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What Mother's Day is All About

Sunday, May 11, 2014

By Leila Goldmark

Where Did Mother's Day Come From

Around the world, different cultures have special days to honor and respect mothers and womanhood.  But the history of Mother's Day in the United States was born from a line of social advocates, strong women who fought for justice and peace in our world.  

In 1858, Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis was a young Appalachian homemaker who worked to improve sanitation and stop deaths from water-born diseases.  She organized "Mother's Work Days" to involve women in these important public health issues.  

In 1872, Boston poet, pacifist and suffragette, Julia Ward Howe established another day of political action for mothers - a day when mothers would march on Washington to protest the death and carnage of war. Julia was the first to propose that there should be an annual Mother's Day, a day for peace.

But is was not until 1905 that the idea was taken up again. When social activist Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, became determined to memorialize her mother's lifelong activism. In 1914, Pres. Woodrow Wilson issues the Mother's Day Proclamation, and we now celebrate the event on the second Sunday of May, a day celebrated "as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

So today, on Mother's Day, while we eat our bon bons and enjoy our foot rubs, I encourage all women to take a moment to remember our history, and consider what you truly believe in. What matters to you? We hope you'll take a stand, and take action.

Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation (1870)

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided 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.
We, the 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 out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
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 counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

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 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.

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