News Release

The Anti-War Origins of Mother’s Day

Each year the president issues a Mother’s Day Proclamation. The original Mother’s Day Proclamation was made in 1870. Written by Julia Ward Howe, perhaps best known today for having written the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1862 when she was an antislavery activist, the original Proclamation was an impassioned call for peace and disarmament. In the years following the Civil War her political activism increased, as did her condemnation of war. Here are the words to the original Mother’s Day Proclamation:

“Arise then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

“Say firmly: ‘We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. 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. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of a 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 forsaken the plow 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 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 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.”

ELLEN BARFIELD
Barfield is active in Veterans for Peace as well as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was in the U.S. Army from 1977 to 1981 (stationed in Korea for one year) and has organized Mother’s Day peace camps. Barfield said today: “Howe’s wonderful statement calls for nurturing which women are frequently thought to be more capable of, but the recent pictures of torture vividly show us that women can participate in the horrors of war and occupation. Still, women’s voices are frequently lacking in the push for wars and invasions.”
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MARY DAY KENT
Kent is executive director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
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WENDY CHMIELEWSKI
Curator of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Chmielewski is currently president of the Peace History Society. She is author of the article “Mid the Din a Dove Appeared: Women’s Work in the 19th Century Peace Movement.”

For further information, see: www.codepinkalert.org/National_Actions_Mothers_Day.shtml, www.theatlantic.com/unbound/flashbks/battlehymn.htm, http://womenshistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa013100d.htm, www.quaker.org/chestnuthill/motherdy.htm.

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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020