When I was a little girl I was fascinated by the kiddie biographies I found in the library. One of my favorites was Julia Ward Howe, Girl of Old New York.
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, distressed by her experience of the realities of the Civil War, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.
Influenced by the work of Julia Ward How, Anna Jarvis, started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother's Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907. And from there the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. Finally in 1914 the President, Woodrow Wilson, declared the first national Mother's Day.
This Mother’s Day, let us remember the orgins of the holiday, read Julia Ward Howe's Declaration, and renew our commmitment to non-violence and reconciliation.
Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870
by Julia Ward Howe
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered 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 voice of a 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 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 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.