Mother’s Day began as an anti-war protest. Fifty years before America granted women the right to vote, mothers protested that they did not give birth only to send their children to war. Mourning mothers who lost sons and husbands in war directed their pain by advocating for peaceful methods of conflict resolution.
Hallmark came later.
Following the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, the lyricist for the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” wrote her 1870 “Mother’s Day Proclamation” to incite women to demand peace, rather than send offspring to war.
As we honor our devoted mothers with flowers and champagne, may we remember to assume co-responsibility to shape society and unite our voices – to protect all children.
Mothers’ Day Proclamation: Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!
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 been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.
We 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
Blood does not wipe our 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 and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
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
Julia Ward Howe