Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 9, 2004

Mother's Day came with a call for peace

By Jean King

Julia Ward Howe, who lived during the Civil War and was the lyricist for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," wrote the original Mother's Day Proclamation in 1870.

That year, appalled by the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, she asked herself: "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of human life ... ?"

Her proclamation, which resonates today, was translated into French, German, Spanish and Swedish and distributed internationally. The full text:

Arise then, women of this day!

Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

"We will not have 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 to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

"From the bosom of a 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 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 solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

Julia Ward Howe followed up by working to establish a "Festival of Peace" that finally took place in 1904.

There, it was decided to set aside one day in the year, June 2, to prompt women to work toward resolving conflict peacefully.

This Mother's Day was celebrated for many years in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Edinburgh, London, Geneva and even Constantinople.

In later years, Anne Jarvis, to commemorate her mother's death, sought establishment of a day to remember mothers. It did not include the call for peace and for resolution of conflict.

Eventually motherhood itself — not the more controversial idea of women coming together in activism for peace — prevailed as the theme of the day.

In 1914, by popular demand, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day.

How about bringing back the original peace component now?

Happy Mother's Day.

Jean King, a mother and grandmother, is a former lieutenant governor of Hawai'i. Background information on the proclamation came from various Internet sources.