Lessons In Peace From Mothers
Wednesday - May 09, 2007
What’s not to like about Mother’s Day? We get chocolates, cards, flowers, breakfast in bed, chocolates, brunch, dinner, presents, chocolates - and everyone else does the dishes.
But it’s not (all) about the pampering. Mother’s Day actually is rooted in history. Ancient Greeks worshipped their mother goddess Rhea. The Romans paid tribute in the spring to their mother goddess Cybele with three full days of partying. And the early Christians celebrated the Mothers festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent, in honor of the Virgin Mary.
In the 1600s in England, it was dubbed Mothering Sunday, a day for folks to go home to mom and bring her little cakes, small gifts and nosegays of flowers. The custom flourished until its decline around the time of the Industrial Revolution.
Anna M. Jarvis is credited with bringing Mother’s Day as we know it to the United States. Through her letter-writing campaign, the idea caught on all over the country, with the governor of West Virginia declaring the first official proclamation of Mother’s Day in 1910. A year later, every state in the union had its own day to honor mothers, and in 1914, Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
But even before Jarvis’s successful national campaign, there was another, very different call to mothers. The very first observation of a mother’s day in our country was back in 1872. Julia Ward Howe, a social activist and the poet who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, suggested it be a day to promote peace. Her “Mothers Day Proclamation” was a reaction to the bloodshed of the Civil War. It begins:
“Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
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.”
Howe’s poem is a powerful call for women to take action, not just to sit and watch as the world is ripped apart. Above all, she tells us that we can make a difference, and today that is clearer than it ever has been before.
Whether in the workplace, the home, our political institutions, churches - and yes, even in the armed forces - we are strong enough to use our numbers, our power and our status as mothers and future mothers to influence community, country and world events. We can start simply by saying “no” to violence in the home. And we can expand our reach to work toward a more sensible world.
Howe ends her poem with a call for a congress of women:
“To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.”
So this Sunday, treat your mom to dinner, give her a box of really good chocolates and pay her the respect she deserves. There is much to be learned from a mother’s love.
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