Once upon a time, Mother’s Day was not just another retail marketing blitz. Its founders would be aghast to see that it has become one of the biggest consumer holidays each year, prodding us to spend on perfume, flowers, cars, jewelry, even office supplies.
Don’t get me wrong … I love that this is still a day set aside to honor the world’s most important people – our mothers.
But I also think it is high time we strip away the cloak of sugary commercial sentiment and restore its original intention. Mother’s Day originated from a much more serious and universal longing.
To all women of every color, of every nation, and every belief; who have or care about children endangered by war; whose daughters and sons have been stolen and enslaved; who have husbands, wives, partners, sons, and daughters in uniform; who despair at the endless conflict; who long for an end to generations of blood vengeance; and who pray for healing, listen up:
Mother’s Day Is For Us
In 1870, author, suffragist, and pacifist Julia Ward Howe campaigned for a Mother’s Peace Day, which became the forerunner of Mother’s Day. In her Mother’s Peace Day Proclamation (printed below), she appealed to mothers throughout the world to step up and put a stop to war.
Her holiday never was realized in the form she had envisioned. But like so many ideas whose time has come, a holiday for giving honor to mothers was created, thanks to Anna Reeves Jarvis, in honor of her own progressive, social activist mother.
On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virginia. This marked the first official observance of Mother’s Day.
Inspired by the response to her commemoration, she decided that “Mother’s Day” should become a national holiday. Thanks to her campaign, the holiday spread across every U.S. state and to numerous foreign countries, including Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, and throughout South America and Africa. Mother’s Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.
In later years, Anna was appalled at the commercialization of her holiday, even commenting, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
I Join With My Sisters In Every Land
Let us, too, turn away from the artificiality and avarice. Instead, we offer loving honor to our own mothers — living or departed, both actual family, and family of like-mind and spirit.
It is time to put an immediate halt to the political machinery that would turn away mothers who need food, medical care, education, work, and help with child care. The nurturing and guiding of our young should be recognized as the most important labors in the world, and we should offer all the support our society can give.
Let us unmake this day of acquisition and commerce, and reclaim it as a holy day in honor of a far more urgent goal, near to every mother’s heart: the cause of peace.
For we, the women, must resolve to join together and bear witness for our sisters around the world, who have agonized for their children — stolen, ruined, or killed for pointless, wasteful wars.
Let us support them by demanding different priorities, in order to establish a more peaceful, fruitful society.
The Pax Materna
I join with my sisters in every land
In the Pax Materna–
A permanent declaration of peace
That transcends our ideological differences.
In the nuclear shadow, war is obsolete.
I will no longer suffer it in silence
Nor sustain it by complicity.
They shall not send my son
To fight another mother’s son.
For now, forever, there is no mother
Who is enemy to another mother.
~ from Another Mother for Peace, founded in 1967
Blessings to All Who Mother Peace
Finally, may we hear and heed Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Peace Day Proclamation and let it infuse our work, our voice, our conscience.
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. 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 been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We 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 the 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 plow 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 then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at 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.
Julia Ward Howe