5/11/12

The origin of Mothers Day


Portrait of Julia Ward Howe, photo by dbking

Mother's Day has a history with many roots and cultural expressions. In the United States, some trace our American observance of this day to Anna Jarvis in 1912. Jarvis held a memorial for her own mother two years after her death and then thought to make such a remembrance a national holiday - an effort in which she succeeded. Eventually, however, Jarvis campaigned against Mother's Day because of its commercialization. Her obituary in the New York Times notes that she became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed greeting card. Jarvis said, "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. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!"

Ouch!

Others trace Mother's Day back to Julia Ward Howe, the lyricist for the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, written in 1870 was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the Civil War. Her cry sounds remarkably contemporary for a piece written over a century ago:

Mother's Day Proclamation

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

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will 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, the 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 out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough 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 solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his 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 someplace 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


 

   
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