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Ann Marie Jarvis, West Virginia and Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in the US, a time when we honor those women who go through the pains of pregnancy to bring us all into this life.  It all began with a feisty West Virginia mom, Ann Marie Jarvis.  Born in 1832, Ann Marie Reeves was the daughter of a Methodist minister who in 1843 was transferred to Phillipi in what would become West Virginia.  In 1850 she married Granville Jarvis, the son of a Baptist minister.  Together they would have eleven children, although tragically only four lived to adulthood, a not uncommon occurrence in those days when modern medicine was in its infancy.

A born reformer, in 1858 Ann Marie Jarvis founded in Western Virginia, Mothers Work Clubs that worked to improve sanitation, health and to care for indigent families.  During the Civil War she proclaimed the neutrality of her clubs, and they aided Union and Confederate soldiers alike, providing nurses to them during outbreaks of camp diseases like typhoid fever and measles, the great killer of soldiers during the War.

After the war she helped organize Mother’s Friendship Day in West Virginia to help heal the divisions of the War.  During the celebrations Union and Confederate veterans would participate and the bands would play both The Star Spangled Banner and Dixie.

This remarkable woman continued her good works throughout her life and died in 1905.  She often expressed a desire for a  day to honor all mothers.  After her death her daughter carried out her wishes by celebrating the first Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia in 1907.  She headed a national campaign that culminated in President Wilson declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914.

The daughter of Ann Marie Jarvis,  Anna Marie Jarvis, grew to regret the commercialization of Mother’s Day.  She despised the habit of buying greeting cards for mothers as being a sign of people being too lazy to write a letter to their mothers.

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.

At the age of 84 she was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

So I guess we should all take our mothers, if we are fortunate enough to still have them, out for a good meal today, and forget about the cards and the candy!

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

One Comment

  1. In the UK, we have Mothering Sunday, now often referred to as Mother’s Day

    It is kept on Laetare Sunday. The traditional epistle for that day is from Galatians 4, “Which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments. The one from mount Sinai, engendering unto bondage; which is Agar: For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia, which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But that Jerusalem, which is above, is free: which is our mother.”

    Early spring flowers are not to be relied on, so I remember potting a hyacinth and keeping it in the tack cupboard; achieving peak condition on the day was awfully rewarding.

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