Codepink, the action group for women for peace, has posted this as a message for Mother’s Day. I thought I’d pass it on to help us think in terms of what Tori Amos calls “a mother of a mother revolution.”
Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“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.
Howe was a poet who co-published the anti-slavery newspaper The Commonwealth with her husband (Samuel Gridley Howe). In 1861 she wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” After her experience of the realities of war (Civil War) Howe became active in the woman’s suffrage movement and advocated world peace and equality in all its forms. In 1870, she issued the above call, hoping that women would arise and work together to oppose all forms of war, to transcend national and ethnic boundaries, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and to resolve to achieve peaceful resolutions to conflicts.
She was not able to get formal recognition of a “Mother’s Day for Peace,” but Anne Jarvis (inspired by her mother and by Howe) was able to get Mother’s Day as a “memorial day” going. The first “Mother’s Day” was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907. It spread to 45 states and – and the official national holiday was declared by Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
In 1908 Howe became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
We don’t think of Mother’s Day as being related to the work of peace or the remembering of death and the consequences of war. Maybe we should revive the origins of this tradition.