Mother’s Day for Peace

8 years ago

I’d like to wish all of you mothers out there a happy Mother’s Day,
and inspire you with a little bit of history about the original meaning
of Mother’s Day.

In 1872, Julia Ward Howe led the first Mother’s Day event, an
anti-war observance in New York City. In honor of that event, Howe
wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation. Here’s an excerpt:

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

It was Howe’s hope to convene a permanent annual gathering of women
united to advocate peace, and under her leadership, there were annual
Mother’s Day gatherings in Boston for several years. But Howe’s
attempts to win formal recognition for a national Mother’s Day for
Peace failed. Her idea, however, lived on.

Howe had been influenced by Ann Jarvis, a young Appalachian
homemaker who worked to improve sanitation through what she called
Mothers’ Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to
create better sanitary conditions for both sides, and after the war she
worked to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. When Jarvis died,
her daughter, Anna, continued to champion the idea of Mothers’ Day by
campaigning for a national memorial day for women.

The first such Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West
Virginia, on May 10, 1908. From there, the custom caught on, spreading
eventually to 45 states, until, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson
declared the first national Mother’s Day as a day for American citizens
to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

Sadly, nine years after the first official Mother’s Day,
commercialization of the U.S. holiday was so rampant that Anna Jarvis
herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become.
Mother’s Day continues to be one of the most commercially successful
U.S. holidays, and it’s original meaning is all but lost in popular

This year, in honor of the original founders of Mother’s Day and and
to revive the spirit of their intent in today’s celebrations, here are
a 21st century reading of Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation and some
opportunities to honor the original meaning of the day.

  • If you’re in or around Washington, D.C., Code Pink has organized a 24-hour vigil
    in front of the White House, to honor all mothers and women who live
    where war is happening, to call for the withdrawal of troops from
    Afghanistan and Iraq, and to send a message of sorrow, friendship and
    peace directly to women war victims and their families.
  • Through Code Pink’s website you can also send a Mother’s Day e-card, and donate to help provide school supplies or a playground to children in Gaza who have been effected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Sponsor a war survivor through Women for Women International,
    an organization that promotes the recovery and rehabilitation of women
    war victims. Through participation in programs in eight countries
    including Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda and Sudan, Women for Women’s
    graduates become active leaders in the reconstruction of their
    communities. They start businesses, train other women, build civil
    society and serve as role models. For $27 a month (or, you know, 9
    trips to Starbucks), you can give a woman leadership education, job
    skills training, and seed money to start a sustainable business.
  • Even if you can’t afford a sponsorship right now, there are plenty of other ways to participate with Women for Women, from hosting events, to sending messages of support, to purchasing from Women for Women graduates’ businesses.
  • Recycle your old cell phone with HopeLine. It’ll help fight violence against women and help Mother Earth at the same time. HopeLine is
    a program at Verizon stores nationwide that collects and recycles used
    wireless phones, batteries and accessories from any wireless provider.
    The proceeds go towards providing cell phones to survivors of domestic
    violence or cash grants to local shelters and non-profit organizations
    that focus on domestic violence prevention and awareness.

I hope this Mother’s Day you’ll enjoy the blessings of your
families. I hope you’ll also take a moment to honor the original spirit
of Mother’s Day and, in empathy with all mothers suffering through war,
violence, poverty, and hunger, reflect on how we might come together,
in Howe’s words, to “take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…”

 Cross-posted from:

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