We tend to think of Mother’s day as a commercial ‘Hallmark’ greeting card kind of day to recognize mothers with cards, flowers and gifts. Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans and our current commercialism around the holiday, and the role of mothers in families is indeed deeply rooted in our lives and culture. Nevertheless, the often overlooked herstory of the day is more aligned with the work of advocates and activists promoting peace and nonviolence and resonates with the early organizing efforts of our foremothers Ann Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.
The herstory of the day is grounded in honoring women’s commitment to the past, present and future of our families and the world at both personal and political levels. It honors those who acted on behalf of not only their own children but of the future generations. So as in the past we work today to recall the origins of Mother’s Day’s as a call to women (and men) to join together to rise up to oppose war and violence.
In the words of Julia Ward Howe’s in 1870 her Mother’s Day proclamation:
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will 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 ………
………In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And 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.
The full proclamation can be found at: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/howejwriting/a/mothers_day.htm
“Mother’s Day is the legacy of Anna Jarvis and her mother Ann Jarvis. At the heart of the traditions around Mother’s Day are themes of honoring mothers, compassion, peace, reconciliation, and social action.”
Perhaps in honoring our mothers this year we can reframe our Hallmark holiday to one that recalls the shoulders we stand on and the gifts of our early foremother’s in organizing for peace this Mother’s Day. We can consider the legacy we are leaving and we can remind each other that peace, kindness, non-violence, equality and stewardship of the earth are values we all hold and work towards- together for ourselves and for future generations.
Happy Mother’s Day for Peace.
Janett Forte is a ‘mostly’ retired social worker. She is a governing body member of the Action Alliance and has been involved in the movement to end violence against women for over 30 years. She previously worked at Virginia Commonwealth University and coordinated services in Chesterfield County through the Domestic Violence Resource Center, an office she designed. She started her advocacy work at the YWCA in Richmond. Retirement life has offered opportunities for travel both personally and professionally to places including service trips to Haiti, Guatemala, Philippines and Honduras and pleasure trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Italy. Janett is the mother of one son, Sean.
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