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Anna Jarvis

Anna JarvisAnna Jarvis needs no introduction as everyone knows her as pioneer of the tradition of Mothers Day. Her association with flowers, especially in making carnations as the incarnation of Mother, is also a well known fact. In this backdrop of her in making flowers, especially carnations as a means of expressing gratitude to motherhood, we can, with no doubt, call Anna Jarvis, The Flower Expert.

Born on May 1, 1864, Anna’s life was surrounded by mother and flowers. The biography of her life clearly interlinks May, Mother's Day and white Carnations. Let’s note the milestones in her life.

White carnations are for the memory of the deceased mother and pink/red carnations are for gifting living mothers.

Anna Jarvis was born in Webster, Taylor County, West Virginia. When she was 12 years old, her mother, Mrs. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, said at a church Service: “I hope that someone, some time will found a memorial Mother’s Day commemorating her ( the mother) for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life…” Anna, who was by her side, tacitly told her mother, “...By the grace of God, you shall have that Mothers Day.” Anna, 9th of 11 children, kept her word eventually.

Anna was the first to introduce white carnation as Mother's Day flower. She was the first to distribute 500 white carnations in memory of her mother at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, in 1905. The Church—St. Andrew’s—responded to her request for a Sunday service honoring mothers on May 10, 1908.

Following campaign by Anna and her supporters, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in 1914 that Second Sunday of May shall be dedicated as Mother’s Day.

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Anna Jarvis became increasingly concerned over the commercialization of Mother’s Day: “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She opposed the selling of flowers, particularly white carnations, on mothers’ special day. She fought a relentless battle with the mighty American Florist industry against the sale of white carnations and greed that undermines ‘finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations’ of Mother’s Day. But as usual with businesses, the industry in general had no such qualms. It always looked for the golden opportunity.

Anna was also against USA releasing a stamp of famous painter Whistler’s painting of his mother with a vase of white carnations in the portrait. She managed to get words ‘Mother’s Day’ removed from the stamp by urging President Roosevelt in the 1930s, but the vase of white carnations stayed on. Anna Jarvis preferred white carnation for mothers’ special day not only because her mother liked white carnations but also because the particular flower represents the purity of a mother’s heart.

Such was the White carnation campaign of Anna Jarvis that Carnations have come to be etched in people’s memory as Mother’s Day flowers all over the world. Some distinction has, however, crept in the color of carnations over the years. Now white carnations are for the memory of the deceased mother and pink/red carnations are for gifting living mothers.

The Flower Expert goes out of the way to pay tributes to Anna Jarvis not only as The Flower Expert of Mother’s Day but as one of the all time flower experts. The Flower Expert supports Anna’s Crusade against the sale of white carnations on mothers’ special day. The question is, are there any takers for the stand in the burgeoning florist industry the world over? Will the industry make some concession in the case of White Carnations at least? The Flower Expert awaits a response.

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