GRAFTON, W.Va. – On this 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, the woman credited with creating one of the world’s most celebrated holidays probably wouldn’t be pleased with all the flowers, candy or gifts.
Anna Jarvis would want us to give mothers a white carnation – she felt it signified the purity of a mother’s love.
Jarvis, who never married and never had children, got the Mother’s Day idea after her mother said it would be nice if someone created a memorial to mothers.
Three years after her mother died in 1905, she organized the first official Mother’s Day service at a church where her mother had spent more than 20 years teaching Sunday school.
The former Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church is the official shrine to mothers around the world. Today, the shrine will celebrate the 100th anniversary, giving each mother attending a special service a white carnation.
The shrine also serves as a “reminder to the accomplishments of these women and to the issues mothers still deal with today, trying to do the balancing act of being everything to everyone,” said Cindi Mason, the shrine’s director.
By all accounts, Jarvis’ mother, Ann, was a community activist who worked to heal the divisions in north-central West Virginia following the Civil War, and to promote improved sanitation by creating Mothers Friendship Clubs.
“I would love to be like Mrs. Jarvis,” said Olive Dadisman, who operates the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum in nearby Webster. “She was a soft-spoken, gentle woman, but she could convince the devil to give up his pitchfork.”
Jarvis became increasingly disturbed as the celebration turned into an excuse to sell greeting cards, candy, flowers and other items.
Jarvis became known for scathing letters in which she would berate people who purchased greeting cards, saying they were too lazy to write personal letters “to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
Before she died in 1948, she protested at a Mother’s Day celebration in New York, and was arrested for disturbing the peace.