Marianne Williamson: Every year on Mother’s Day I read the original Mother’s Day Proclamation (see below), written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870.
It wasn’t created by happy mothers. It was the product of a unique and tragic congress: mothers of sons who died in the Civil War while fighting for the Union, and mothers of sons who died while fighting in the war for the Confederacy, gathered together in mutual grief and sorrow.
They wanted the mothers of the world to find a better way. They wanted the mothers of the world to create a world at peace. They wanted no mother ever again to feel the pain that they were feeling.
The official Mother’s Day holiday, established in 1914, would become a parody of that original intent. Many people now take their mother to brunch, buy her flowers, or at least call to say “Hi Mom, how are you?”
“Happy Mother’s Day” are the words we usually utter, bandying about the word ‘honour’ a lot; after all, it’s the day we’ve set aside to honour our mothers.
Mother’s Day 2023 with Marianne,
her talk starts at 56:56
But I think the way to honour a woman is to listen to her.
The only real way to honour America’s mothers (and mothers around the world) is to take the time to listen to us.
When I listen to mothers these days, I don’t hear happiness so much as I hear deep concern.
From terror that their children might not be safe at school, to worrying about carcinogens in their children’s food and toxins in their environment, to economic hardships that impact their ability to provide their children the blessings of a material existence that will set them up to win in their lives, the mothers I talk to aren’t always happy these days.
Let’s honour our mothers enough this year to bear witness to the rampant anxiety that so many mothers feel.
Today I honour the Anna Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe and all the women who gathered to create the first Mother’s Day resolution.
I also honour all the mothers I know, and those I do not know, who feel as I do the deep concern of mothers today: a cry of the heart which must no longer be neglected.
America’s children are in crisis, traumatized sometimes before pre-school.
There are elementary school principals who have told me they have elementary school students on “suicide watch.”
Millions of American children aren’t taught to read by the time they’re eight years old, setting them up more probably for future incarceration than for high school graduation.
Death among American children is more often due to gun violence than for any other reason.
If you think we have a mental health crisis now, just wait until a generation of children grows up that was praying every morning they wouldn’t be shot at school that day.
Traumatized children very often become traumatized adults.
This Mother’s Day, let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s take seriously the deep concerns and fears of millions of American mothers who are feeling that things have gone out of control in America.
Their sadness and anxiety isn’t dysfunctional; it’s a functional response to the dysfunctions of the time in which we’re living.
History of Mother’s Day
as a Day of Peace: Julia Ward Howe
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!…
We 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.”
~Julia Ward Howe, 1870
From her Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace
Too few are aware that early advocates of Mother’s Day in the United States originally envisioned it as a day of peace, to honor and support mothers who lost sons and husbands to the carnage of the Civil War.
In 1870 — nearly 40 years before it became an official U.S. holiday in 1914 — social justice advocate Julia Ward Howe issued her inspired Mother’s Day Proclamation, which called upon mothers of all nationalities to band together to promote the “amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”
She envisioned a day of solemn council where women from all over the world could meet to discuss the means whereby to achieve world peace.
Julia Ward Howe was a prominent American abolitionist, feminist, poet, and the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
She nursed and tended the wounded during the civil war, and worked with the widows and orphans of soldiers on both sides of the war, realizing that the effects of the war go far beyond the killing of soldiers in battle.
The devastation she witnessed during the civil war inspired her to call out for women to “rise up through the ashes and devastation,” urging a Mother’s Day dedicated to peace.
Her advocacy continued as she saw war arise again in the world in the Franco-Prussian War.
As the call for a Mother’s Day carried on, it gained new momentum and finally became a national holiday in the early 1900’s with the lead of Anna Jarvis, who had been inspired by her mother, also named Anna Jarvis, who had worked with Julia Ward Howe in earlier efforts for a Mother’s Day.
While Mother’s Day has presently lost much of its early edge for justice, it’s important to note some of the underpinning intentions and re-commit ourselves to its prescient calling.
In the spirit of Ward Howe’s original call, this occasion can be a time to dedicate ourselves, on behalf of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers everywhere, to rise up and protect our most vulnerable by calling for our leaders to make a directional shifts.
There is no need more urgent than addressing the devastation brought on by violence in all of its forms – affecting the lives of untold millions around the world.
Then, we may finally see the carnage and devastation of violence and war fade into its own history.
There could of course be no better way to honor our mothers.
MOTHER’S DAY PROCLAMATION
“Arise, then… women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands shall 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, 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 vindicate 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 council.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask
that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality,
may be appointed and held at some place 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.“
~ Julia Ward Howe
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