The mother of Mother’s Day was Anna Jarvis, whose own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, helped organize “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” in the 19th century. The clubs taught mothers how to properly take care of their kids and sought to reduce infant mortality.
Anna Jarvis came up with the idea of Mother’s Day in the early 1900s after her mother’s death. She thought the day should be about honoring the sacrifices that a mother makes for her child. In May 1908, Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration in West Virginia.
In order to establish a nationwide holiday, Jarvis organized a huge letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians asking them for support. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law a measure that established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Unfortunately for Jarvis, her vision was almost immediately ruined — at least in her eyes. Florists, card companies and other vendors jumped on the holiday’s popularity to turn a profit. By 1920, Jarvis was denouncing how commercialized the holiday had become.
After a lifetime of suing groups that used the name “Mother’s Day” and speaking out against businesses that profited from the holiday, Jarvis passed away in 1948. By the time she died, Jarvis had disowned the holiday and asked the government to remove it as an official holiday.