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Mother's Day Shrine to Celebrate 100th in 2014

By PAM KASEY ∙ pkasey@statejournal.com

GRAFTON — The story of the West Virginia origins of Mother's Day, well known to residents of the state, is memorialized in the International Mother's Day Shrine in Grafton.

When Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, a dedicated health and sanitation organizer near Grafton during and after the Civil War, died in Philadelphia in 1905, her daughter Anna thought of a national day of celebration in honor of mothers. 

Anna persuaded the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, where Ann had taught for two decades, to celebrate Mother's Day in 1908. Gov. William E. Glasscock issued the first Mother's Day proclamation in April 1910. 

Taking her powers of persuasion then to the U.S. Congress, Anna succeeded with a joint resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

The Grafton church since has been designated the International Mother's Day Shrine.

Built in 1873, the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church displays semi-circular window arches that are characteristic of the Romanesque Revival style. Its large chapel features a pipe organ and elaborate stained glass windows.

In 1952, the General Conference of the Methodist Church officially recognized the church as "the Mother Church of Mother's Day." In 1962, the building was designated the International Mother's Day Shrine. Regular church services were discontinued, and the congregation moved on to three other churches in Grafton. 

A side room at the shrine, formerly a parlor, was dedicated to the Jarvises. In the 1970s, the West Virginia Federation of Business and Professional Women donated stained glass windows of Ann and Anna.

And in 1992, the building became a National Historic Landmark.

"We think of it as an international landmark because Mother's Day spread to all corners of the globe," said Chad Proudfoot, a member of the board of trustees of the nonprofit foundation that manages the shrine. "It's like having a special trust. The holiday started here, so those of us on the board and in the community do our best to preserve that for future generations."

An annual Mother's Day observance takes place each year in the chapel. In recent years, the foundation also has held a Mother's Day tea in May. 

In addition, a community education institute provides free educational programming on topics in public health, Proudfoot said — death and dying, for example, and elder care — in the spirit of Ann and Anna Jarvis. 

About 400 people visit the shrine each year, according to shrine attendant Stephen Horacek, who gives tours of the facility. The guest register shows visitors from Connecticut, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina and other states.

It took Anna Jarvis just six years to get Mother's Day adopted as a national holiday, Horacek said. But visitors are surprised to learn that, when she saw it commercialized by confectionaries and greeting card companies, she spent the rest of her life campaigning against the holiday.

In 2008, the shrine celebrated a local 100th anniversary of the first Mother's Day service. Planning is under way now for the 2014 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the national holiday.

The International Mother's Day Shrine is open to visitors Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 304-265-1589 for more information.