Mother’s Day Message

NOTE: I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day. Several years ago, I expressed these feelings in an article that appeared in The Grit on Sunday, May 10th, 1987. (The Grit, a magazine about rural living, was published in my then hometown of Williamsport, PA and now has a website: www.grit.com) Here is that article with some updated editorial changes:

Return Mother’s Day to Original Meaning

We all have mothers, so all of us can celebrate Mother’s Day. If your mother is alive, tradition dictates you wear a colored carnation; if your mother has died, a white carnation is in order. In America, Anna Jarvis is credited as the author of this holiday, and by 1915 the President of the United States (Woodrow Wilson) proclaimed Mother’s Day as a national observance.

Very touching thoughts, but rather harmless in the light of Julia Ward Howe’s original suggestion of a Mothers’ Peace Day in 1872, exactly 140 years ago. Howe, better known as the author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” used this Civil War poem to forward her cause for peace. (The poem was later set to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.”)

Howe chose June 2nd as a day dedicated to peace, and for several years held an annual Mother’s Day meeting in Boston, MA. Only later was the day popularized by Ms Jarvis as a day set apart every year to honor motherhood, omitting the emphasis on peace that Ms Howe had intended.

All this history, which I learned from an organization called WAND (Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament: www.wand.org) merely reinforces my desire to reclaim Mother’s Day for the purpose it was conceived— a Mother’s Day for Peace, a day for women to gather (or ponder at home) for the purpose of considering their role in stopping unnecessary deaths from war.

As women, as mothers, and even as fathers, let us use Mother’s Day as a day to dedicate or rededicate ourselves to the idea of peace. Let us celebrate this day not only to honor mothers everywhere, but to empower mothers and all women to stand firm for peace, so no mother in the world must witness her son’s going off to war. Wear your carnation as a commitment for peace and celebrate this Mother’s Day in the spirit it was intended. What a powerful way to honor motherhood!


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