History

Anna Jarvis's Fight Against The Holiday She Invented

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Have you ever started a trend, only to watch other people turn it into something you hate? (It was fifth grade for us. Jenny could never draw bubble letters like we could, but she insisted on doing it anyway.) Anna Jarvis knew the feeling. She successfully established a national holiday, only to fight against those who celebrated in a way she didn't like. Happy Mother's Day, indeed.

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Anna Marie Jarvis was the founder of the Mother's Day holiday in the United States.

She Meant Well

Ann Reeves Jarvis once closed her Sunday school lesson with a prayer that someone would one day found a memorial day to commemorate mothers for "the matchless service she renders to humanity." Her daughter Anna Jarvis, then 12 years old, remembered that prayer for the rest of her life. In 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna Jarvis began to lobby for a national holiday in her honor. She wrote thousands of letters to people of influence, including Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain, and her campaign finally succeeded when Mother's Day was officially established in 1914.

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The Tale Turns Sour

That's when things got complicated: the sense of ownership she felt over the holiday led her to fight tooth and nail against anyone who would corrupt her vision. This included the floral and greeting-card industries (at one point she scrapped the white carnation as the holiday's official emblem to "do away with profiteering tradesmen"), but also charities such as the Golden Rule Foundation, a fund for needy mothers and children that she accused of commercializing Mother's Day to line its pockets. Jarvis even rallied against the U.S. Postal Service when it issued a commemorative Mother's Day stamp. She lived as a recluse for the last decade of her life, and was eventually committed to a sanitarium where she died alone and penniless. There are a lot of morals to this sad story, but we think this is the most important: Call your mother.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Anna Jarvis wanted to dedicate a holiday to her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, who dedicated her time during the Civil War working with other mothers who had lost their sons in battle. 00:12

  2. Jarvis intended for people to commemorate Mother's Day by wearing a carnation, attending church, and spending the rest of the day with their mothers. She was against the commercialization of the holiday. In 1925, she was arrested for disturbing the peace at an event of the American War Mothers Association, where carnations were being sold for a fundraiser. 01:24

  3. In the 1940s, Jarvis founded the International Mother's Day Association and sought to shut down flower sales by handing out celluloid buttons that people could wear instead. That year, flower sales for Mother's Day dropped by 11.45%. 04:52

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