Late Mother’s Day Reflection

Written By: - Date published: 10:40 am, May 12th, 2014 - 26 comments
Categories: activism - Tags:

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
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

Julia Ward Howe


edit: Eight Ways to Reclaim Mother’s Day – worth the read.

26 comments on “Late Mother’s Day Reflection”

  1. and she was very unhappy about how it all turned out..

    ..i found this the other day..

    “..The Founder Of Mother’s Day Hated What The Holiday Became..”

  2. karol 2

    That’s interesting about Mothers Day, Bill. it’s definitely where the US practice originated, and it was what probably influenced the NZ version.

    There is, however, an older version and tradition in the UK. I first realised it when I was living in the UK – it’s often referred to as Mothering Sunday there. One Mothering Sunday, I wondered why I had missed remembering my mother that year, and put in a hasty phone call. When my mother answered, she said, “Well thanks, (karol), but it isn’t Mothers Day til May.”

    It’s actually very close to my mother’s birthday, and they often use to get collapsed together.

    Mothering Sunday in the UK is in March.

    It comes from a centuries old Christian tradition.

    During the sixteenth century, people returned to their mother church, the main church or cathedral of the area, for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest Cathedral.[1] Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone “a-mothering”, although whether this term preceded the observance of Mothering Sunday is unclear. In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions.[2]

    Children and young people who were “in service” (as household servants) were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families (or, originally, return to their “mother” church). The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.[1]

    In the US it is also in May.

    • Bill 2.1

      Gets confusing, dunnit? Mothering Sunday is apparently a bit different to Mother’s Day. (One religious and one secular) Some communist states marked Women’s Day instead of Mother’s Day due to religious connotations. And not unlike you, I kept missing Mother’s Day for the UK seeing as how I was living here. (I still can’t figure why NZ varies from the UK given its colonial history)

      I guess the US modern origins attract me more because the drive is more pro-active than the passive European or religious roots.

      Have been absently reflecting on the potential difference between it and International Woman’s Day too. And tentatively concluding that Mother’s Day, if reclaimed as the positive, active space as originally envisaged, is potentially much more powerful than the somewhat ‘neutral’ International Woman’s Day that (arguably and only broadly speaking) merely seeks to encourage recognition of women and women’s place in (erm) history.

  3. Ennui 3

    I dislike being told I am uncaring, ungenerous, inattentive, a Grinch, an Ebeneezer Scrooge. These things I try and avoid all year for my loved ones benefit.

    A couple of more things I really dislike (a lot more):
    * events such as Mothers Day, Fathers Day that come redolent with commercial and material attachment.
    * the lack of spontaneity the above robs me of when displaying my affections.

    • Tracey 3.1

      coca cola invented santa clau… and hallmark valentines day… enough said

      • MaxFletcher 3.1.1

        Valentines was not invented by Hallmark:
        “The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.”
        – Wikipedia

        Santa Claus being invented by Coke is also a myth:
        “Images of Santa Claus were further popularized through Haddon Sundblom’s depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company’s Christmas advertising in the 1930s. The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that Santa Claus was invented by The Coca-Cola Company or that Santa wears red and white because they are the colors used to promote the Coca-Cola brand. Historically, Coca-Cola was not the first soft drink company to utilize the modern image of Santa Claus in its advertising—White Rock Beverages had already used a red and white Santa to sell mineral water in 1915 and then in advertisements for its ginger ale in 1923. Earlier still, Santa Claus had appeared dressed in red and white and essentially in his current form on several covers of Puck magazine in the first few years of the 20th century.”
        – Wikipedia

        The recognition of Santa and Valentines have been capitlised by Coke and Hallmark but nothing to do with the invention.

        • Tracey

          commercialised/exploited by coke and hallmark.

          • MaxFletcher

            True but there are ways around it – just write your own card at Valentines. That’s what I do.

            And fuck Santa 🙂

            • Tracey

              I dont do valentines. rightly or wrongly I was brought up to believe it was for unrequited love. ive been with my partner for 23…. way past unrequited.

              as for fuck santa, hes definitely not my type. 😉

  4. Tracey 4

    bearing in mind the proclamation was over 50 years before women were “given” the vote in the usa, strident stuff indeed.

  5. ianmac 5

    My Mum died when she was 97 so as an orphan I transfer my felicitations to my wife as the Mother of our boys. I don’t buy her anything though as the commercialisation of such days gives me the pip.

    • Ennui 5.1

      Ianmac, 97 is a great innings, great to hear. My parents are in their late eighties all spry…heres hoping we both inherit the longevity genes.

  6. Chooky 6

    well i have to remind people it is Mother’s Day…and I got a toasted sandwich from son plus a coffee cake baked by son ( remarkably good considering all the cussing in the kitchen and the food flying about….)… from partner some biscuits with cream cheese and smoked salmon….and they both served up the dinner ( from daughter nothing but possibly a message on Facebook from Australia …but she knows i dont use Facebook…so it is Facebook war…she may remember in a week or so…just wait till she has children!)…i gave my Mother a book, for which she was exceedingly grateful!…seriously Mothers do a lot for gratis …so they are grateful if ungrateful swine remember even a little…( and the cat gave me some licks…it regards me as its Mother)

    +100….Great Post!…..Fantastic ‘Mother’s Day Proclamation from 1870’…they were pretty radical in those days!…it should be on all Mothers day cards..(not that i have ever got one, since the kids left preschool)

    I also think there should be an ‘International Woman’s Day’… celebrate ALL women!!!!….what they have achieved and what they have yet to achieve…especially for human rights, for humanity and world peace

    ….Many women like Helen Clark choose not to be Mothers ….but they have made time to be the Mothers of Civilisation and the surrogate Mothers of other peoples daughters and of us all …..and their accomplishments are great!

    • Tracey 6.1

      i have no biological children but a 16 year old boy came into my life three years ago. yesterday he made us lunch and his girlfriend made us muffins. he thanked us for all our support.

      funny how life turns out.

      • Chooky 6.1.1

        i think some of the best Mothers are non-biological Mothers

        (and some of the best Fathers are non-biological ones)

        • Tracey

          I think parenting well must be the hardest thing in the world.

          a fence at the top of societys cliff is goid parenting. lets focus alot of collective resources here and watch so many of todays problems melt away.

          and yes money does make a difference in the world kids live in today…

          lets have healthy physical homes for children
          safe transit to school
          decent living wages so parents can parent instead of struggling from bill to bill, to second jobs and shiftwork
          state funded esol for parents

          • Chooky

            +100…it takes a community, society , country…. to bring up and cherish a child

  7. mac1 7

    Now that both our mothers are gone, my wife and I together with our daughter and son-in-law yesterday toasted them with bubbles and then toasted all our ancestral mothers- all those pioneering women who braved the oceans, dangerous travel and birth at sea to travel here, and those before them.

    Had I known of Julia Ward Howe, I would have toasted her vision that has been the same as mine for forty five years now when I became a C.O. This son, I swore then, was not raised to kill other sons.

  8. Hami Shearlie 8

    I don’t buy things but I made my Mum a mushrooms and bacon lunch followed by homemade scones with homemade quince jelly followed later by a roast beef dinner – I think homemade edible presents are the best – Mum did too!

  9. Belladonna 9

    Homemade edible presents are the best, especially quince jelly. Would have to turn down the bacon though.

  10. Ennui 10

    I just gave the Mothers Day finances away on Lambton Quay to the individuals sitting requesting charitable assistance: I am certain my mother will approve. The sight of these young people so reduced would, as a mother, break her heart.

    • Chooky 10.1

      …yes agree!…it should break everyone’s heart

      …then of course there are the bad mothers …feel a bit churlish to mention them….but Margaret Thatcher was a mummy….and ..i guess she had her good points to her kids but not necessarily to everyone’s kids (i guess it is the other side of any archetype …the good and great mother and all her attributes ….and then there is the terrible mother of mythology …and they can be in one and the same person…the difficulty is to reconcile them)

  11. greywarbler 11

    What’s wrong with sending a bit of cardboard with pretty pictures and words on it to your mother, grandmother, wife etc.? Those here who are above it all, shouldn’t look down on the hoi polloi who enjoy it and the mothers who get a special kiss or phone call or text or letter or parcel or… which doesn’t get put off for later. Let the plebs enjoy their day and their kind and loving thoughts, even just the dutiful ones.

  12. ShazJaz 12

    Let us not forget the mothers who live while their children do not. Whose son went on that bike ride to the shops or took that ride from the party to get home and did not arrive, or went to that war and was kill by that other mother’s child. Mothers day is a day of sadness for many as they get cards, gifts, cups of tea, home made scones and coffee cakes from the living but all mother remember the ones they have lost. Be gentle because it’s a sad day for many mums too.

  13. greywarbler 13

    Just a last bit on mothers. Someone talking on Radionz this morning I think mentioned Hilary Clinton saying that she was not brought up by her mother but by grandparents who seemed to want a cardboard cut-out. Very strict. She showed some naughty spirit and went out on a Halloween jaunt and was punished by being forbidden outings – for a year – except for school she was on home detention. Not much love there. In her case it must be whatever doesn’t kill you toughens you up.

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