Re-posted by Steven D to add the following video (hat tip to Brementown Musician):

Today is Mother’s Day, an essentially secular, commercialized holiday which promotes the right to shop by offering us one more excuse to cruise the malls today. However, the woman who originally conceived of a National Mother’s Day in America had a very different motivation for her advocacy on behalf of a day to honor mothers. Her name was Julia Ward Howe, perhaps best known for her poem The Battle Hymn of the Republic which became the unofficial anthem of the Union during the Civil War.

However, Ms. Howe was far more than a poet. She was also a leader in the woman’s suffrage movement and a peace activist. Indeed, her principal motive in advocating an international Mother’s Day celebration was to oppose war and promote the cause of peace.

She saw some of the worst effects of the war — not only the death and disease which killed and maimed the soldiers. She worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, and realized that the effects of the war go beyond the killing of soldiers in battle. She also saw the economic devastation of the Civil War, the economic crises that followed the war, the restructuring of the economies of both North and South.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe took on a new issue and a new cause. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, determined that peace was one of the two most important causes of the world (the other being equality in its many forms) and seeing war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War, she called in 1870 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. She issued a Declaration, hoping to gather together women in a congress of action.

Here’s the text of her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 calling for the mothers of the world to arise and demand disarmament and an end to war:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another 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 not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often 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 counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail & 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 Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may 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.

Her concerns, and her cry for an end to the senseless violence and bloodletting that war brings, are as meaningful today as they were 137 years ago when she first issued her manifesto in opposition to war and in support of peace. Tomorrow when you are celebrating and honoring your mothers (or being honored as a mother) please remember Julia Ward Howe, and the cause that led her to seek both recognition of, and a more powerful voice for, the mothers of this world of ours. And, if you can, honor her memory in the years to come by making your voice heard in support of the cause which she eloquently and passionately espoused.

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.

Take back Mother’s Day.

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