Mothers Day 1908

With Mother’s Day almost upon us I thought it a good idea to look back to the origins of Mother’s Day and how it looks today.

The first Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. It was her way to honor her mother, who had passed away, and continue the work her mother had started.

Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis was born in 1832 in Culpeper, Virginia.  Although the exact number is not known, it is said that she bore between 11 and 13 children over a period of 17 years with only four of the children surviving to adulthood.  The loss of her children to disease inspired Ann Jarvis to take action to help her community in combating childhood diseases and unsanitary conditions.

In 1858, while pregnant with her sixth child, Ann Jarvis created Mother’s Day Work Clubs in several towns in West Virginia. At the time there was a growing public movement to improve health and sanitization.  These clubs were designed to assist and educate families to reduce disease and infant mortality.

The clubs raised money for medicine and to hire women to work with families where the mother of the family had health issues.  A program was developed to visit households and educate mothers and their families.

These Mother’s Day Work Clubs also found themselves in a position between North and South of the American Civil War and declared themselves to be neutral giving aid to both sides. The club fed and clothes soldiers from both sides who were stationed in the area.  When typhoid fever and measles broke out in the military camps, Ann Jarvis and her club members nursed the suffering soldiers from both sides.

Thus it was that Anna Jarvis, Ann’s daughter who created this day that over a hundred years later we hold dear.  It was in 1914, that Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

Interesting enough, over the years, Ann Jarvis protested Mother’s Day.  Most specifically, Anna Jarvis protested the commercialization of the day.  In her mind the way to honor one’s mother was with a hand written note, not with buying gifts and pre-made cards.

Anna Jarvis organized boycotts of Mother’s Day and threatened lawsuits against companies that had commercialized the day.  She protested a candy makers’ convention in 1923 and a meeting of the American War Mothers in 1925 who had begun to sell Mother’s Day flowers to raise money.

In what Anna Jarvis created and celebrated became just the opposite for her.  Today it is one of the most successful commercial holidays.  It remains one of the biggest days for sales of flowers, greeting cards, and long distance telephone calls.  And yes, gifts.

Of course a handwritten card or time spent with mom is always best but if you are looking for a gift for her, vintage jewelry is as unique and wonderful as she is.

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Daye is an avid collector and researcher of all things vintage.

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