Sunday, May 10, 2009
On the original Mothers Day
by Larry Geller
From the Slate article cited at the end of this post:
In 1870, after witnessing the bloody Civil War, Julia Ward Howe—a Boston pacifist, poet, and suffragist who wrote the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"—proclaimed a special day for mothers to oppose war. Committed to ending all armed conflict, 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."
For the next three decades, Americans celebrated Mother's Days for Peace on June 2. Women political activists of this era fought to end lynching and organized to end child labor, trafficking of women, and consumer fraud. In their view, their moral superiority was grounded in the fact of their motherhood.
Forget the commercialization that has so thoroughly co-opted this holiday for a moment and go back to its original meaning. Mothers also, this message was for you:
The original Mothers Day proclamation
Julia Ward Howe
27 May 1819 to 17 October 1910.
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts, whether your 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 devasted 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 out 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 the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,
And each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
See also Soap to Ploughshares: How to return Mother's Day to its original meaning
and this Wikipedia article.
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