Saturday, May 9, 2009

Remembering Mother's Day 1872


Julia Ward Howe made the first known suggestion for a Mother’s Day in the United States in 1872. She suggested that people observe a Mother’s Day as a day dedicated to peace, in protest against the carnage of the Civil War. For several years, she held an annual Mother’s Day meeting in Boston. Earlier in 1870 she wrote this Proclamation:

Mother's Day Proclamation

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 of justice."

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 peace.

Julia Ward Howe, Boston 1870

Julia Ward Howe was trying to build a Culture of Peace in the United Sstates. What is a Culture of Peace? A culture is the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. It’s everybody, not just the leaders. Remember that the Inquisition was not solely a priestly imposition, but it was a cultural symptom—the people supported it. Similarly, President Bush was elected not only once but a second time by which time his depredations were known. Support for perpetual war was integrated throughout our nation between the beginning of WWII and today. In contrast, the peace movement would replace the culture of commercial cupidity, wars, and empire with a Culture of Peace. Therefore we must counter violence, war, greed, arrogance in all of their manifestations. OMNI is doing that in NWA. One way is to affirm institutions that reinforce cooperation and compassion. OMNI, for example, celebrates Human Rights Day for all people. Another way is to replace institutions that sustain the dominant system with alternatives. An example is our counter-Columbus Day—Indigenous Peoples Day. Another example, is the Mother’s Day created by Julia Ward Howe.. Like so many originally good ideas, it has been so commodified as to be unrecognizable. Instead of urging us to spend time with our mothers, or help our mothers, or struggle for equal pay for mothers and women, or recognize stay-at-home mothers as equally value workers, or support mothers in keeping their children away from wars, we are urged to shop, give things, buy something unnecessary, like glass hyped as diamonds.

Julia Ward Howe offered us a different way:

(The following comes from The Peace Company Team 2009}:
"Mother's Day is a time to honor the immeasurable value and contribution of Mothers, and to celebrate our own Mother and those who have nurtured us throughout our lives. It's a time to say thank you for innumerable sacrifices and express our gratitude for the incomparable gift of mother's love.
If we truly wish to demonstrate our regard for Motherhood, and our goal is to support mothers every day not just on Mother's Day, we must do more than offer cards and gifts, as important as that is. We must also offer mothers our daily encouragement and practical assistance, and we must support public policies that make children and mothers a priority in our nation and in our world [including the cessation of separating sons and daughters from mothers for the purpose of killing other sons and daughters—D].
Despite our compassion and prosperity, the status of mothers and children in the United States is tragic.
Did you know...
A full 25% of U.S. families with children less than six years old live in poverty.
Nine million children are without healthcare coverage and millions more are under-insured.
Fourteen million children are unsupervised after school every day. At least 40,000 of these are kindergartners due to a lack of affordable after-school programs.
In a Harvard study of over 170 countries, the U.S. was one of only four nations without any form of paid leave for new mothers. (The others were Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.)
Women without children make 90 cents to a man’s dollar, but mothers make just 73 cents, and single mothers make even less -- about 60 cents to a man’s dollar.
Mothers are 79% less likely to be hired than equally qualified non-mothers.
Of the twenty most competitive economies in the world, the U.S. is the only one that does not require employers to provide paid sick days.
These statistics are eye-opening and dismal, and call for rigorous transpartisan deliberation and immediate action. Regardless of our political position, we must all make a stand for our nations' mothers.....
"All mothers are working mothers."
We also affirm and applaud the millions of stay-at-home moms. Their commitment is a noble one, and we give our encouragement and full support to these mothers as well. We recognize, however, that three quarters of American mothers are now in the labor force. With seventy-five percent of our moms at work, it's time our attitudes, policies and workplaces match the dynamics of today's American family. (*statistics and info above found at
(Other information and resources related to supporting mothers is available via the National Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Coalition and United Nations Population Fund)….
Kimberly King, Co-President, Brent Bisson, Co-President & The Peace Company Team
21 Main Street, Bristol, VT 05443

OMNI inaugurated its first annual Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day for Peace Luncheon in 2004. Now it is time to evaluate and consider alternatives. The purpose of the Luncheon has been to publicize Howe’s Proclamation. That purpose was achieved through the reinforcement of the women and men who attended the luncheons, and via newspaper stories, which were supportive. But can we find a more effective way to publicize the Proclamation?

Here is a PROPOSAL from Karen Clark.
One: We should establish alternating programs—one year the Luncheon, next Proclamation ads. Thus 2010 would be the ads, 2011 returning to the luncheon.
Two: Ads: We should publish the Proclamation in as many newspapers each year as we have money for, and especially in UA’s Traveler, to educate young people about Howe’s Mother’s Day for peace and against militarism.

Whatever our format, we will need a coordinator committed to transforming another super-shopping day into a Day for Peace (instead of blind acceptance of commercialism and wars), Building a Culture of Peace. Contact OMNI.

OMNI’s President is Gladys Tiffany; Vice-Presidents Kelly Mulhollan and Donna Stjerna; Secretary Nancy Goliff; Treasurer Karen Takemoto.

Dick Bennett

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