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History of Mother’s Day

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Millions of us celebrate what at first glance would seem to be an apolitical, sentimental holiday.  Mothers Day.  Yet few people realize that Mother’s Day in the USA traces a key part of its history to a pacifist and feminist named Julia Ward Howe.   Her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” was a strong statement about war and feminism.

Julia Ward Howe was born in 1819 and died in 1910.  She was most famous as the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.  Howe was also prominent in the abolitionist movement, as a poet, and as an American social activist who fought for universal suffrage and women’s rights among other causes of her time.   Howe met with Abraham Lincoln in 1861.
However it was not Howe who brought Mothers Day into existence – that took a presidential proclamation by Woodrow Wilson after a lobbying campaign by the daughter of Ann Jarvis, Anna Jarvis,  that led to an official Mothers Day in 1914.
A few years after Howe’s proclamation, Anne Jarvis developed “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” that worked to improve health conditions in the USA.  It was not until some time after her death that daughter Anna succeeded in getting an official Mothers Day Proclamation.  It is reported that by the 1920s Anna was already disappointed with the commercialization of Mothers Day.

Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe

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

—————

More about Julia Ward Howe at Wikipedia



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