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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day: Boost peace not greeting card sales

On the advice of my brother-in-law Chris Jungheim, I looked up the origins of Mother's Day. Abolitionist, social activist and poet Julia Ward Howe was among the first in the United States to promote the creation of the holiday. Rather than using it as a time to sell flowers, candy, and greeting cards, she envisioned it as a day for mothers to stand up to war and violence, and instill the values of international unity and peace.

Ms. Howe, also well-known as the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote the Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870 on the heels of the carnage of the American Civil War. The holiday didn't become recognized nationally until 1914, and even then it was used to celebrate individual motherhood rather than bring together mothers politically to work for common ideals.

Below is the full text of the Proclamation, which still has resonance today.

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will 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, the 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 out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough 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 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 Caesar
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace 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.
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