jarvis, we have this US holiday to celebrate mothers and all that they do.
Anne Maria Jarvis passed away in 1948, after over 40 years of celebrating and honoring her deceased mother, and contributing to our celebrating and honoring our mothers, both living and dead.