Founder of Mother’s Day Died in West Chester Trying to Keep the Celebration Pure

Anna Jarvis's lifelong goal to honor motherhood became a lifelong curse when the Mother’s Day she created was quickly exploited for commercial gain. Image via Anna Orso, Billy Penn.
Image of Anna Jarvis via Wikimedia Commons.

She pushed and prodded to awaken the world to a day for honoring mothers, and then she denounced Mother’s Day to her death in West Chester, when it too quickly betrayed its intention as a tribute to motherhood and traditional family values.

The lifelong goal and subsequent anguish of Mother’s Day was meant to be modeled after the example of Anna Jarvis’s own “unselfish Christian” mother, but like so many modern holidays, it was quickly exploited commercially, according to a Billy Penn report by Anna Orso.

From her Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to a World’s Sunday School Association endorsement in 1910 and President Woodrow Wilson’s resolution in 1914, Jarvis campaigned hard to create Mother’s Day.

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But she campaigned even harder to cleanse it of those retail abuses.

“Jarvis threatened lawsuits, wrote letters, organized protests, took out ads, and even criticized former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using the day as a mechanism to fundraise for charities,” the article stated. “Jarvis went so far as to ask FDR in 1933 to remove the holiday from the country’s official calendar.”

The toll of it all brought on dementia and poverty for Jarvis, who died in 1948 at West Chester’s Marshall Square Sanitarium.

Read more of her Mother’s Day story on Billy Penn here.

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