It is a tradition, the second Sunday in May is set aside for the celebration of all mothers. Sons and daughters send them flowers, shower them with gifts and let them know how much they care. But to one Kenai man, the history behind the day is as important as the holiday itself.
Roy Smith, 40, of Kenai said he is proud to have such important women as Ann and Anna Jarvis -- the mothers of Mother's Day -- as distant relatives.
Smith said that Ann's greatest legacy was to bring people together.
"That's the heart of a loving mother," he said.
Smith found out about his distant aunts on his father's side about 10 years ago. According to his relatives, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis worked with many clubs to combat poor health and sanitation conditions that existed in the neighborhoods of Taylor County, W.Va., attributing to a high child mortality rate.
In 1858, she organized the Mother's Day Work Clubs, made up of all women in neighboring towns in Virginia. She called on her brothers, both doctors, to lecture and advise the organizations.
Group members were assigned certain duties to perform, and the club supplied women to care for families with tubercular mothers and provided medicine for those in need.
During the Civil War, the clubs also were called upon after epidemics of typhoid fever and measles broke out among the military personnel camped in neighboring communities. The Mother's Day Club declared its neutrality and treated the wounded and regularly fed and clothed soldiers.
The clubs were honored and commended by the community for their work.
After the war, public officials called Ann Jarvis to help with the post-war strife. She rallied her club members to meet and planned a "Mother's Friendship Day," to be held in 1865.
For the special day, club members invited soldiers and their families from both sides of the war. The day was filled with good cheer and became an annual event for several years following.
Jarvis and her husband, Granville, had 11 children. Anna Jarvis, ninth of the 11, often heard her mother say she hoped that someone would establish a memorial for mothers, both living and dead.
After Ann's death on May 5, 1905, Anna began an intense campaign to fulfill the earlier wishes of her mother for a special day.
On the first anniversary of her mother's death, Anna and some friends reviewed the accomplishments her mother brought about through her clubs. After that day, Anna was committed to the goal of establishing the national observance of Mother's Day. She wrote hundreds of letters to legislators, executives and businessmen. She spoke publicly and took all opportunity to promote the project.
By 1909, 45 states, along with Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico, observed the day with appropriate services. The first official Mother's Day proclamation was issued by West Virginia Gov. William E. Glasscock on April 26, 1910. In May 1914, a congressional resolution naming the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day passed and President Woodrow Wilson approved it.
Smith said he enjoyed learning about his family history and the way his ancestors lived. He said he is honored to have the Jarvis legacy in his family.
"It makes you realize how important families and family roots are," Smith said.
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