The Radical Herstory of Mothers Day by Elizabeth Koke 5/9/08
Inspired by Grace Moon’s latest post on the upcoming holiday, I thought I would share a little historical factoid with you. The celebration of Mothers Day in the United States began in 1870, organized by social activist Julia Ward Howe. Julia, having witnessed the terrible effects of the civil war, called for mother’s day to unite women to protest and to organize for peace. The inspiration for the idea came from a woman named Anna Jarvis who organized "Mothers Work Days " in an effort to improve sanitary conditions during the war. While an official Mother's Day For Peace never was nationally recognized, Jarvis' daughter, aware of the work of her mother and of Howe, started a movement to have a national memorial day for women, and in 1914 President Wilson declared the first national Mothers Day. In celebration of Mother’s Day, in honor these early feminists, and in sadness and rage for the ongoing war in Iraq (Do you know what i just heard? The number of suicides of soldiers returning from Iraq exceeds the number of casualties. Where is our anti-war movement, people?), I am posting Julia Ward Howe's inspiring Mother’s Day Proclamation here for all of you lovely dykes:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
"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, 1870