Did you know: Mother’s Day was created in West Virginia

The term “mountain mama” calls to mind our beloved state anthem, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” But are you familiar with West Virginia’s other “mountain mama” connection? The Mountain State is the birthplace of Mother’s Day.

Grafton resident Anna Jarvis organized the holiday in 1908 in memory of her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, for the many contributions she made to her community in north-central West Virginia. Having lost 8 of her 12 children, the elder Jarvis dedicated her life to eradicating childhood disease. She organized Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to help buy medicine for needy families and care for those stricken by tuberculosis. During the Civil War, these clubs also cared for ill and wounded soldiers from both Union and Confederate armies. After the war ended, Anna Reed Jarvis, ever the peacemaker, organized a Mothers’ Friendship Day to bring together veterans from both sides.

Following her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis campaigned for a holiday to commemorate the work of her mother. The first observance of Mother’s Day occurred in 1908, when Jarvis held a memorial ceremony at St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton to honor her mother and all mothers. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the holiday official, signing a Congressional resolution recognizing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

In the late 1960s, St. Andrews was established as the International Mother’s Day Shrine. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and later was declared a National Historic Landmark. The shrine, which hosts an annual Mother’s Day service, contains many of the church’s original furnishings as well as exhibits of Jarvis family photos and papers. Each year the International Mother’s Day Shrine Board of Trustees recognizes one special Mother of the Year.

Just a few miles south of Grafton, the Anna Jarvis Birthplace Museum is open for tours. Built in 1854, the two-story wooden house also was used as headquarters for Gen. George B. McClellan during the Civil War. The museum displays more than 5,000 items belonging to the Jarvis family and has one room dedicated to McClellan memorabilia.

If you’re looking for a unique way to honor your mother this year, spend some quality time with her at the place where it all began. Grafton also is just a short drive from Tygart Lake State Park, Valley Falls State Park and the historic Philippi Covered Bridge—ideal points of interest for a Sunday afternoon drive and picnic.

This post was last updated on March 17, 2022