GRAFTON, W.Va. – Mother’s Day is a great time to tell the mother figures in your life just how much they mean to you. But in West Virginia, Mother’s Day has a special history because the first-ever Mother’s Day celebration took place in the Mountain State over a century ago.
Anna Jarvis of Grafton wanted a celebration to honor her own mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, who had passed away in 1905. After her mother’s death, Anna began writing letters to the legislature asking that they dedicate the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. This effort by Anna is what gave her the title of the founder of Mother’s Day. The first Mother’s Day celebration took place on May 10, 1908, in Taylor County.
While other locations may have observed Mother’s Day in some sort of fashion, it was Anna who got it put on the calendar, and so she is credited as the founder
Jarvis worked with church officials at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton to put together the celebration.
After that, Andrews Church continued to hold Mother’s Day celebrations every year, and when the church eventually moved in 1966, the congregation still continued the tradition at the new church.
The site of the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton is now marked as the International Mother’s Day Shrine and is considered the birthplace of Mother’s Day. According to the shrine’s website, the landmark is no longer associated with any religion and instead, is a symbol of appreciation for mothers everywhere.
Mother’s Day was officially proclaimed a holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. It now takes place the second Sunday of May every year in the United States, and this year is celebrated on May 8.
Many people associate Mother’s Day with cards and flowers, but after the national declaration, Jarvis kept her West Virginia fiery spirit on display and spent years of her life fighting to keep her and her mother’s holiday from being commercialized. She believed that florists, card makers, candy makers and other businesses were taking advantage of her holiday to the point that she eventually tried to abolish Mother’s Day.
She fought for most of her life to have Mother’s Day the way that she envisioned it, and the toll the process took on her led her to eventually being checked into a sanitarium. Anna died in November of 1948. She had no children.
To this day, the Internation Mother’s Day Shrine stands at 11 East Main Street in Grafton, West Virginia, one of only 16 National Historic Landmarks in the state.
For Mother’s Day 2022, for the first time since the pandemic, the Shrine will be open on May 8 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. for guests to see where Mother’s Day started. In addition to the seeing shrine, visitors will also get to see historic photos of Grafton from the time period in which Mother’s Day was established and listen to various musical selections played on the Shrine’s pipe organ. The Shrine’s Mother’s Day service can also be viewed online on the International Mother’s Day Shrine’s Facebook page and website.