Original Mothers Day Proclamation,
Julia Ward Howe: 1870
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 decided by irrelevant
'Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 to
those of another country to allow our sons to be
trained to injure theirs.
'From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes
up with our own, it says
'The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.
'Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence
As men have 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
Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate
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 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 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.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe of Boston, Massachusetts,
the famous lyricist of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic",
appalled at that time by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian
War, wrote the above proclamation, had it translated
into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish,
and disseminated it internationally.
In Julia's own words, "The question forced itself
on me, 'Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere
in these matters to prevent the waste of human life,
which they alone bear and know the cost? I had never
thought of this before. The august dignity of motherhood
and its terrible responsibility now appeared to me
in a new aspect."
Julia went to London in 1872 to try to organize
her conference, and when an established peace organization
there would not let her speak to them because of
her gender, she hired a hall and conducted her own
meetings. However, this work did not come to any
quick fruition, and Julia returned to Boston.
But Julia Ward Howe did not give up. She began
to promote a festival to be known as Mothers' Day,
to be devoted to the advocacy of peace, and to be
celebrated on June 2 each year, which in Boston is
a good time for outdoor meetings and in the midst
of the flower season.
This initiative was successful, and Mothers Day
was celebrated for many years in Boston, New York,
Philadelphia, Edinburgh, London, Geneva, and even
in Constantinople (Istanbul). However, a later effort
organized by Anna Jarvis to commemorate her mother's
death eventually also became popular, and since it
did not include the same controversial call for peace
and conflict resolution, it eventually gained the
political 'upper hand'. Motherhood itself, not the
more controversial idea of women coming together
in activism for peace, prevailed.
However, what Julia wrote in 1870 is generally
considered to be the original Mothers' Day proclamation.
The 'Festival of Peace' she called for and worked
so hard for did not take place until 1904. However,
it was decided there to set aside one day in the
year to prompt women to work toward resolving conflict
In 1914, by popular demand and without reference
to its actual pacifist origins, US President Woodrow
Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May as Mothers'
Day in the United States of America.
Happy Mothers' Day!
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