I love Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation. Her timeless sentiments call women to action as women but without romanticizing “feminine gifts.” That alone is an occasion to celebrate!
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
whether your baptism be that of water or of tears.
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 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 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 and commemorate the dead.
Let them then 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 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.
At the time of its publication in 1870, Howe had been active as an abolitionist and was nationally known as a leader of the women’s suffrage movement. She also was an accomplished writer of poetry, biographies, plays, columns, and articles. Her Mother’s Day Proclamation grew out of her stifling experience of marriage and the horrors she witnessed during the Civil War. The mother of six children, she felt that women should have broader involvement in society beyond tending home and family.
Although Howe is credited with inaugurating Mother’s Day in the United States, her initiative did not initially become widely established. An adaptation of Howe’s day was begun in West Virginia by Anna Reeves Jarvis to encourage reconciliation after the Civil War, and after her death, her daughter, Anna, broadened this effort. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed the law creating the national observance on the second Sunday in May. It’s interesting to note that Anna Jarvis became very disturbed by the commercialism that soon became associated with Mother’s Day and actively protested it for the rest of her life.