The Early Life of Anna Jarvis

Historic Photograph of Anna Jarvis
This is a historic photograph of Anna Jarvis that currently hangs in the International Mother's Day Shrine.

The tenth child of Granville and Ann Reeves Jarvis, Anna Jarvis was born on May 1, 1864 in Webster, Taylor County, West Virginia. Anna attended college in Staunton, Virginia, graduating in 1883 from the Augusta Female Seminary. She returned to Grafton, West Virginia and became a teacher. After briefly moving to Chattanooga, TN to live with her uncle, Anna moved to Philadelphia to live with her bachelor brother. Anna went to work at the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, eventually becoming the firm’s first female literary and advertising editor. She also owned shares in her brother’s business, the Quaker City Cab Company. Anna wrote frequently to her mother; their correspondence served as an important physical and emotional connection. This also likely inspired Jarvis’ commitment to children writing to their mothers on Mother’s Day. After her father’s death, Anna called for her mother to move to Philadelphia to be nearer to her children. Her mother, in ill health, did move to Philadelphia, where Anna cared for her through her illnesses until Ann Reeves Jarvis passed away on May 9, 1905.


Jarvis spent much of her life working for the Mother’s Day movement that she started. Never married and childless, Anna viewed Mother’s Day through the eyes of a daughter, which influenced her view of its observance. By setting the date of Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May, Jarvis enabled the church to play a major role in observing the day. She sought to make Mother’s Day a holy day rather than a holiday.

Anna Jarvis
The Early Life of Anna Jarvis