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.”
The notion of a Mother’s Day was initially a “fairly radical idea,” Phillips says, part of the broader movement toward women’s rights and equality in the 1860s and ’70s.
Julia Ward Howe’s 1870 poem “A Mother’s Day Proclamation,” coming just after the carnage of the Civil War, was really a call for peace. (You may know Howe for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”)
Anna Jarvis’ mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, was an activist who offered medical care to soldiers of both sides during the war, primarily in West Virginia. She organized Mothers’ Day work clubs, aid organizations that tried to lower infant mortality, among other public health projects.
It was her death on May 9, 1905, that led to what we know as Mother’s Day.
Around the second anniversary of her mother’s passing, Anna Jarvis honored her at a small gathering of friends at her home in Philadelphia. And on May 10, 1908, Jarvis arranged for 500 white carnations, her mom’s favorite flower, to be handed out in a ceremony at the Grafton, W.Va., church where her mother had taught Sunday school.