Mothers. They are often our first teachers of peace. We have often heard our mothers say things such as “I don’t care who started it, who’s gonna end it?”, “Hug and say you’re sorry” and “what did YOU do that may have led to this situation”. These instructive words demonstrate how our mothers guide us to be self reflective and compassionate people.
In a world with a variety of cultures , we also have varying origins for the current practice of Mother’s Day. In some countries, this day began to honor and encourage larger families, in others it gave support to woman’s growing participation in the labor market, and in others recognizing the role of families in national development. Contrary to today’s universally commercialized holidays, this day has a wide variety of influences, depending on which country you are in!
In the US, it began as a pacifist movement. Despite having written the Battle Hymn of the Republic just years earlier, in 1870 Julia Ward Howe issued the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Howe was appalled by the level of human loss from the Civil War, and called for women, the first teachers of peace, to support disarmament. With these words, she summoned women to create an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood:
“Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have of ten 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 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 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.”
The holiday was not nationally recongized until Anna Jarvis pushed President Wilson to adopt it in 1914. However, Jarvis later regretted what became of her work, calling it a Hallmark Holiday, something we see today.
I’ve been so fortunate to know so many wonderful women, including my own mother. As I’ve told part of her story already, I would just like to say a small word of thanks to my first teacher of peace. Mom, you taught me to think about others, be a caring citizen, an active participant and a creator of community. I only hope to be able to continue in the footsteps of all these great peace seekers, but most of all you.
Listen to your mother: Go be a peacemaker.