Who thought up Mother's Day, anyway?

Monday, May 02, 2011

As the news about Osama bin Laden's death sinks in, we have been thinking about the roots of Mother's Day.  It was a call to peace.  It's gotten buried in the years since, but it is always worth reviving.  The language is old-fashioned but the sentiment is timeless.  Here it is.

artwork by Nikki McClure: http://www.buyolympia.com
Mother's Day Proclamation
by Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another 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 not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow 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 & 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 Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place 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.

Biography of Julia Ward Howe: 
US feminist, reformer, and writer Julia Ward Howe was born May 27, 1819 in New York City. She married Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston, a physician and social reformer. After the Civil War, she campaigned for women rights, anti-slavery, equality, and for world peace.


  1. Ploughshares Fund is running a campaign that allows people to send Roses for Peace in honor of the original meaning of Mother's Day. Check it out here: http://ploughshares.org/news-analysis/publications/mothers-day-peace-0