The info about Anna Jarvis (no middle initial) from ilovethewanted is accurate, as far as it goes, but it leaves out what I and many others find most important.
In launching Mother's Day, Anna was not only expressing her feelings toward her mother, Mrs. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, but was also trying in her way to fulfill her mother's wishes and perpetuate her legacy. Ann herself had organized a network of "Mothers Friendship Clubs" in West Virginia as social action brigades to improve the poor health and sanitation conditions that were causing high child mortality rates.
When the Civil War came a few years later, according to http://funadvice.com/r/1607q70ekts,
"Mrs. Jarvis [that's mother Ann, not daughter Anna] called together four of her Clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and goodwill would not be a victim of the conflict between the states. In a display of compassion, courage, and friendship, the members of these Clubs nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives.
After the Civil War, Mrs. Jarvis worked as a peacemaker encouraging families to set aside differences created by the polarization of the war. In 1868, she organized a 'Mothers Friendship Day' to bring together families that had been divided by the conflict."
In fact, an earlier attempt to establish an international Mother's Day also had its roots in the U.S. Civil War: Julia Ward Howe, the abolitionist (and later women's suffragist) who wrote the rousing lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" ("Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord...") to motivate Union soldiers for the righteous struggle against slavery, was so horrified by the war's bloody violence and devastation that she became a pacifist and began to organize women internationally for the cause of peace. In 1870 she proclaimed the first international "Mothers' Day for Peace" (http://funadvice.com/r/1607q70emcj, which was celebrated for a few decades but never won widespread popular acceptance. However, the organization she co-founded still continues today, now called the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.
Both Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis directed their earliest Mother's Day appeals to women who had lost sons and husbands in the Civil War (and, in Howe's case, the Franco-Prussian war in Europe). When President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother's Day in 1918, he dedicated it to the mothers of American (only) soldiers - not to draw on their experience and grief as the basis for a national commitment against war, but rather to honor their patriotic sacrifice in "offering" their sons to fight and die in the Great War (WW1). http://funadvice.com/r/1607q70engi
So, just as with Veteran's Day - which was first created as Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of World War I - the original intention of both Juilia Ward Howe and Ann Jarvis for mothers to join hands across hostile borders in order to build peaceful reconciliation was transformed by the official acceptance of Mother's Day into an occasion for nationalist celebration of war itself.
While I much prefer the "commercialized sentimentality" of exchanging cards and flowers to Wilson's militarized Mother's Day, I think it's important that we not forget the original impulse, as stated by Julia Ward Howe:
"Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
In 1907, Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948), a Philadelphia schoolteacher, began a movement to set up a national Mother’s Day in honor of her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. After Anna’s mother passed away, when Anna was 41, she missed her mother very much and wanted to instill an appreciation to celebrate mothers while they were still alive and not wait until it was too late. She hoped honoring this day would encourage respect and love and build family bonds. She solicited the help of hundreds of legislators and prominent businessmen to create a special day to honor mothers.
On the 2nd anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna honored her mother at their home church. She handed out her mother’s favorite flowers, the white carnations, as they represent sweetness, purity, and patience. Anna’s hard work finally paid off in the year 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson issued the first proclamation making Mother’s Day an official national holiday. x