May 10, 1908: First Mother's Day Observance

May 10, 2017

On May 10, 1908, the nation’s first Mother’s Day observance was held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton on the third anniversary of Anna Reeves Jarvis’s death. Jarvis’s humanitarian efforts were well known in Taylor County. She had worked at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church for 30 years and long dreamed of a day dedicated to mothers.

On May 10, 1908, the nation’s first Mother’s Day observance was held at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton on the third anniversary of Anna Reeves Jarvis’s death.
Credit E-WV / West Virginia Humanities Council

Her daughter, Anna, was responsible for making Mother’s Day a reality. Anna advocated for Mother’s Day to become a national holiday, but the U.S. Senate defeated the idea the day before the first celebration was held in Grafton. Ministers, temperance groups, and women’s suffragists picked up the campaign and convinced 45 states to establish the holiday. On May 10, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first national Mother’s Day—to be observed on the second Sunday of every May.

Anna Jarvis soon deplored how the holiday she’d help create had become so commercialized. She denounced Mother’s Day, referring to the floral, greeting-card, and candy industries as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers, and termites.”

Today, Andrews Methodist in Grafton is recognized as the International Mother’s Day Shrine.