Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day for Peace

Best known for writing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," Julia Ward Howe had a change of heart and became a determined pacifist after experiencing the devastation brought about by the Civil War. In 1870 she called upon women worldwide to oppose war and issued this proclamation for a Mother's Day for Peace:

Mother's Day Proclamation of 1870 by Julia Ward Howe

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.

Howe's initiative did not gain worldwide or even nationwide approval in her day. Not until the early 20th century did a celebration of motherhood become popular throughout the United States, and President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother's Day in 1914. It was and remains, however, a far cry from Howe's original concept.

Since Howe's day, the world has experience greater destruction from war than she could ever have imagine, and still the fighting seems never to end. Perhaps it is now time for both men and women to follow Howe's lead. Instead of the commercial frenzy that substitutes for mother-honoring these days, let's declare ourselves for peace and, for the love of the Divine, refuse to participate in war-making.

Maybe we should start asking that question that was so popular in the 60s and early 70s "What if they held a war and nobody showed up?" and assert "I ain't a-gonna study war no more."

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