Anna Jarvis was born in 1864, the tenth of thirteen children of Granville and Ann Jarvis. Seven of her siblings died before she was born.
• In 1870, Julia Ward Howe wrote an “Appeal to Womanhood,” calling for women to join together and work for world peace. It later became known as her “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” Two years later, she advocated a “Mother’s Day for Peace” on June 2. It didn’t catch on.
When Jarvis was 12, so the story goes, she heard her mother end a Sunday School lesson with this: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”
• More than 100 countries around the world observe some form of Mother’s Day.
On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis organized a memorial service at Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, to honor her mother and all mothers. She sent a telegram and white carnations, to symbolize the purity of mother-love; meanwhile, she gave a Mother’s Day speech in a Wanamaker’s store in Philadelphia.
• Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May for roughly half of those, from Anguilla to Zimbabwe, including the United States and Canada. In Mexico, it’s always May 10. The United Kingdom and Ireland honor mothers on the fourth Sunday in Lent.
In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a national holiday, rewarding Jarvis’ tireless campaign.
• According to Hallmark, Mother’s Day is the third highest card-sending holiday in the United States (after Christmas and Valentine’s Day), with 120 million cards given each year.
Jarvis came to hate the commercialization of the holiday. She wrote, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”
• An estimated $20 billion is spent on mothers for Mother’s Day. (No estimate on how much is spent on mothers for the rest of the year.)
Jarvis and a sister spent their family inheritance trying to reform Mother’s Day. She never married or became a mother herself. She died in poverty at age 84.
• The United States is home to more than 85 million mothers. We’re thinking they’d like more than a day, to cheer them on.