Julia Ward Howe

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910)

The Original Mother’s Day Proclamation

Julia Ward Howe

Posted Wednesday, May 07, 2014

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While countries around the world celebrate their own Mother’s Day at different times throughout the year, several countries, including the United States, Italy, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Turkey celebrate it on the second Sunday of May.

In the United States, the origins of the official holiday go back to 1870, when Julia Ward Howe – an abolitionist best remembered as the poet who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic” – worked to establish a Mother’s Peace Day. Howe dedicated the celebration to the eradication of war, and organized festivities in Boston for years.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, began the campaign to have Mother’s Day officially recognized, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson did this, proclaiming it a national holiday and a “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”

Today’s commercialized celebration of candy, flowers, gift certificates, and lavish meals at restaurants bears little resemblance to Howe’s original idea. There is nothing wrong with that. But here, for the record’s sake, is the proclamation she wrote in 1870, which explains, in her own impassioned words, the goals of the original holiday.

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of 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 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 is not the balance of justice.” Blood does 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 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 learning after his 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.

Comments

The manner in which Mother's Day is celebrated today is wonderful. However, the purpose for which it became recognized as a national holiday is a historical story that should be told. Thank you for printing it. I plan to copy it to share with others.

I would like to say, yes Mother's Day is commercialized and takes away the true meaning to the actual Mother's Day celebration, in being a wife, mother, aunt, older sister, cousin and friend. There is so much meaning in being human itself and for both men and women, as it is the equality and peace are not expressed enough for all people and their hereditary nationality. If my mother did not show or model respect, care and love for one another and my father did not share how to care for the land and all habitants on this freely given earth, I would not be the woman I am today! I am ever so grateful for my parents and for those who were leaders and have guided me in my whole entire life. I am very thankful for life itself as I have lost so many lives to trauma and addictions.

really appreciate this article. It rings true and I think we need to get back to the original dtheme of peace. I say God Bless the Mothers and it is a shame we got away from the original meaning of the holiday.

What a beautiful article, now I know the true meaning of Mother's day.

This is an eye-opener.

Be she ever so humble, Mom is no wimp............

Thank u for posting this. Not all of us have had the fortune of caring mothers. But the meaning of mother means to care and give unconditional love. If u are a woman and offer love to those continously around you, especially if u work with children, then you are a mother. I don't have children myself but I love all chidlren. So happy mother's day to all women with big hearts who radiate love. Most women can "have" a child but only the wise and generous can "raise" one.

It is a shame that most of us were not taught in school the true meaning of Mothers Day. We were taught many meaningless things,this proclamation has real meaning as well as teeth. I am sixty years old and for the first time I have learned the meaning of Mothers Day. I feel so sad to have had such a misunderstanding of such as important commemoration!

I've never seen this before. It's very moving.

The depth of her words should inspire and bring forth such a deep yearning for love and peace throughout the world. It is time for a change in America, in much of the world too. What if that change could come from mother's love? " Let them not undo all we have taught," Nothing short of brilliant!

Beautiful! Women before us worked so hard to get us here. Sacrificed for the next generations. We have been given the tools, now if we can just get to use them!

It is beautiful and I just love to know that people in those times were so clever and moral. God bless us all.

Had the congress the foresight then to enact this proclamation rather than making Mothers Day simply a time to honor their mothers, we would be living in a very different world. The fact that they did not gives clarity to the value of war as seen in the eyes of so many both then and now. As a son and father would that it were different. One thing I know though, is that the truth of this declaration as with the greater truth that Peace is our true nature, both women and men, will finally be revealed in the daily lives of our children and children's children. This will happen because the truth of it was bold revealed in 1870, set in to consciousness and as Truth will always ultimately win out, So shall the power of this proclamation find form in the lives of all on this planet.

This article is beautiful and has a presence all of its own. The quest for peace must be international and at the heart of Action of all nations. Julia Ward Howe is truely a woman before her times. Is it possible that we can ever live without war? I certaintly hope and pray we can.

Wonderful! Thank you for reminding us of what it really means to be a caregiver. We are to stand up for our charges, whether or not they are our children or others. Bless the UN for helping us along the path Julia suggests.

It was a great article, and so very timely...or more to the point so timeless.

If only these words were a remembrance of times past, still their poignancy resonnate today . May war and hunger be eradicated soon in the 21st century. May all our children live to experience peace in our world.

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