Mother’s Day: It started with war and peace

While Mother's Day for Peace is a stretch from today’s memorial-to-mothers holiday, it was a celebration of motherhood on a grand scale, an attempt to cultivate human life everywhere. Photo: Sarah Stierch

WASHINGTON May 11, 2012 - Julia Ward Howe is known as the lady who wrote the lyrics of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She also attempted to have a Mother’s Day for Peace (MDP) formally recognized in the U.S.

The idea of MDP was for women all over the globe to unite over commonalities and resolve the world’s conflicts. 

While MDP is a stretch from today’s memorial-to-mothers holiday, it was a celebration of motherhood on a grand scale. Mother’s Day for Peace was a nobel attempt to cultivate human life everywhere, instead of destroy it.

However, the world wasn’t ready for Howe’s surge of feminine energy, and she did not have the advantage of Twitter or Facebook to spread her message: 

“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 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.”

Imagine how the world might be different if MDP had caught on.

Howe started promoting Mother’s Day for Peace in 1872 and designated June 2 as the date for honoring mothers, women, and peace. A year later, 18 cities in the U.S. hosted MDP gatherings. This tradition held for ten years in Boston, and there were MDP celebrations here and there for 30 years. Most observances faded away after Howe died  in 1910. 

Julia Howe was motivated to work for peace after witnessing the devastation of the Civil War. It was not only the maiming of soldiers and horrendous loss of life that moved her. She helped war widows and orphans (blue and gray) during and after the conflict. It taught her about the economic devastation created by war.  

“Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly …
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.”

Julia Ward Howe

Howe was not a childless woman who had oodles of free time to mother the world. She had six children of her own. She raised her kids locally but thought globally about the power of people uniting over commonalities. 

An earlier attempt to unite women inspired Howe. Anna Jarvis tried to improve sanitary conditions throughout the Civil War (for both sides). She called the coming together of women “Mothers’ Work Days. It was not a time for moms to put their feet up, but rather to scrub up some nasty conditions.

It was Anna Jarvis’ daughter, also named Anna Jarvis who finally established a memorial to motherhood that caught on. The original Mother’s Day took place in West Virginia, in 1907, and eventually was observed in 45 states.

The first national Mother’s Day was not declared by Hallmark but by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. It was the eve of WWI. The world recognized motherhood locally but not as a concept to apply globally; but, one thing at a time.

Howe’s complete Mother’s Day Declaration can be read at Waging

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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  


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