Mother's Day became a national holiday due to the efforts of Philadelphia resident Anna Marie Jarvis. The initiative was a tribute, befittingly, to Jarvis' own mother. Strangely, Jarvis would spend her final years denouncing the holiday.
Anna was born in Webster, W.Va., in 1864, to Granville E. Jarvis and Ann Maria Reeves. She was inspired by the work of her mother, who had established Mothers' Day Work Clubs in multiple cities in an effort to improve sanitation conditions and to give basic medical aid to soldiers.
Like her mother, Anna, who never married nor had children, was an activist. She was a suffragist and involved in the welfare and temperance movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In the early 1900s, her family moved to Philadelphia. Soon after their arrival, Jarvis' mother died. Anna held a memorial service in honor of her mother in 1907 and vowed to create a national holiday that honored all mothers.
Mother's Day, now celebrated on the second Sunday in May, was officially recognized in 1914. However, within five years, Anna was fighting against the very holiday she helped create. She became unhappy with the holiday's commercialization, and detested the idea of people only sending a greeting card or candy to their mothers. Jarvis, along with her sister Ellsinore, spent the rest of their lives campaigning against Mother's Day, including an arrest for disturbing the peace.
The campaigning strained the family's resources, and Jarvis died penniless at the Marshall Square Sanatorium in West Chester, on Nov. 24, 1948. She is buried at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd. Jarvis did not marry nor have children.