Back in 1870, Julia Ward Howe envisioned another kind of Mother’s Day. Although a mother herself, she wasn’t looking for a day of remembrance and celebration as was championed many decades later by Anna Jarvis and made an official national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914. Howe’s vision of Mother’s Day was about as far from our contemporary commercialized, family gathering, Mother in the role of passive honoree kind of day as you can get.
Howe, a well-recognized author, abolitionist, activist, lecturer, and reformer who years earlier had written the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC, became focused on pacifism and woman’s suffrage. In 1870, after the devastation and suffering of the Civil War and in the midst of the Franco-Prussian War, Howe wrote an “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout The World.” Later known as the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” it wasn’t a plea for a day of leisure for mothers. Just the opposite, it was a plea to mothers for action.
The Howe Mother’s Day appeal was a mother-to-mother, woman-to-woman call to community, empowerment and activism. It was an appeal to women and particularly mothers to extend their responsibilities beyond their family and flex their influence within the political sphere. It was a cry for peace.
Quotes from the “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout The World.”
A Call To The Sacred Bonds of Motherhood
“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 to as never before.”
A Call To Unite The Community of Women
“Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears ! Say firmly : We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.”
A Call For Women to Empower Themselves Outside Their Home
“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 council.”
A Call To Women For Action and Activism
“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…”
In 1872, Julia Ward Howe championed June 2nd as an annual “Mother’s Day for Peace.” She didn’t get her wish.
Every year, on the second Sunday in May, we joyfully honor our mothers for giving us life and making the many sacrifices personally and professionally to make our world a better place.
Let us also remember a Howe Mother’s Day call for peace and the awakening of women to community, empowerment and activism. Let us embrace with hearts and minds the world beyond family and take actions to make this world better for everyone. And let us honor the many women now and throughout history who did just that.