Mother’s Day Proclamation

Mothers’ Day, as it is generally celebrated, is a time to buy a card or a gift for your Mom, thank and celebrate her, make breakfast for her with your children, take her out for dinner, or have brunch and a family day together.  All good. Gratitude is always good.

However,  the original idea of Mothers’ Day was for mothers organize for the common good, to mourn the war dead,  to bring aid to both sides of the conflicts, and to figure out ways to organize world peace. The holiday has been hijacked.

Here’s some of the history that Brian Handwerk researched for the  National Geographic:

“It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis—Anna’s mother—held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
In the postwar years Jarvis and other women organized Mother’s Friendship Day picnics and other events as pacifist strategies to unite former foes. Julia Ward Howe, for one—best known as the composer of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”—issued a widely read “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870, calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace. (National Geographic, Mothers’ Day Turns 100: It’s surprisingly dark history by Brian Handwerk)

When Ann’s daughter, Anna Jarvis, saw Mother’s Day commercialized and eviscerated of the intended meaning, she dedicated her life and her income to defending the original meaning of the holiday.  Outspoken, arrested, and isolated, she died in poverty.

Here is the appeal that Julia Ward Howe wrote:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will 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 been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom 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…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

 

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