By Tim Engle
The Kansas City Star.
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could get riled up by a Hallmark card showing a serene mom clutching roses, but that’s only if you don’t know the story of Anna Jarvis.
She’s the person most credited with turning the second Sunday of May into Mother’s Day, which this year celebrates a milestone: 100 years.
But another person who helped launch the national holiday, with the stroke of a pen on a proclamation, was the U.S. president in 1914, Woodrow Wilson.
Take all of that, Mother’s Day, vintage Hallmark cards and President Wilson, and you have a new exhibit. Two, in fact: one in Kansas City, Mo., at the Hallmark Visitors Center, and one in Staunton, Va., at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum. (Wilson was a Staunton native and, coincidentally, Jarvis graduated from a college there.)
Give Hallmark credit for including in its display a thank-you letter from Jarvis to Wilson, because Jarvis was no fan of card makers. In her view, the holiday she crusaded for, a day she’d hoped would be reverential and contemplative, was ruined by commercialization as early as the 1920s.
By some accounts, she spent the rest of her life trying to take back, actually rescind, Mother’s Day.
“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,” Jarvis reportedly said. “And candy! You take a box to Mother, and then eat most of it yourself. A petty sentiment.”
She’s said to have called florists and the makers of greeting cards and candy “charlatans, bandits, pirates” and even … termites.
She had a way with words, that Anna Jarvis.
To learn about her we turned to Andrew Phillips, curator at the museum in Virginia, who was in Kansas City earlier this month to drop off Wilson family artifacts for the exhibit here. He also visited the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, Wilson, as you may know, was America’s president during the “Great War.”