Anna Jarvis: The Woman Who Invented Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis: The Woman Who Invented Mother’s Day (and Grew to Hate It)

Anna Jarvis (Photo: AP)Mother’s Day might be a time to shower your mom with cards and gifts, but the woman responsible for the holiday would tell you not to bother. That’s because the late Anna Jarvis, who founded Mother’s Day (unofficially on May 10, 1906) to honor her own mother, grew to despise the day for its sappy commercialization.

“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,”Jarvis famously told greeting card and candy executives. “And candy! You take a box to Mother — and then eat most of it yourself. A petty sentiment.”

Mother’s Day, which, on May 11, will celebrate its 100th anniversary, didn’t begin with boxes of chocolate and prewritten greeting cards, but rather as a memorial for someone’s mother.

In 1906, one year after the death of Jarvis’s mother, well-known public health activist Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, her daughter commemorated her death by throwing an honorary service at her home for her closest friends. Over the following two years, Jarvis continued holding memorial services for her mother on the anniversary of her death, even hosting an event at Philadelphia department store John Wanamakers (now operated by Macy’s) in 1908, which 1,500 people attended. That same year, in Virginia, where the elder Jarvis had lived for most of her life, her church held a memorial service in her honor and distributed 500 white carnations (her favorite flower) to attendees.

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