‘In the Name of Womanhood and Humanity …’

Long before Hallmark, long before flower deliveries that seem
almost second nature to those of us who live away from our mothers,
American poet and women’s leader Julia Ward Howe called for the
establishment of Mother’s Day in 1870. Her gesture was intended not
as a sentimental tribute to those who bare children, but as a call
for women to wage a general strike to end war. ‘Our husbands
shall not come to us reeking of / 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.’
she wrote in her Mother’s Day Proclamation in
Boston, with memories of the Civil War and its butchery still fresh
on America’s conscience.

Geov Parrish of WorkingForChange.com marvels at how few
people know the true roots of Mother’s Day — even peace activists
are in the dark. But, he writes, ‘as more and more mothers, in
America as well as in Iraq, mourn their fallen sons and daughters,
lost to the insanity of organized violence — Julia Ward Howe’s
call for women to not allow their men to constantly play at war is
suddenly back in fashion. Around the country, her original Mother’s
Day Proclamation will be the basis this year for parades,
remembrances, and other events that try to reclaim the holiday’s
original spirit in a year when the United States’ (male-dominated)
government talks seriously not of avoiding, but staying the course
on the multiple ones we’re already fighting.’

Opposing war is, in fact, compatible with ‘the universal notion
of honoring mothers,’ Parrish adds. ‘Women, even more so now, are
the primary sufferers of warfare. In the 20th Century, civilian
populations bore 90 percent of war’s casualties around the world;
mass and indiscriminate attacks, popularized in WWII by the
Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Allied firebombings in Japan
and Germany, and the rape of Nanjing, are only the most spectacular
examples of a phenomenon in which women become the rape and famine
victims, the refugees, the forgotten statistics in what are
invariably the wars of men.’
Jacob Wheeler

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In the Name of Womanhood and Humanity …

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