I was never very big on Mother’s Day, referring to it as a Hallmark Holiday. Turns out the woman responsible for its “national holiday” status in the states had the same issue. Anna Jarvis, who conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children, eventually fought to get the day repealed after it became a commercialized holiday. Anna was inspired by her mom, Anna Reeves Jarvis, who was responsible for helping soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Anna Jarvis was never a mother herself.
Forty years before Anna, in 1870, Julia Howe had her own ideas for a Mother’s Day and wrote this proclamation:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 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
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often 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 then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
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
Julia Ward Howe
It could be read still today, 150 years later.
Lebanese film director, Nadine Labaki, released “Where do we go now?” in 2012; a critically acclaimed film using humor to illustrate the same idea – that the female perspective is powerful and in sharp contrast to that driven by war and the typically masculine method of conquest.
So today we sort of have to honor our Mom. Yet the day began not as an excuse to go out for brunch, but a call for a peaceful approach to solving conflict. The day was intended to honor mothering attitudes and actions – as an answer to healing the destruction of war; as a valuable solution that was not practiced.
This “watering down” of Mother’s Day is yet another way we’ve diminished valid and effective peaceful solutions and replaced them with more sexy and explosive and expensive ones. It takes time to negotiate peace. It is an easy and quick thing to pull a trigger (or purchase a greeting card).
The mothering instinct is not reserved for only our physical mother but a universal caretaking impulse held by us all, which is truly what the day is about. Once allowed and nourished it would change the world. That’s the thing to honor today, with or without the greeting card.
Have a day that encourages peace at every interaction. Live Agape. Happy Mother’s Day.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
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