Mother’s Day is traditionally a day for honoring our mothers, our grandmothers, our wives if they are mothers. We do this by taking them to lunch or dinner, giving them flowers and gifts, making sure we understand how special they are to us, how important they are, and that we appreciate all of the things that they have given us, and what they do for us.
It was interesting for me to find that the original purpose of Mother’s Day had nothing to do with Hallmark or FTD, crowded restaurants and long buffet lines…it had to do with searching for peace. Julia Ward Howe (hey, that’s almost my maiden name!) first sought to bring about a “Mother’s Day for Peace” in response to the Civil War and the terrible toll that it took on our country, a day for women to “rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines, to recognize what we hold in common above what divides us, and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts.” In her quest, she issued an impassioned and thoughtful declaration:
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered 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 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.
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 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.
I’m not sure how this idea, the idea of a holiday seeking an end to war and carnage, a holiday allowing women to become more involved in the political process and have some small say (remember, this is before women could vote in the U.S.), turned into a commercial holiday on the level of Valentine’s Day or Christmas (the secular part of it, at least). I enjoy the flowers and extra hugs as much as the next person, but I think I would prefer that no mother’s children have to lose their lives in such a horrid way.