Mother's Day Founder Opposed Commercialization West Virginian Anna Jarvis founded Mother's Day 100 years ago today. Her original idea was to make it a "day of rest" for mothers. However, as the years of the celebration progressed, Jarvis became discouraged by the commercialization of the day.
NPR logo

Mother's Day Founder Opposed Commercialization

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Mother's Day Founder Opposed Commercialization

Mother's Day Founder Opposed Commercialization

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The primary is Tuesday in West Virginia, but something big is happening today.

ANNA SALE: Yes. It is the 100th anniversary of Mother's Day. And in West Virginia, we are proud to say that Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, is from here. So, there's a big celebration that's going on in Grafton, West Virginia, where Anna Jarvis is from. And my colleague, Emily Corio has this story on the history of Mother's Day.

EMILY CORIO: Century old stained glass and huge murals still decorate the chapel walls where the first Mother's Day service was held. It's where Ann Reeves Jarvis went to church, and she's the mother who inspired Mother's Day. Linda Shriver is on the board that oversees the international Mother's Day shrine.

Ms. LINDA SHRIVER (On Board that Oversees International Mother's Day Shrine): Ann Reeves Jarvis worked to bring the mothers together and to mothers' work groups to help improve sanitary conditions in the community and to reduce infant mortality in the area. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, declared when her mother died that she would create a day to honor all mothers in an effort to honor her own mother.

CORIO: Jarvis arranged the first Mother's Day service in 1908, but several years would pass before she could convince an old friend to make the holiday official.

Ms. OLIVE DADISMAN (Tour Guide): In this room, we have the resolution that President Wilson signed on May 8, 1914 making Mother's Day the legal holiday that we celebrate today.

CORIO: Olive Dadisman leads tourists through the house where Anna Jarvis was born in 1864. The 19th century farmhouse is now a museum full of antiques that belonged to Anna Jarvis.

Ms. DADISMAN: She sent postcards to people all the time. So, this was one that was sent to a lady in Grafton in 1916 reminding them about Mother's Day. But if you'll look on everything that Anna Jarvis had made for Mother's Day, it never says Happy Mother's Day. It only says Mother's Day.

CORIO: Anna Jarvis wanted Mother's Day to be a day of rest for moms. She thought sons and daughters could write letters to their mothers, not sign their name at the bottom of a greeting card. So, Jarvis was upset when she saw flowers, cards and candy become focal points of the holiday. So upset that Dadisman says she started a petition not rescind Mother's Day.

Ms. DADISMAN: She figured it was just going to go even more commercialized in the future.

CORIO: Anna Jarvis died in 1948. She never married and she didn't have any children of her own, but thanks to the honor she bestowed on her mom, Anna Jarvis is considered the mother of Mother's Day.

HANSEN: That was West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Emily Corio reporting from Morgantown. Anna Sale is still in the studio of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Anna, I understand there are going to be some special guests there today.

SALE: Yes, of course. Hillary Clinton is reminding everyone that she also is a mother and she will be in Grafton, West Virginia along with Chelsea Clinton today.

HANSEN: In that case, let me ask you one more question about the primary and politics in general. It was a swing state in 2004 and 2000 toward President Bush. Do you really think a Democrat has a chance to win West Virginia in November?

SALE: Well, that's really making up the bulk of Hillary Clinton's case in West Virginia. She is trying to argue that West Virginia is a key test still in the Democratic primaries. She's arguing that she could carry this state and Barack Obama could not. And by extension she is saying I can appeal to swing voters; Barack Obama does not have the same coalition. So, that's what she's really trying to argue here.

HANSEN: That's June Sale's daughter, Anna Sale, of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Thank you, Anna.

SALE: Thank you.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.