As we gather with family to honor our mothers and as we celebrate Mother’s 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.

In recognition of President Woodrow Wilson proclaiming the first Mothers’ Day in 1914, all mothers will be admitted FREE to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum located at 20 North Coalter St. in Staunton, Virginia, on Sunday, May 10. Enjoy engaging guided tours of Wilson’s birthplace, explore the Woodrow Wilson Museum where his Pierce-Arrow limousine is a highlight, experience the World War I Trench exhibit, and don’t miss the beautiful Victorian garden.  For more information contact the Wilson Library at 540-885-0897 or e-mail

did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He sought a neutral position for the United States and even won reelection with the slogan “He kept us out of war.” Nonetheless, actions by the Central Powers (notably Germany) threatened this neutrality. Following years of attacks on American shipping and citizens on the high seas, particularly the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, public opinion began to turn. The final straw came with the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, forcing the United States to declare war on the Central Powers in April of 1917, joining the war on the side of the UK, Russia, and France.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation