Social activist Ann Reeves Jarvis was born in Virginia on September 30, 1832. Her family moved to Philippi in Barbour County in 1845. Seven years later, she and her husband moved to neighboring Taylor County, where her life was filled with tragedy. Eight of her 12 children died before adulthood.
From the depths of her loss came inspiration. Jarvis dedicated her life to eradicating unsanitary living conditions, which often spread deadly diseases. She organized Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to buy medicine for needy families and to care for families stricken by tuberculosis. Club members worked with local physicians to obtain clean water supplies and safe sewage disposal.
During the Civil War, Jarvis believed her Mother’s Day Work Clubs should be neutral, and club members nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers. After the war, Jarvis hosted a Mothers’ Friendship Day, bringing together veterans from both sides and pulling together communities torn apart by the four-year conflict.
Ann Reeves Jarvis died in Philadelphia in 1905. Her daughter Anna Jarvis’s campaign to honor her mother’s work culminated in 1914, when President Wilson recognized the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.