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Man hugging mom in celebration of Mother's Day

12 Facts You Didn't Know About the Celebration of Mother's Day

Man hugging mom a beach

Mother's Day is a special occasion celebrated worldwide to honor mothers and motherhood. You may be planning a family outing or ordering a gift of flowers or candy to be delivered to your Mom this weekend. But how much do we really know about this holiday? Here are 12 facts you didn’t know about Mother's Day. Be prepared to be surprised!

ONE: Ann Reeves Jarvis was the woman one daughter wanted to honor

Ann Reeves Jarvis was a social activist and wife of a minister in West Virginia in 1858. She organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs.” Her purpose was to reduce high infant mortality rates by teaching women about improving sanitary conditions.

Sadly, Ann Reeves Jarvis had 13 children, and only 4 of them lived to adulthood.

Ann Reeves Jarvis also coordinated a “Mother’s Friendship Day” in 1868, more than a decade after the end of the Civil War. Her purpose was to bring together former enemies. Both Northern and Southern veterans came. Many shook hands and cried together.

TWO: Memorial for a Mother

Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905.

Ann Reeves Jarvis’ daughter and namesake, Anna Reeves Jarvis, was one of the surviving children.

It’s important to note that daughter, Anna, was savvy. She had graduated from Augusta Female Seminary, worked as a teacher, then a bank teller, and finally as an advertising editor for Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance company in Philadelphia where she lived with her brother, Claude. Her advertising job must have taught her about marketing.

After her mother’s death, Anna organized a service in recognition and memory of her mother in 1907 at an Episcopal church in West Virginia.

The next year, Anna planned a repeat service. This time, she gives all the mothers and their children in attendance a white carnation, her mother’s favorite flower.

THREE: Mother’s Day becomes a state holiday.

The idea of honoring your mother caught on.

In 1910, the governor of West Virginia declared it an official holiday just three years after Anna had started it.

FOUR: Tireless marketing and campaigning for the recognition of mothers

Anna Reeves Jarvis wanted “Mother’s Day” to be a private, intimate acknowledgment of what the mother of the family did.

She went on a letter-writing campaign to gain support for “Mother’s Day.”

Anna Jarvis put her marketing savvy to use. She created a group called “Mother’s Day International Association.” She also trademarked the phrases “2nd Sunday in May,” and “Mother’s Day.”

She even created a tagline for Mother’s Day: "For the Best Mother who Ever Lived—Your Mother."

FIVE: Marketing efforts were rewarded

Jarvis’ letters worked. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day a National holiday, making sure it was “Mother’s Day,” a single possessive signifying a day for individual families to recognize their mother.

The next year, 1915, Canada also adopted “Mother’s Day” as a holiday.

SIX: The surprising backstory: Great intentions gone awry

In 1915, eight years after Anna Jarvis’ first ceremony honoring her mother, Jarvis was disgusted.

Jarvis was furious at the card and candy merchants, and at florists in particular, for making Mother’s Day all about retail profits and the buying of gifts. She felt that the real purpose of the day was a sentimental one, not one based on profit. The original intent of a family honoring its matriarch had been overridden by greed.

By 1920, Jarvis ridiculed the idea of sending a greeting card, which she described as

“A maudlin, insincere printed card or ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world.”

Jarvis also urged people not to buy flowers saying,

"WHAT WILL YOU DO to rout charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest, and truest movements and celebrations?”

SEVEN: Supply and demand of white carnations

Jarvis had made the white carnation a symbol of Mother’s Day when she gave the flowers to mothers and their children at the ceremony honoring her mother in 1908.

It was an effective, meaningful gesture that people emulated.

By 1922, Jarvis endorsed an open boycott of florists for jacking up the price of white carnations during the Mother’s Day holiday. Once again, she fumed that the original intent of honoring the mother of a family was being besmirched by retail greed.

She even tried to trademark the phrase “Mother’s Day” with an image of white carnations but was denied this trademark.

EIGHT: Buttons versus blooms

To fight the flower industry’s hold on “Mother’s Day,” Jarvis had thousands of celluloid buttons printed featuring a white carnation. The buttons were sent to schools, women’s groups, and churches in an attempt to keep the flower shops from making so much money on what was meant to be a simple, sentimental holiday.

She threatened lawsuits on the florists because they were infringing on her copyrighted phrase, “Mother’s Day.” To pacify her, the Florist Telegraph Delivery (FTD) group offered her a commission on the sale of all white carnations during the Mother’s Day holiday.

Jarvis was infuriated and adamantly refused to make money from the holiday she had created.

NINE: The sad truth: Mother’s Day turns litigious

Anna Jarvis had serious issues with what her intended holiday had become.

In 1923, Jarvis threatened to sue New York City’s, “Mother’s Committee” which was organizing a Mother’s Day parade in New York City.

They were, after all, using her trademarked phrase, “Mother’s Day” without her permission.

The governor of New York, Al Smith, and the mayor of New York, John Hylan were on the committee. Because of Jarvis’ threats, the parade was cancelled.

TEN: Jarvis crashes a party and fights a First Lady

In 1925, Jarvis barged into a convention of American War Mothers. She was uninvited and made a scene, claiming that the group was using the white carnation as its emblem, and Jarvis had been the one to start that association.

The group of American War Mothers wanted Jarvis arrested for disorderly conduct, but the charges were dropped.

Jarvis even accused First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt of using “crafty plotting,” when Mrs. Roosevelt used Mother’s Day as an occasion for fundraising for poor mothers.

Eleven: Even a postage stamp got Jarvis’ blood boiling

The American War Mothers had effectively campaigned the government for a stamp that recognized Mother’s Day. In 1934, FDR released a Mother’s Day stamp featuring a painting by artist James Whistler. The painting featured Whistler’s mother along with white carnations.

Jarvis was furious because she believed the use of white carnations on the stamp was promoting the flower industry.

TWELVE: The originator of Mother’s Day died poor and bitter

Anna Jarvis never married. Never had children. Never became a mother.

All her life, she believed that the pure, joyful holiday she had envisioned had been usurped by commercialism. She fought against anyone who she felt was benefitting from the holiday.

At the end of her life she said that “She was sorry she had ever started Mother’s Day.” It was reported that she was going door to door getting a petition asking that the official Mother’s Day Holiday be rescinded.

Isolated and alone, she was placed in an asylum where she died penniless at the age of 84.

Some sources say that members of a grateful flower industry paid her bills at the asylum, but that fact cannot be substantiated!

What Anna Jarvis started

Anna Jarvis did, indeed, start a holiday where families honor their mothers.

However, it didn’t work out focused out exactly like she planned. Instead of honoring mom with words and visits, Mother’s Day grew to be a gift-giving, retail bonanza with a huge impact on the U.S. economy. In 2023, Americans spent $36 billion on Mother's Day. Jewelry, special outings, and electronics are the top three gifts purchased.

ServiceOne and Mother’s Day

Jewelry is nice, for sure, but flowers fade and candy disappears.

Give mom a gift she can really use. One that lasts an entire year, keeps her safe, and gives her peace of mind.

Call us about gifting your mom with a ClubOne membership! Two Precision Tune-ups on her air conditioning every year, plus perks. Or consider a plumbing ClubOne membership, an annual inspection that prevents problems and eliminates the chances of a plumbing emergency!


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