Mother’s Day Founder Actually Hated What It Later Would Become

By Epoch Newsroom
Epoch Newsroom
Epoch Newsroom
May 8, 2016 Updated: May 9, 2016

The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, grew to despise the holiday that she created about a century ago.

Jarvis, who was born in 1864, essentially created the holiday on May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death. She created the day to honor her mother and mothers everywhere.

Later, she set out on a campaign to make it a holiday, writing to a number of business executives, politicians, and church groups about its significance.

Mother’s Day was made a national holiday in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.


Jarvis later struggled against the commercialization of the holiday. The symbol she used, the white carnation, became commercialized.

“Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity and broad-charity of mother love; its fragrance, her memory, and her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying. When I selected this flower, I was remembering my mother’s bed of white pinks,” she wrote about the flower.

As Mental Floss’ Jonathan Mullinix wrote:

Years after she founded Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis was dining at the Tea Room at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia. She saw they were offering a “Mother’s Day Salad.” She ordered the salad and when it was served, she stood up, dumped it on the floor, left the money to pay for it, and walked out in a huff. Jarvis had lost control of the holiday she helped create, and she was crushed by her belief that commercialism was destroying Mother’s Day.

And when cards became the norm for the holiday, Jarvis lashed out.

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment,” she said.

Epoch Newsroom
Epoch Newsroom