The Origins of Mother’s Day

The beginning of Mother’s Day goes back to 1870.  Julia Ward Howe – an abolitionist remembered as the poet who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic” worked to establish a Mother’s Peace Day.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday and a “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”

The goals of Ward’s original proclamation in 1870 were about peace.  More importantly that women must take the lead-in an era when they had no vote and no offices or formal roles in public life.  A true grass roots movement.

The Proclamation

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of 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 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 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 learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, 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.

Change, even when well-founded, can take time. But ultimately the grass roots prevail.  The key:  keep the vision alive.

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