Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Spotlight Series: The Ashland Mother’s Memorial

The Spotlight Series is an occassional series that highlights interesting people, places, programs, and partner organizations working on historic preservation issues.

Erected in 1938, the Mother’s Memorial is situated prominently in the town of Ashland, PA, in the anthracite coal region of Schuylkill County.  The Ashland Boys’ Association (A.B.A.), an organization of men and boys born in Ashland, raised the funds for the fabrication and erection of this monument in 1938. 

ABA Mother's Memorial 2The A.B.A. was formed in the early 20th century in response to the widespread job loss and dispersion of coal miners as mines began to fail.  It was a homecoming organization that welcomed former Ashland residents back to their hometown.  Men from all parts of Pennsylvania, as well as several other states, participated in these annual celebrations.  The A.B.A. was the archetype of a poignant Pennsylvania story:  how successive waves of industrialization and economic development create then destroy industries and communities, leaving large groups of people longing for the associations and comforts of family, friends and home.  The Mother’s Memorial stands as a symbol of this sentiment.


At an A.B.A. reunion in 1933, it was proposed to honor all Ashland mothers by erecting a monument or memorial.  Members felt that such a memorial would represent the very foundation of the organization, because their motto was, “Come on home” and home evoked thoughts of one’s mother.  A committee was formed in 1936 to investigate and plan the memorial.  Some A.B.A. members, as well as many residents of the town, advocated the establishment of a library instead, but the memorial was decided upon and eventually gained the full support of the organization and the town.


The idea of commissioning a sculpture based on the painting known as “Whistler’s Mother” was a unique one.  The A.B.A. responded enthusiastically and raised over $6000.00 for the project.  The seven foot high three-dimensional sculpture was designed by Emil Siebern and sculpted by Julius Loester.  Both artists were sculptors from New York who specialized in public art – funerary decoration, memorials, park statuary, etc.  Although they did not routinely work together, both participated in several projects overseen by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The completed Ashland monument was made of bronze and placed atop an impressive stonework terrace built by the WPA in 1938.


ABA Mother's Memorial 1An impressive sight, the monument has become quite a tourist attraction.  A dedication of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker for the Ashland Boys’ Association will be held at the base of the Mother’s Memorial on August 31,2013.


  1. William Narcowich

    In the early 19th century people traveled by train. People came from Philadelphia on a train that traveled from there through Ashland. Relatives and friends greeted the train at the station located on the east end of Ashland and this evlolved to a parade known as the A.B.A. parade. People did not come from other than the Philadelphia area or locations along the railroad line.

  2. Judy Scheer

    The designer, Emil Siebern, was my great-uncle. I would like to know if there are any photos of Emil at the Mothers Memorial site while under construction or dedication of the Memorial, or any other documentation or information about Emil Siebern regarding the Mothers Memorial. I would like to bring my 87-year old mother (Emil’s niece Alma Siebern) to visit the memorial. Wonderful article – thank you!

  3. Gloria Walters

    I loved her, many years photo after photos of my children and siblings children sitting on her steps. To me she represented the strength of a mothers love.

  4. Florence Groody Ward

    As a child growing up in Ashland, i would walk with my friends from the top of Walnut Street down to the memorial . It was our weekly hike with many fond memories

  5. Craig William Dayton

    Anna Maria Jarvis, born in Webster, West Virginia but lived most of her life in Philadelphia, was the woman who conceived the idea of Mother’s Day and brought it to fruition first in Philadelphia, next the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and then the entire nation. As I write this, 2023 marks the 110th anniversary of Anna’s founding of Mother’s Day in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Between Anna and this statue of Whistler’s Mother, thanks to the A.B.A., I feel Pennsylvania can say it honors the mothers of the world. Anna would fall on financially hard times and would live out the last of her days at the Marshall Square Sanitarium in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Those connected with the floral and greeting card industry, who benefitted greatly from Mother’s Day, would pay the bills to allow Anna to stay at the Sanitarium, where she died penniless at 84. Anna Maria Jarvis had no children.

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