The Mother of Mothers Day

Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis (1832-1905)

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Ann Marie Reeves JarvisThe memorial now known as Mothers Day was founded by Anna Jarvis in tribute to her mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis. The first fully organized Mothers Day program was held at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, Taylor County, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908. The honored mother had already laid the foundation for such a day in the last fifty years of her life.

Ann Marie Reeves came to West Virginia at age twelve when her father, the Rev. Josiah W. Reeves, a Methodist minister, was transferred from Culpepper Co., Virginia to Philippi in Barbour County. Seven years later, in 1850, at the age of seventeen, Ann Marie married Granville E. Jarvis, son of a Baptist minister. The couple lived in Philippi for a short time and then moved to Webster in Taylor County where Granville began his career as a merchant.

Ann was the mother of eleven children, but only four lived to adulthood. In spite of the large family and the tragedies that occurred, Mrs. Jarvis was active in church and civic affairs. Most remarkable was the work she did to combat poor health and sanitation conditions that existed in Webster and in many other neighborhoods, and which attributed to the high mortality rate of children. After eight years of marriage, at the age of twenty-six, the young housewife and mother sprang into action to combat these conditions and called on all women in Webster, Philippi, Pruntytown, Fetterman and Grafton to meet at at local churches where she organized clubs, known as Mothers Day Work Clubs.  She called on her brother, Dr. James Edmund Reeves and Dr. Amos Payne of Pruntytown to advise and lecture her organizations. These two eminent physicians charted the tasks for the clubs to undertake.  Members were assigned certain duties to perform in a certain length of time, and their work was inspected by the two doctors and nurses from surrounding communities. The clubs furnished women to care for families with tubercular mothers, medicine was provided for the indigent, and milk for children was inspected. The clubs were honored for successfully carrying out their plans and solving a local community problem.

In 1861, another need for the Mothers Day Work Clubs was pending. After both Lee and McClellan gave orders to hold the Grafton railroad terminus at all costs, much of Taylor County, including the community of Webster, soon became an armed camp of both Union and Confederates. Mrs. Jarvis quickly sensed possible disruption in the clubs and called an urgent meeting, The group heard Mrs. Jarvis objectives: "To make a sworn-to agreement between members that friendship and good will should obtain in the clubs for the duration and aftermath of the war. That all efforts to divide the churches and lodges should not only be frowned upon but prevented."

When an epidemic of typhoid fever and measles broke out among the military personnel, Mrs. Jarvis and her Mothers Day Work Clubs were called upon for help. Her answer was "You shall have it. .. No mistreatment of any of our members. We are composed of both the Blue and the Gray." The clubs subsequently received the highest commendations from officers and soldiers for the magnificent services rendered the sick soldiers.

After the Civil War, public officials sought a way to alleviate post-war strife, and once more Mrs. Jarvis was called upon to help. She rallied the members of her clubs to meet at the Pruntytown Courthouse, and there they planned a "Mothers Friendship Day" to be held in Pruntytown, the county seat. The members were to invite all soldiers, Blue and Gray, and their families. An immense crowd arrived on the designated day. When the program started, Mrs. Jarvis appeared dressed in gray, and another women appeared dressed in blue. Two teenage girls assembled with the Pruntytown band on the courthouse porch, and a bugler called the crowd to assemble. Mrs. Jarvis explained the purpose of Mothers Friendship Day and asked the band to lead them in singing Way Down South in Dixie. The lady in blue then asked the band to lead her and the audience in singing The Star Spangled Banner. Cheering and laughter followed, the two young girls took the hands of Mrs. Jarvis and the lady in blue and asked them to shake hands and hug each other. They then called on the crowd to do the same thing while band played Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot. By the time the song was over, it seemed that everyone began to weep and shake hands.

In addition to her work with the Mothers Day Work Clubs, Mrs. Jarvis was active in her church. When the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church was completed in 1873, Mrs. Jarvis was on hand to take over as assistant superintendent in the primary department of the church school. For over a quarter of a century, she taught young children and saw many of the children grow into manhood and womanhood and bring their own little ones to her class.

Mrs. Jarvis was not only an exceptional teacher, but also a talented, informed speaker. She lectured many times in well-filled churches on subjects as "The Value of Literature as a Source of Culture and Refinement", "Importance of Supervised Recreational Centers for Boys and Girls", and "The Great Mothers of the Bible".

After the death of her husband, Granville E. Jarvis, in 1902, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis and her daughters, Anna and Lillie, moved to Philadelphia to live with her son, Claude. Mrs. Jarvis died there on May 9, 1905, at the age of 72. She is buried in the beautiful West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. On the day she was laid to rest, the bell of Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton was tolled seventy-two times in her honor.

Sources:
Norman F. Kendall, Mothers Day, A History of its Founding and its Founder, 1937
Howard H. Wolfe, Mothers Day and the Mothers Day Church, 1962

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