Anna Marie Jarvis was born May 1, 1864, in Webster, West Virginia, and grew up in the nearby town of Grafton. She was never a mother herself, but organized the first Mother's Day observance in 1905, soon after her mother's death.
Her beloved Ann Reeves Jarvis, the primary inspiration for Anna's crusade, had herself organized "Mother's Day" work groups many years earlier in West Virginiato help care for wounded soldiers (of both sides) during the Civil War, and for causes such as lowering infant mortality in the state.
When Anna's mother organized "Mother's Friendship Day" picnics and other events to help reconcile former Civil War adversaries, Julia Ward Howe, composer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" supported the effort by issuing a "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870, as a way of enlisting women to take an active role in promoting peace.
Anna Marie, who was most responsible for what we now observe as Mother's Day, got an unexpected boost from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who in 1914 officially set aside the second Sunday in for the holiday.
Anna Jarvis's dream was that this would be a day for everyone to not only show appreciation for their mother but to join others in making the nation and the world a more just and peaceful place. When it quickly became a commercialized and sentimentalized holiday celebrated by the buying and giving of flowers, candies, and greeting cards, she became so disturbed that she began to dedicate herself and her sizable inheritance to reverse the trend.
To that end Jarvis organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and on 1923 protested at a convention of confectioners in Philadelphia who were profiting from the holiday. In 1925 she was arrested for demonstrating at a convention of American War Mothers, simply because they sold carnations on Mother's Day to raise money for their cause.