Reflection Part 3 - Mother’s Day Proclamation 1870

Mothers’ Day or Mother’s Day is marked annually on the 2nd Sunday of May in North America, New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world. Mothering Sunday has been marked on the 4th Sunday in Lent, mainly in The United Kingdom and Ireland, since the 16th century. The days have different foci and origins.

Mother’s Day, or now Mothers’ Day, has its origins in the United States in 1870. Julia Ward Howe, known as the writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: a prominent social reform advocate, abolitionist and pacifist, disturbed by the events of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, wrote what became known as the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870. Julia Ward Howe’s appeal was for women to unite for peace in the world. In 1907 the call to establish a Mother’s Peace Day was ignited by Anna Jarvis; and, after momentum grew for a day to be set aside, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be a public holiday, as ‘a public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers’.

Julia Ward Howe in later years become disturbed by growing commercial aspects of the day, and the shifting away from a day focussed on promoting peace.

Again, in the sight of the Christian world,
have the skill and power of two great nations
exhausted themselves in mutual murder.
Again have the sacred questions of
international justice been committed to the
fatal mediation of military weapons.

In this day of progress, in this century of light,
the ambitions of rulers have been allowed to
barter the interests of domestic life for the
bloody exchanges of the battlefield. Thus
men have done. Thus men will do. But
women need no longer be made a party to
proceedings that fill the globe with grief and
horror. Despite the assumptions of physical
force, the mother has a sacred and
commanding word to say to the sons who owe
their life to her suffering.

That word should now be heard, and
answered as never before. Arise, then,
Christian women of this day! Arise, all women
who have hearts, whether your baptism be that
of water or of tears! Say firmly we will not
have great questions answered 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.

- Julia Ward Howe (1870)

Click to play audio

Read by Sonia Faulkner