This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. In light of speaking of stillbirth this past Sunday, it feels especially important to recognize that such a day can be just as much about loss and unfulfilled longings as it is about joy.
Being a non-mother myself, one of the things I find most meaningful about the day is remembering the first failed attempt at making this a national holiday. Julia Ward Howe originally sought to establish an annual “Mother’s Day for Peace” which was directed at women around the world, regardless of their procreation status. After witnessing the horrors of the American Civil War, Howe believed that women had a vital role to play in promoting international peace. Her “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world” later became known as “Mother’s Day proclamation” and remains a powerful call to action. Part of the appeal is below, and the full text, which still fits on one page, can be viewed HERE. Thank you to all women who heed this call.
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…
Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870