Mother’s Day

ca. 1860-1880 {portrait of a woman in mourning} from Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America, Ray Juby

I spent my Mother’s Day morning eating a traditional breakfast of mushrooms on toast (tradition in my family, at least) and then I took a few minutes to lazily surf around the internet. The ever wonderful Zinn Education Project has a fabulous post today on facebook in honour of Julia Ward Howe and the origins of Mother’s Day. I was so moved by it, I’ve decided to share some of the content mentioned in their post on my blog.

Did you know?

Julia Ward Howe first issued her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 as a call for women to join in support of disarmament, and asked for June 2, 1872, to be established as a “Mother’s Day for Peace” – from Wikipedia’s entry for Mother’s Day.

What a beautiful and powerful idea – that Mother’s Day be a day that mothers and all women, everywhere, take a stand for peace. I find this message from the past to be incredibly inspiring. As a writer, I can only hope that my words will reach readers and find a temporary place in their thoughts. Julia Ward Howe wanted to move her audience to action.

As a mother of two, I’ve often struggled with finding ways to balance my desire to “stand up” with the everyday tasks of motherhood. Even peaceful protest can be tricky with a baby in your arms, or a toddler slung across your hip, or a young child close at hand. So I write, and then I write some more. And these days I find myself writing a whole hell of a lot…to polititians, to people in “offices” who are supposed to represent my interests while I’m raising my boys to be compassionate, out-of-the-box thinkers who want to make the world a better place.

On this Mother’s Day 2012, I’m thinking of everything my mother taught me through her words, her love and her actions. She was a strong, kind-hearted woman who didn’t suffer fools…not unlike J. W. H., I suppose. I only hope I can follow in their footsteps.


(Gloria Steinem, Vanessa Williams, Felicity Huffman, Fatma Saleh, Alfre Woodard, Ashraf Salimian, Christine Lahti and Mother’s Day for Peace talk about the origin of Mother’s Day by Julia Ward Howe as a protest against war. )


Mother’s Day Proclamation

Arise then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of fears!

Say firmly: We will not have 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 dishonour nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women 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 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 different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

– Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870.

People and places you should check out: The Zinn Education Project, Mother’s Day for Peace, Brave New Films, Tuesday Johnson’s historical indulgences, and for more information on the history of Mother’s Day – retired Canadian School teacher Sharon Montgomery’s excellent essay “How Mother’s Day Came to Be.”


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