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Mother's Day Proclamation

Mother's Day Proclamation

“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 of justice.’” – Julia Ward Howe

In 1870, abolitionist and social justice reformer Julia Ward Howe wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation, a stirring call to disarm that is so far removed from the commercial holiday that we now call Mother’s Day that it bears no resemblance. Interestingly, despite not being actually connected, the modern-day observation we celebrate also has its roots in social justice: a campaign to create a national holiday to honor all mothers was spearheaded by Anna Jarvis, the daughter of a public health activist, but soon after being sanctioned as a national observance in the U.S. by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, it became the hackneyed roses-and-a-box-of-chocolates commercial affair we know today, scrubbed clean of its origins in social justice. (Ms. Jarvis was so dismayed by how commercial her sincere day of recognition became, in fact, that she dedicated her life to being a vocal critic of what Mother’s Day had turned into and trying to rescind its status as a holiday: She referred to those who profited off the holiday as “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.”)

Back to the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation was written in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War and was an earnest appeal to women the world over to firmly and unequivocally renounce the machinations of war that had destroyed so many young lives, leaving mother’s sons dead and dying in battlefields and families grief-stricken. What kind of mother would not feel her heart ripped apart at the thought of her son killing another mother’s son? I can only imagine what kind of world we might be living in today if a critical mass of people internalized this message and helped to create a courageous, united rejection of violence in all of its crushing displays.

Mother's Day Proclamation
by Julia Ward Howe

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our 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 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 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 peace.

Can we not also heed a similar call today, females and males alike, and remove our sanctioning of the senseless violence that also brings the flesh, dairy and eggs to our plates? Maybe this violation is what underpins much of our mindset that allows us to continue to brutalize one another. Clearly the proclamation was written at a particular time in human history with a specific orientation and I am not trying to diminish that. I am asking that we take this message of empathy and liberation and broaden it. In regard to war, Ms. Howe wrote, “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.” Can’t we say that our children should not unlearn the most treasured values we teach them – of mercy, compassion, justice – by being complicit in another’s suffering? Unlike with war, in most cases the graphic violence is hidden from view. Today, shouldn’t part of our job as parents be to remove the blinders so our children do not unwittingly harm other mother’s children regardless of species?I think so.

Let's Honor All Mothers

2015, Vegan Street

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