On May 10, 1908, four hundred members of the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virginia, and a crowd of fifteen thousand people at the Wanamaker Store Auditorium in Philadelphia attended the first official observance of Mother’s Day in the United States. The following year, forty-two additional states joined West Virginia and Pennsylvania in commemorating the day, and after six years of urging, Congress finally designated Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914.
This was a day of incredible pride for Anna Jarvis, the woman who is credited with initiating the first official Mother’s Day observances. She had dedicated her life to popularizing Mother’s Day in memory of her own mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis. Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated by over 80% of the American population, and has become a multi-billion dollar industry for retailers and the second highest gift giving holiday behind Christmas. But the sentiment behind Mother’s Day is different for everyone—and Anna Jarvis’ concept of what a Mother’s Day should be was so vastly different from what it became that she spent half of her life trying to destroy her greatest success. (Jarvis spent the last years of her life in West Chester, Pennsylvania.)
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