Saturday, May 09, 2009

Remembering Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

The best moms (my own included) deserve much more than flowers and breakfast-in-bed for their devotion, patience and love. Yet, if they receive anything at all, most moms will today accept pesticide-smothered flowers or a store-bought card with some appropriately safe sentiment.

Our contemporary observance of Mother's Day is fairly dismissed as a Hallmark Holiday, a see-through excuse to feed our culture's unquestioning consumption of manufactured emotion. This commercial emphasis belies the holiday's courageous, feminist origins.

In 1870, when famed abolitionist and poet Julia Ward Howe made her Mother's Day Proclamation, she responded to the shocking violence of the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War by calling for the establishment of a holiday dedicated to the cause of nonviolent conflict resolution and international solidarity. She wrote,
"Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!


Say firmly:
'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 voice of a 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 our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.


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."
Amen to that.

Take the day back from the greeting card companies, moms.

Photo credit: photograph of Julia Ward Howe ripped from

1 comment:

Peter Cowling said...

Mother's Day is also celebrated in the UK. Somewhat amazingly, we celebrate it on the same day as Laetare Sunday, or Mothering Sunday. Still, I am not inclined to go a-mothering (the processes of visiting your mother church). A little thanks to one's mother cannot be a bad thing.