Backing Up for Mothers

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day. This is probably obvious to all of you, but things whiz by at such a pace these days that I thought it worthwhile to slam on the brakes and back up a couple of days.

I had always thought of Mother’s Day as another Hallmark invention designed to sell greeting cards and chocolate treats. Not so. The original call for celebrating Mother’s Day in the United States came from Julia Ward Howe in 1870. She was an abolitionist, suffragette, poet and pacifist. She also wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

After the carnage of the Civil War, she wanted to get other Mothers to unite to protest the senselessness of their sons killing the sons of other mothers. One of the results of her efforts was the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” Its overriding message, like that of Jesus, is simply, peace.

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.

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