Mothers Day?

Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870

by Julia Ward Howe

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 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 our 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.

Mothers Day had its origins in America when Anna Reeves Jarvis, a homemaker in rural West Virginia, organized a Mothers’ Work Day in 1858 to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. She organized Mother’s Friendship Clubs to work in conjunction with local doctors to provide health care to local citizens in her community plagued by diseases such dysentery, small pox, and tuberculosis after the Civil War. In the first instance, she wanted to improve sanitation in her town, but during the Civil War extended the purpose of Mothers’ Work Days to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides of the conflict. She continued organizing throughout the years of the Civil War, working with women on both sides of the conflict to encourage more adequate care for all the wounded, and later working for reconciliation between Union and Confederate neighbors. She devoted herself to helping anyone in need, regardless of their stature in society or their sympathies for either side of the war. She organized a public gathering to encourage all families to work together and resolve their differences over the war. She dressed in blue and another lady friend dressed in gray. They spoke to the crowd together and Mrs. Jarvis asked that both “Dixie” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played by the band. She was the one to plant the seeds for Mother’s Day.

Fifteen years later, Julia Ward Howe, a Boston poet, pacifist, suffragist, wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” (quoted above) calling for a “Mothers’ Day for Peace” to work for peace and disarmament. She is best known for writing the lyrics for the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1862 after a harrowing visit to a Union army camp during the civil war. Her own mother had died when she was only five. She wrote the Mothers Day Proclamation after viewing the carnage of the Civil War battles.

Happy Mothers Day!

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