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May 9, 2004
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· Our Real Mother's Day ·
Consider Julia Ward Howe's original "Mother's Day Proclamation" (1870):
Consider, too, the purpose of the first Mother's Day in 1908. Primarily organized to honor the extraordinary memory of Anna Reese Jarvis — an Appalachian mother who organized women to work for better sanitary conditions in the Civil War and to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors — the day was meant to prompt women to call for peace in the world as well. Indeed, its aim was an echo of Howe's call: "Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God."*
But consider Woodrow Wilson's 1914 order setting aside Mother's Day officially. In flowery, presidential language about the role mothers play exclusively in American domestic life, Wilson said nothing — nothing — about mothers' promoting peace in the world, much to the disappointment of Anna Jarvis and the admirers of Julia Ward Howe. As Mother's Day became commercialized, Anna Jarvis's own daughter — who never herself became a mother — spent her own energies trying to refocus the day on peacemaking, but it wasn't to happen. By the end of her life she was so saddened that she claimed she was sorry she had ever gotten Mother's Day started.
"Arise, then, women of this day!" Perhaps today there's time to suggest a still more peaceful Sunday.Permalink
This is the complete text of Howe's 1870 proclamation:
Thanks for the Howe quote, Styles. Your posting is both timely and pointed, given the past week. It's beyond irony that one of the young soldiers in those photos is 5 months pregnant and looking toward motherhood.
And special thanks for reminding those of us who are mothers of the sacred obligation we bear to the sons and daughters of all.
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