- Posted May 6, 2014 by
Midland Park, New Jersey
100 Years Ago Mother’s Day Officially Began; Anna Jarvis and Her Assistant, Madeline Jones, Had Been Campaigning To Start it for 9 Years
May 6, 2014
By Marriott Sheldon
Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, had one assistant, Madeline Jane Jones, to help her with her crusade to start Mother's Day. Madeline was 15 at the time and was interviewing for a job with Jarvis’ brother, Claude Jarvis, in Philadelphia. Anna happened to be there that day and when Anna saw the young woman she told her she wanted her to work with her – that she was starting Mother’s Day. For ten years Madeline worked with Anna Jarvis, writing letters to members of Congress, traveling to states across the country to speak with governors, lobbying state officials to recognize Mother's Day in their states. They also campaigned in Philadelphia, especially the Saturday before the second Sunday every May.
As my grandmother often told us, on that day each year, she and Anna stood on a street corner in downtown Philadelphia with washtubs full of red and white carnations. They gave carnations to passersby, a red one to wear if their mother was living and a white one to wear if she had died. They told people they were starting Mother's Day and asked them to write a letter to their mother, even if she lived in the same house, telling her they love and appreciate her.
Anna’s mission was to honor her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, and continue work she had started. Mrs. Jarvis was a peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna only wanted people to write a personal letter expressing love for their mother and was angered when the holiday began to be commercialized with companies profiting from the holiday. My grandmother recounted one of many stories when they went into a restaurant advertising a ‘Mother’s Day Special Salad’. Anna ordered the salad and when it came, she turned the salad upside down on the table, left the money for meal, and walked out.
Due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis and her assistant, Madeline Jones, campaigning from 1905 to 1914, several states officially recognized Mother's Day, the first being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state. In 1914, one hundred years ago this year, Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Madeline later married Ivan M. Procter of Raleigh, NC and her many descendants carry on the loving tradition of personal letters rather than gifts for Mothers Day. Madeline, unlike Anna, who resented and tried to stop the commercialization of Mother’s Day, understood that anything someone wanted to do to honor their mother was fine, even if that was a store-bought gift, flowers or other symbol of love.