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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Birthplace of Anna Jarvis, Founder of Mother's Day - Grafton, West Virginia
Birthplace of Anna Jarvis, Founder of Mother's Day - Grafton, West Virginia

Mothers' Day Observance

The aspiration of local legend Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis and her daughter, Anna Jarvis, was to establish a national memorial day dedicated to all mothers, both alive and deceased. After her mother's death in 1905, Anna Jarvis was relentless in achieving this goal. Jarvis was successful in getting West Virginia Governor Glassock to proclaim a statewide Mother's Day in 1910. Four years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law a U.S. House of Representatives resolution, introduced at Jarvis' request, making the second Sunday in May the national Mother's Day. Mother's Day has since become an international holiday, celebrated in 152 countries.

Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis and her family lived in Taylor County in the mid-1800s. Stories about her many good deeds and leadership qualities had become part of the local folklore by the time of her death. She and her brother, a doctor, had formed the Mothers Day Friendship Clubs to work with women to prevent the deaths of children by teaching sanitation methods. They explained to mothers the importance of boiling water, how to keep food from spoiling, and other antiseptic methods.

Jarvis and the women who joined these Mothers Day Friendship Clubs refused to take sides during the Civil War. Instead they provided nursing services and taught sanitation methods which helped save thousands of soldiers' lives on both sides, North and South. After the war, Jarvis was tireless in promoting peace and good will among neighbors who may have differed politically. She conceived a family day picnic honoring mothers, called Mothers Friendship Day; its real goal, however, was to reunite alienated neighbors. Following a prayer, the band began to play "Should Auld Acquaintances Be Forgot." By the time they reached the word "forgot," neighbors were weeping and shaking hands.

Anna Jarvis held a memorial service for her mother in 1907, and all mothers the next year. Services were held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, which is now the International Mothers Day Shrine. Anna Jarvis' birthplace, where the Jarvis family lived from 1854 to 1864, is now a museum.

The Mother's Day Observance project is documented through photographs, a written report, a genealogy of the Jarvis family, and a videotape of the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum.

Originally submitted by: John D. Rockefeller,Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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