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Anna Reeves Jarvis


Social activist Anna Reeves (September 30, 1832-May 9, 1905) was born in Culpeper County, Virginia. Her family moved to Philippi, Barbour County, in 1845. In 1852, Anna Reeves married Granville E. Jarvis, and two years later they moved to Taylor County. The Jarvis family grew quickly, but it was not a happy one. Only four of the couple’s 12 children survived to adulthood.

From the depths of her loss came Anna Reeves Jarvis’s commitment to eradicating the unsanitary living conditions that often spread deadly diseases. She organized Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, which raised money to buy medicine for needy families and cared for families stricken by tuberculosis. Club members worked with local physicians to obtain clean water supplies and safe sewage disposal.

During the Civil War, Jarvis believed the work clubs should be neutral havens in the deeply divided north-central counties of present West Virginia. Club members nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers. After the war, Jarvis planned a Mothers’ Friendship Day to bring together veterans from both sides, and her clubs have been credited with helping their communities survive postwar enmities.

Anna Reeves Jarvis died in Philadelphia. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, campaigned diligently for a special day to commemorate the spirit of her mother’s work. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Congressional resolution recognizing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Written by Christine M. Kreiser

Sources

  1. Wolfe, Howard H. Mother's Day and the Mother's Day Church. Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1962.

  2. Pomroy, Estella R. Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis, 1832-1905. Missing Chapters II: West Virginia Women in History. Charleston: West Virginia Women Commission, 1986.