Lokashakti Library of Nonviolence, Peace, and Social Justice

Mother's Day Proclamation

Julia Ward Howe


Julia Ward Howe

Although Mother's Day is today almost ubiquitous, few know that one of the first people to explicitly propose the creation of an annual celebration honoring mothers around the world was peace advocate Julia Ward Howe. A staunch abolitionist, Howe became well known in 1862 for having penned the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" — a song that was used as a rallying cry for the North during the U.S. Civil War. Having worked with widows and orphans from both sides during the years following, Howe decided to devote herself to the causes of pacifism and women's suffrage. In 1870 she wrote her "Mother's Day Proclamation," which calls upon women to immediately withdraw their consent from a society intent on making war, and then in concert with women around the world set up a congress for the peaceful resolution of international conflict. Furthering the worldwide nature of her idea, Howe made sure that the proclamation was subsequently translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish. In 1872 Howe proposed that 2 June become an annual Mother's Day for Peace. Although her own government didn't officially recognize Mother's Day until over 40 years later, we can all honor the memory of Julia Ward Howe by reflecting upon this holiday's radical roots.  - Will Travers, Lokashakti Library

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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