Jarvis, Anna M.


1938 TLS from the founder of America’s Mother’s Day holiday

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Autograph ID: 3414
Condition: Very good, three mail folds, few mild creases
Description: “(1864-1948) Raised in Grafton, W. Va. graduated from what is now Mary Baldwin College 1883. On May 12, 1907, 2 years after her mother's death, she held a memorial to her mother, a simple affair at the Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, where her mother had been a Sunday School teacher. Anna provided 500 white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to the parishioners. She then embarked upon a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday. In Philadelphia, her campaign attracted the support of John Wanamaker, who said he “would rather have the honor of establishing this Mother’s Day than…be the King of England.” In 1910, the Governor of West Virginia issued the 1st Mother’s Day proclamation, and other states quickly fell in line. In 1914 Congress officially recognized Mother’s Day, noting “the American mother is the greatest source of the country’s strength and inspiration.” It was good for churches: ministers held special services, and the tradition of wearing a flower to church on Mother’s Day boosted attendance. Confectioners, florists, and greeting card companies loved it, and even the military promoted it. The International Mother's Day Shrine was established in Grafton to commemorate her accomplishment. By the 1920s, she became soured by the commercialization of the holiday. She incorporated the Mother’s Day International Association and trademarked phrases "second Sunday in May" and "Mother's Day". She and her sister spent their family inheritance campaigning against what the holiday had become. In 1923, she sued NY Governor Al Smith who had planned a Mother’s Day celebration. When the court refused to stop the event, Jarvis began a public protest that resulted in her arrest. She stormed the podium at the convention of the Associated Retail Confectioners demanding they stop using her “beautiful idea” to sell candy. When she refused to leave, the convention adjourned. She disrupted a meeting of the American War Mothers, sued the government to stop a postage stamp with “Mother’s Day” on it, and even clashed with Eleanor Roosevelt who wanted to use the holiday in her fundraising efforts to reduce high maternal child death rates, a cause that had been close to the heart of Anna’s own mother. She never married and had no children. Blind, deaf, and penniless, she spent her last years in a nursing home, secretly supported by those she hated most: the florists (she had trademarked the white carnation in an attempt to keep florists from making a profit).

Apparently self-typed 11 x 8 ½ TLS on her interesting “personal” Mother’s Day, Inc. letterhead, Philadelphia, May 13 1938 (5 days after Mother’s Day 1938) to Wm. B. Craig, Managing Editor, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. Miss Jarvis thanks Craig “for the good picture for a poor subject in connection with my planting a tree at the Parkway ‘Philadelphians at Home.’” She adds: “President Koelle, of the 100 Club, also seemed much pleased with the picture of ‘my school boy friend’, as he was calling you.” With page from a magazine on Jarvis & Mother’s Day. An uncommon autograph from a most uncommon person! On May 2, 1934 the US Post Office issued a stamp honoring the Mothers of America, featuring “Whistler’s Mother”; 15,432,200 were issued.”
Type: Letter

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