Mother's Day Proclamation for Peace

The celebration of Mother's Day originated with poet Julia Ward Howe, as a movement for women to fight the devastation of war and to show the way towards peace. Today's sentimental-flowers-&-Hallmark-card bedecked event hardly measures up to the fiery rhetoric of the day's founding mother...

Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation - 1870

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 answered 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 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 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 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.


Bored in Vernal said...

This is wonderful!! Jana, do you know why a "general congress of women" per the last paragraph was never formed?

Shall we start one?

Deb said...

Another Quote from Julia Ward Howe - from her more famous work, which is even more appropriate given the current condition of war.

"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:

As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on."

jana said...

Actually, Deb, I don't see how the lines you quoted are relevant/appropriate to our current war situation. How do you interpret her phrase 'let us die to make men free'? And how does the image of God marching resonate with anything happening in the current world?

Sara said...

I think it's quite interesting that she wrote both this and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which Deb cited and which was of course about the Civil War. Howe wrote the "Battle Hymn" first, in 1862. As you note, she wrote her "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870, five years after the carnage that was the Civil War. After all those many, many men had died, I wonder if she'd changed her mind. I also wonder if, had it been possible for her to see in 1862 what she would come to know with the rest of the nation by 1870, she would still have felt driven to write down those same lyrics in 1862.

Personally, I don't think said "Battle Hymn" has much to do with our current wars, and am frankly repulsed whenever people start claiming they do, however obliquely. I do not think we have freed anybody with bloodshed in quite some time.

Sara said...

Ha -- speak of the devil, after here I dropped by Threading Water, and that lead me to The Mother's Day Project. The May 12 post there is right on point.

jana said...

Thanks for the helpful insight and the links Sara!

Craig said...


Im sorry you are repulsed. Maybe you should get off your couch and investigate, rather that just getting your view of the world from NPR.

I have been to the camps, the torture chambers and the rape rooms of Sadam'a regime. You should look into them before you claim we havent freed anyone.

JohnR said...

Craig forgets that 'freeing the Iraqi people' was not the initial justification for the war (remember those WMDs?), and that the U.S. supported this same oppressive regime with weapons and financing throughout the eighties (during the Iran-Iraq war).