Given the fact that the United States has the most aggressive military presence on the planet, with 662 military bases in 38 foreign countries, peace work couldn’t be more important. A good way to pump some new life into the peace movement is for women to reinvigorate their commitment to it.
I can’t think of a better way to start than by taking back Mother’s Day from its focus on sappy cards and family brunches and returning to Julia Ward Howe’s original Mother’s Day anti-war proclamation which called on mothers to rise up and protest war.
In 1870 Julia Ward Howe, moved by her nursing experience tending to Civil War soldiers and later working with its widows and orphans, penned “A Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace.” It opens with a resounding cry for women as mothers to become peacemakers:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts. Whether our baptism be that of water or tears! . . . 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.
Howe envisioned Mother’s Day as a time when women from all over would come together to create ways of protesting war. Mother’s Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1914. It didn’t take long for department stores to promote the sale of flowers and candy as a way to remember Mom, burying the original intent.
While Howe’s challenge for Mother’s Day may have been lost, women from Howe’s time to the present have been central to peace efforts. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom founded in 1915 to protest US entry in to World War I remains active, tirelessly lobbying against war while promoting nuclear disarmament.
Codepink, founded in 2002 to protest the United States’ invasion of Iraq, actively works on promoting peace on a global scale, currently focusing on ending America’s entry into global combat and its escalating drone program, Palestinian rights and policies to support immigrants displaced by the war in Syria. This Mother’s Day, they will stage an action in front of the White House. Other large cities will hold their own Mother’s Day peace protests. Boston is planning a Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.
If your community isn’t offering a Mother’s Day peace action and you feel compelled to raise your voice for peace in the spirit of Julia Ward Howe, why not gather a small group of sympathizers and read her proclamation aloud?
For inspiration, check out the short video “A Mother’s Day for Peace” that depicts women reading Howe’s statement (bravenewfilms.org).
With Mother’s Day just a few days away it’s probably too late to request that your family send contributions in your name to your favorite peace group in lieu of flowers, but why not suggest this next year? I intend to do so.
If you don’t have biological children, please don’t feel left out. We are all spiritual mothers to the world’s children. We owe it to them to stop the maddening acceleration of wars. If we don’t, they won’t have a future.