Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (September 30, 1832, Culpeper, Virginia — May 9, 1905, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was a social activist and organizer during and after the American Civil War. She and her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis (1864–1948), are recognized as the founders of the Mother's Day holiday in the United States.
Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis was born in Culpeper, Virginia, on September 30, 1832, the daughter of Josiah Washington Reeves and his wife, Nancy Kemper Reeves. Her mother’s Kemper ancestor, Johannes Kemper, came to Virginia in 1714 as one of the original German colonists whom Virginia Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood settled at Fort Germanna on the frontier. Johannes (or John) Kemper, the immigrant, married Alice Catherine (Ailsey) Otterbach, a fellow 1714 immigrant from the Siegerland, soon after their arrival in Virginia.
Ann Marie Reeves’ father, Josiah Reeves, was a Methodist minister who was transferred in 1843 from Culpeper to Philippi, Barbour County, now in West Virginia, when Ann Marie was eleven. In 1850, Ann Marie Reeves married Granville Jarvis, son of a Baptist minister, who became a successful merchant in nearby Taylor County. Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis was mother to eleven children, but only four reached adulthood.
Mrs. Jarvis was a dynamic woman who saw needs in her community and found ways to meet them. Starting in 1858, she organized Mothers' Day Work Clubs in the towns of Grafton, Pruntytown, Philippi, Fetterman, and Webster to improve health and sanitary conditions. These clubs raised money to buy medicine and to hire women to work in families where the mother suffered from tuberculosis. They developed programs to inspect milk, long before there were state requirements. Mrs. Jarvis called on her brother, Dr. James Edmund Reeves, who practiced medicine in Philippi and Fairmount, to provide advice and training for the women in her clubs.
Jarvis' activism had personal roots; of the eleven children to whom she gave birth, just four survived to adulthood. The other seven are believed to have died from diseases such as measles, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tuberculosis—diseases now largely prevented by childhood vaccination.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865) sentiment in western Virginia was sharply divided and the western part of the state broke away from Virginia and formed the new state of West Virginia, loyal to the Union. Ann Marie Jarvis urged her Mothers' Day Work Clubs to declare neutrality and to provide aid to both Confederate and Union soldiers. The clubs fed and clothed soldiers from both sides stationed in the area. When typhoid fever and measles broke out in the military camps, Mrs. Jarvis and her club members provided nursing help to the suffering soldiers, both Blue and Gray.
At the end of the war, public officials, seeking ways to eliminate postwar strife, called on Mrs. Jarvis to help. She and her club members planned a "Mothers Friendship Day" for all soldiers from both sides and their families at the Taylor County Courthouse, with bands playing "Dixie" and the "Star Spangled Banner" and "Auld Lang Syne." This effective and emotional event reduced many to tears, and to the understanding that old animosities were destructive and must end. The Mothers Friendship Day was an annual event for several years, until tensions had disappeared and it was no longer needed.
Mrs. Jarvis taught Sunday School for a quarter century, and was often invited to lecture on subjects such as "Literature as a Source of Culture and Refinement," "Great Mothers of the Bible," and "The Importance of Supervised Recreational Centers for Boys and Girls," a very progressive idea at the time. She often spoke of her dream to have a day in which Americans would honor mothers. After her husband Granville Jarvis died, she moved to Philadelphia to live with her son and two daughters. She died there in 1905.
On May 12, 1907, Jarvis' daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church, St. Andrew’s Church in Grafton, West Virginia—one for each mother in the congregation. The following year, she held a memorial to her mother in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908, and then embarked upon a campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday, a goal which was achieved when President Woodrow Wilson declared it so in 1914.
Nine years after the first official United States Mother's Day, commercialization of the holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become and spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.
Later commercialization and other exploitations of Mother's Day infuriated Jarvis and she made her criticisms explicitly known the rest of her life. She criticized the practice of purchasing greeting cards, which she saw as a sign of being too lazy to write a personal letter. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother's Day, and she finally said that she regretted having started it.
(Taken from Wikipedia's Mother's Day page: Mother's Day)
- Mother’s Day for Peace article from May 12, 2013; retrieved at zinnedproject.org on March 12, 2014
- Kendall, Norman F. (1937), Mothers Day, a History of its Founding and its Founder. Grafton, W. Va., D. G. Smith
- Wolfe, Howard H. (1962), Mothers Day and the Mothers Day Church. Published by the author, printed at Kingsport, Tenn. by Kingsport Press
- "Mother's Day: A Celebration rooted in a Germanna mother's life" Culpeper Star Exponent, May 14, 2012
- LEIGH Eric Schmidt (1997). Princeton University Press, ed. Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (reprint, illustrated ed.). pp. 256–275. ISBN 0-691-01721-2.