As we gather with family to honor our mothers and as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Mothers Day this May you may find it surprising that two people, both with ties to Staunton, Virginia, were instrumental in establishing Mothers Day as a national holiday. On May 8, 1914 the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed a joint resolution establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The next day, May 9, President Woodrow Wilson, a Staunton native, issued a proclamation, an excerpt of which is below:
“Now, Therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
However, the idea for Mother’s Day is credited to another person with Staunton ties—Anna Jarvis, a graduate of Augusta Female Seminary, now Mary Baldwin College. Anna's mother, Ann Jarvis, founded Mothers' Day Work Clubs in five cities in West Virginia to improve sanitary and health conditions. These clubs raised money to buy medicine and to hire women to work in families where the mothers were ill. They developed programs to inspect milk, long before there were state requirements, and during the Civil War these Clubs provided aid, treated wounds, fed and clothed soldiers from both sides. On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother's death, Anna passed out 500 white carnations at her mother’s church, St. Andrew’s Church in Grafton, West Virginia—one for each mother in the congregation. The following year on May 10, 1908 she held a memorial to her mother and embarked upon a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday that would honor mothers everywhere. After several years of campaigning and thousands of letters to elected official her dream became a reality when President Woodrow Wilson declared it so on May 9, 1914.