I guess I’m not the only person on these pages who looks on Mother’s Day as so much sentimental, commercial junk. I’ve been of the persuasion that the roots of Mother’s Day lay in some religious commemoration that had been gazumped by commercial opportunities. That’s not wholly wrong, but there are more modern roots to Mother’s Day that I was unaware of until today. And so, a day late for sure, but worth a post for others, like me, who have been unaware of what Mother’s Day was about from the perspective of the women who founded its modern incarnation in the 1800s…
In 1872, Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, proposed an annual Mother’s Day for Peace. Committed to abolishing war, Howe wrote: “Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage… 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”.
For the next 30 years, Americans celebrated Mothers’ Day for Peace on June 2
Here’s the full Mother’s Day Proclamation from 1870. (Contained in the link provided above)
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!
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
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
Julia Ward Howe
edit: Eight Ways to Reclaim Mother’s Day – worth the read.