Anna Jarvis: The Woman Behind Mother’s Day’s Disillusionment

Mother’s Day, a widely celebrated occasion to honor and appreciate mothers, has become a significant cultural event in many countries. However, the origins of this heartfelt holiday tell a tale of a founder whose dream turned into a nightmare. In this article, we delve into the story of how Mother’s Day unfolded as a source of anguish for its visionary, Anna Jarvis.


Mother’s Day emerged from humble beginnings, driven by the desire to express gratitude and love towards mothers. It started as a personal tribute and gradually gained momentum, ultimately becoming a globally recognized occasion. However, its commercialization and subsequent repercussions took a toll on its founder, Anna Jarvis, leading to a disheartening journey.

The Origins of Mother’s Day

To understand the nightmare that unfolded, we must trace back the origins of Mother’s Day. The concept can be attributed to Anna Jarvis, an influential figure in the early 20th century. Anna was deeply inspired by her own mother’s dedication and wanted to create a day to commemorate her and all mothers.

Anna Jarvis and the Concept of Mother’s Day

Early Life of Anna Jarvis

Early Life of Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis was born in 1864 in Webster, West Virginia, to a family that valued education and social activism. Her mother, Ann Jarvis, was an active community member and often organized events to promote social welfare.

Influence of Anna Jarvis’ Mother’s Death

Anna’s passion for honoring mothers stemmed from the loss of her own mother. After Ann Jarvis passed away in 1905, Anna became determined to establish a day dedicated to the immeasurable contributions of mothers.

The Concept of Mother’s Day as a Tribute

Mother's Day Historical Marker at Market and N. Juniper Sts. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mother’s Day Historical Marker at Market and N. Juniper Sts. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | Image Source: NMGiovannucci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anna envisioned Mother’s Day as a simple yet powerful tribute, where individuals would express their appreciation and gratitude to their mothers. She believed in the sentiment behind the celebration, emphasizing the importance of a heartfelt connection between children and their mothers.

Commercialization and Popularization of Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis embarked on a mission to establish Mother’s Day as a recognized holiday, but as the occasion gained popularity, commercial interests began to overshadow its true essence.

Efforts by Anna Jarvis

Efforts by Anna Jarvis

Driven by her passion, Anna tirelessly advocated for the official recognition of Mother’s Day. She organized events, wrote countless letters to influential figures, and fought for legislation to establish the holiday.

Gaining Popularity and Widespread Adoption

As Anna’s efforts gained traction, Mother’s Day started to be embraced by communities across the United States and beyond. People resonated with the sentiment of expressing gratitude towards mothers and readily embraced the occasion.

Influence of Greeting Card Companies

The growing popularity of Mother’s Day caught the attention of greeting card companies, who recognized the commercial potential of the holiday. They began manufacturing and promoting Mother’s Day cards, transforming the occasion into a profitable venture.

Anna Jarvis’ Disillusionment and Opposition

Anna Jarvis' Disillusionment and Opposition

The commercialization and commodification of Mother’s Day deviated from Anna Jarvis’ original vision, leading her to express her vehement opposition and disappointment.

Condemnation of Commercialization

Anna Jarvis openly condemned the commercialization of Mother’s Day, arguing that it had become a far cry from the heartfelt tribute she had envisioned. She saw it as a betrayal of the holiday’s essence and purity.

Lawsuits and Boycotts

In her pursuit to preserve the authenticity of Mother’s Day, Anna resorted to legal action against those she believed were exploiting the occasion. She initiated lawsuits and called for boycotts against companies and organizations that commercialized the holiday.

Disheartenment and Financial Struggles

Despite her relentless efforts, Anna faced immense opposition and financial challenges. She dedicated her life and personal finances to the cause, but the burden became overwhelming, leaving her disheartened and financially strained.

Impact on Anna Jarvis’ Life and Mental Health

Impact on Anna Jarvis' Life and Mental Health

The relentless struggle against the commercialization of Mother’s Day took a toll on Anna Jarvis’ well-being, leaving her emotionally and mentally drained.

Detrimental Effects on Jarvis’ Well-being

The constant battle and the world’s unwillingness to adhere to her vision had a detrimental impact on Anna’s mental health. She experienced anxiety, depression, and a sense of disillusionment, which haunted her for the rest of her life.

Personal and Emotional Struggles

As the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna faced personal and emotional struggles. She mourned the loss of her dream, witnessing the perversion of an occasion meant to celebrate the deep bond between mothers and their children.

Legacy of Anna Jarvis and Mother’s Day

Legacy of Anna Jarvis and Mother's Day

Despite the difficulties she faced, Anna Jarvis left behind a lasting legacy and a significant impact on the celebration of Mother’s Day.

Jarvis’ Later Life and Legacy

In her later life, Anna continued to fight for the purity of Mother’s Day, living in poverty and obscurity. Her perseverance, though unrecognized during her lifetime, laid the foundation for the appreciation of mothers worldwide.

Establishment of Mother’s Day as a National Holiday

Anna Jarvis’ efforts bore fruit when, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially recognized Mother’s Day as a national holiday in the United States. However, by then, the commercialization had already taken root.

Reflections on the Founder’s Nightmare

The story of Anna Jarvis serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the delicate balance between genuine sentiment and commercial interests. Mother’s Day stands as a reminder of the founder’s nightmare, urging us to honor its original intention while appreciating the love and sacrifice of mothers everywhere.


Mother’s Day, a celebration that began as a heartfelt tribute, became a double-edged sword for its founder, Anna Jarvis. Her nightmare unfolded as the occasion she envisioned was overshadowed by commercialization. Despite her disillusionment and personal struggles, Anna’s legacy lives on as we reflect on the true meaning of Mother’s Day.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *