Sunday, May 13, 2007

Peaceful Nations Begin at Home: Happy Mothers' Day

My pastor today gave an incredible sermon about the history of Mothers' Day. I never knew that Mothers' Day originated in a mother's desire for peace after seeing the carnage of the U.S. Civil War. The story is an inspiring reminder of the power of a mother's love! So I did a little research to share the history of Mothers' Day with you and in the process found out that a group of U.S. mothers are working together to help bring Iraqi children, now victims of war to the U.S. for medical treatment. The group they created is called, "No More Victims." If you'd like to help with that or donate, click here for the link.

In the United States, Mother's Day was originally suggested by poet and social activist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, after witnessing the carnage of the American Civil War and the start of the Franco-Prussian War, she wrote the original Mother's Day Proclamation calling upon the women of the world to unite for peace. This "Mother's Day Proclamation" would plant the seed for what would eventually become a national holiday.

After writing the proclamation, Howe had it translated into many languages and spent the next two years of her life distributing it and speaking to women leaders all over the world. In her book Reminiscences, Howe wrote, "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?" She devoted much of the next two years to this cause, and began holding annual "Mother's Day" gatherings in Boston, Massachusetts and elsewhere.

In 1907, thirty-seven years after the proclamation was written, women's rights activist Anna Jarvis began campaigning for the establishment of a nationally observed Mother¹s Day holiday. And in 1914, four years after Howe's death, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother's Day as a national holiday.

Julia Ward Howe was a poet, writer and activist who fought vigilantly for peace, the abolition of slavery, and women's rights.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, she co-published The Commonwealth, an abolitionist newspaper, with her husband Samuel Gridley Howe. In 1860, she penned the Battle Hymn of The Republic to inspire Union soldiers fighting in the war. The song became a rallying cry for the Union throughout the war, and remains her most famous work.

The horrors of the war moved her to campaign tirelessly for peace. She served as president of the American branch of the Women's International Peace Association, and in 1870 she wrote her Mother's Day Proclamation. Julia Ward Howe was also instrumental in the women's suffrage movement. She was a co-founder of the American Woman Suffrage Association and served as
editor of Woman's Journal. Her influence on the movement ranks her alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cody Stanton as one of the most important voices of the period.

In recognition of her tremendous effect on American culture and history, Julia Ward Howe was the first woman elected to the American Association of Arts and Letters in 1908. A true American pioneer, Julia Ward Howe remains one of the most influential figures in the history of both the civil and women's rights movements.

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
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.

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 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.