Happy Mother's Day
That Anna Jarvis was arrested in 1925 while protesting American War Mothers selling carnations on Mother’s Day is not that remarkable in and of itself, but the long strange journey of her life, that began with her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, certainly is.
Anna Reeves Jarvis was a well-known peace activist and community health worker during and after the Civil War who died in Grafton, West Virginia in 1905. Her daughter, also named Anna, was inspired during her Mother’s memorial service to create a holiday to honor all mothers.
She worked tirelessly to lobby Congress, who dismissed her proposals in 1908, sarcastically noting that they would then have to proclaim a “mother-in-law’s day” as well. However, by 1911 all states observed Mother’s Day, and it was made a national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, on the second Sunday of May.
As card makers and candy companies began to capitalize on this lively commercial opportunity, Anna, who believed that people should take the time to pen hand written letters and notes to their mothers, turned against the holiday she had created and its commercialization. The woman who trademarked the phrase “Mother’s Day” and created the Mother’s Day International Association now organized boycotts of Mother’s Day. She threatened to take candy companies to court, organized protests at their conventions, and demonstrated at a convention of the American War Mothers in 1925, who had begun to sell carnations, a flower associated with Mother’s Day, as a fundraising method. She was put in jail for disturbing the peace.
Anna was unsuccessful in her efforts to undo what she created; by the end she was reduced to going door-to-door to collect signatures on her petitions to end the holiday. She became a recluse, and eventually was committed to the Marshall Square Sanitarium, an asylum for the mentally ill. She finally found peace on November 24, 1948.