On May 1, 1864, in the little village of Webster, four miles south of Grafton, West Virginia, Granville and Ann Jarvis welcomed their daughter, Anna Jarvis, into the world. The Grafton area was an important railroad center during the Civil War and Mrs. Jarvis’ birthplace had served as a temporary headquarters for Gen. McClellan in 1861.
During the war years, Ann Jarvis worked very hard to provide nursing care and promote better sanitation, which helped save thousands of lives on both sides of the conflict. After the war, she continued her work to help heal the wounds of the war years and bring families and communities together again. Young Anna received her basic education in the public schools of Grafton and attended Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia.
In 1902, after the death of Granville Jarvis, the family moved to Philadelphia. It was there that Ann Jarvis passed away on May 9, 1905. Two years later, in 1907, on the second Sunday in May, Anna invited several friends to her home in Philadelphia, in commemoration of her mother’s life. On this occasion, she announced her idea – a day of national celebration in honor of mothers – a Mother’s Day.
The following spring, Anna wrote to the Superintendent of Andrews Methodist Church Sunday School in Grafton, suggesting that the church in which her mother had taught classes for twenty years, celebrate a Mother’s Day in her honor. The idea appealed to Mr. Loar and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day service was held in the church. Anna established the white carnation as the symbol of the celebration and developed other text and visual tools in honor of the event. It was Anna who coined the term, “Mother’s Day Association”, used during the period she was developing her concept of what Mother’s Day should be. Subsequently, West Virginia Gov. William E. Glasscock issued the first Mother’s Day proclamation on April 26, 1910. In 1912, at the General methodist Conference in Minneapolis, MN, Anna was recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day. A joint resolution in the United States Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The official resolution was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
Since 1908, a celebration for mothers has taken place at the Andrews Methodist Church, now known as the International Mother’s Day Shrine, in the town of Grafton, West Virginia. This historic building has been designated a national historic Landmark and is the focal point in the town’s preparation for a centennial celebration of the first Mother’s Day in May, 2008