Friday, May 12, 2006
Original Mother's Day a war protest
GUEST COLUMNIST -
Three years ago several people gathered on the side of a Pittsburgh road to express support for the war in Iraq. Draped in U.S. flags, the pro-war assembly sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as a way to demonstrate unity and patriotism. They likely did not realize they were singing words written by one of the country's most influential anti-war activists, Julia Ward Howe, the founder of Mother's Day for Peace.
Just as those pro-war protesters did not realize they were singing a pacifist's song, most Americans do not realize that Mother's Day began as an activist's response to war. Though the holiday has become a warm family tradition it began not as a feel-good national event but as an urgent call for women and mothers worldwide to unite against war.
"Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of human life of which they alone know and bear the cost?" Julia Ward Howe wrote in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war and just a few years after the Civil War ended.
Shortly after, she published her Mother's Day Proclamation, which was a call for peace and disarmament, and staked out a day to organize around. Howe's vision of a peace movement led by mothers gained support and the first Mothers' Peace Day festival was held in Boston on June 2, 1873.
Mother's Day for Peace was celebrated in at least 18 U.S. cities that first year and the tradition continued in Boston for the next 10 years. Though Howe's movement was not wide and the Peace Day tradition eventually faltered, her efforts nevertheless marked the beginning of two U.S. traditions: a peace movement and Mother's Day. In the beginning, these two pillars of Americana were one.
Four decades later, the idea of a day for mothers was revived by Anna Jarvis, whose own mother had previously tried to establish Mother's Friendship Days as a way to heal the divisions caused by the Civil War. Though it did not wholly share Howe's original intention and peace ideal, Jarvis' renewed effort took hold and in 1914 Mother's Day was proclaimed a national holiday by President Wilson.
A century later, Jarvis is largely forgotten, Howe's fame remains most connected to her work as author of the "Battle Hymn" and Mother's Day is a cozy albeit commercialized holiday.
Yet the roots of Mother's Day are rich with purpose and profound idealism. In her diary, Howe regarded her mother's day peace work as the most meaningful of her life. "I am 52 years old ... and must regard this year as in some sense the best of my life," she wrote in 1871. "The great joy of the Peace Idea has unfolded itself to me."
On this Mother's Day, as we honor our mothers and the lives they have given and nurtured, may the great peace idea find a home in all of us.
Jesse Putnam is the great-great-great-grandson of Julia Ward Howe. A freelance writer, he lives in Seattle.
We have all read Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of fears!
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 devasted 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 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 the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,
And each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
The following from Julia Ward Howe, REMINISCENCES, 1819-1899, (Boston, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899); pp 327-329.; is offered as some of the background for the Proclaimation:
CHAPTER XV A WOMAN'S PEACE CRUSADE
I had felt a great opposition to Louis Napoleon from the period of the infamous act of treachery and violence which made him emperor. The Franco-Prussian war was little understood by the world at large. To us in America its objects were entirely unknown. On general principles of good-will and sympathy we were as much grieved as surprised at the continual defeats sustained by the French. For so brave and soldierly a nation to go through such a war without a single victory seemed a strange travesty of history. When to the immense war indemnity the conquerors added the spoliation of two important provinces, indignation added itself to regret. The suspicion at once suggested itself that Germany had very willingly given a pretext for the war, having known enough of the demoralized condition of France to be sure of an easy victory, and intending to make the opportunity serve for the forcible annexation of provinces long coveted.
As I was revolving these matters in my mind, while the war was still in progress, I was visited by a sudden feeling of the cruel and unnecessary character of the contest. It seemed to me a return to barbarism, the issue having been one which might easily have been settled without bloodshed. The question forced itself upon me, "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?" I had never thought of this before. The august dignity of motherhood and its terrible responsibilities now appeared to me in a new aspect, and I could think of no better way of expressing my sense of these than that of sending forth an appeal to womanhood throughout the world, which I then and there composed. I did not dare to make this public without the advice of some wise counselor, and sought such an one in the person of Rev. Charles T. Brooks of Newport, a beloved friend and esteemed pastor.
The little document which I drew up in the heat of my enthusiasms implored woman, all the world over, to awake to the knowledge of the sacred right vested in them as mothers to protect the human life which costs them so many pangs. I did not doubt but that my appeal would find a ready response in the hearts of great numbers of women throughout the limits of civilization. I invited these imagined helpers to assist me in calling and holding a congress of women in London, and at once began a wide task of correspondence for the realization of this plan. My first act was to have my appeal translated into various languages, to wit: French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish, and to distribute copies of it as widely as possible. I devoted the next two years almost entirely to correspondence with leading women in various countries. I also had two important meetings in New York, at which the cause of peace and the ability of women to promote it were earnestly presented. At the first of these, which took place in the late autumn of 1870, Mr. [William Cullen] Bryant gave me his venerable presence and valuable words. At the second, in the spring following, David Dudley Field, an eminent member of the New York bar, and a lifelong advocate of international arbitration, made a very eloquent and convincing address.
In the spring of the year 1872 I visited England, hoping by my personal presence to affect the holding of a Woman's Peace Congress in the great metropolis of the civilized world.
[after several pages about the problems of women finding a public platform in those days, Howe writes of the end of her plans on page 341:] The ladies who spoke in public in those days mostly confined their labors to the advocacy of woman suffrage, and were not much interested in my scheme of a world-wide portest of women against the cruelties of war.
IT TOOK A FEW MORE YEARS, BUT WOMEN EVENTUALLY GOT THE RIGHT TO VOTE.......
SO, WHO BRINGS JULIA WARD HOWE'S PROCLAMATION TO WASHINGTON THIS WEEKEND IN A PEACEFUL PROTEST AGAINST WAR?
THE CODE PINK LADIES.
I brought this up a few weeks ago and nobody commented on this group.
I googled Mother's Day Protests this morning and not much came up. There was more about the grannies protesting. Very little about Code Pink. I was interested in getting behind them because I felt very strongly about this proclamation, and the need for women to unite with this message. Why don't we hear about Code Pink? Then I came upon this:
(courtesy of David Horowitz and friends): -- written 3 years ago: Titled: Code Pinko
I had no idea the Code Pink Ladies were Marxists (according to Horowitz's blog)
What about Horowitz? -- (written 4 years ago)
Alot to discuss here. But it is Mother's Day, so maybe not today...maybe tomorrow -- whenever you feel like it. Let's discuss it though. Soon.
ENJOY YOUR DAY