A Radical Mother's Day

A Radical Mother's Day

Published: May 10, 2008 by Maria Gwyn McDowell

I must admit that until this week, I knew nothing of the beginning's of Mother's Day. Like Valentine's day, I wrongly assumed that it was yet another Hallmark Holiday, full of sentimentality and the idealization of motherhood, which is a noble but hardly sentimental or ideal profession (it is a profession, whether paid or unpaid!). How wrong I was! For the first time today, read in church, I heard the words of Julia Ward Howe, who apparently wrote something other than the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Having seen the devastation of the Civil War, and deeply upset by what she considered the unnecessary Franco-Prussian War, Julia Ward Howe penned the following words:

Mother's Day Proclamation (1870)

Julia Ward Howe

Again, in the sight of the Christian world, have the skill and power of two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle-field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.

Arise then Christian women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!

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,
man as the brother of man,
each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress,
not of Cæsar, 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.