On Mother's Day Sunday, May 8, mothers across the United States will be honored by their children, grandchildren, friends and other relatives. President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother's Day as a national holiday in 1914. This occurred after Anna Jarvis, a determined soul from Philadelphia, led a ten-year campaign to establish an official Mother's Day to commemorate her mother.
Nowadays, a typical American Mom will be remembered with a card and a gift, most commonly flowers or candy. The Society of American Florists reports that an estimated $868 million will be spent on flowers for moms this year. It is the third largest card-sending holiday in the U. S. according to Hallmark Cards, estimating 132 million greeting cards will be purchased for mothers. Overall, the day ranks second only to Christmas in gift giving, and according to the National Retail Federation, total Mother's Day spending this year is expected to top $11.43 billion. In addition, Mother's Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurant dining and long distance phone calls.
This kind of rampant commercialism is not what Falmouth resident, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," had in mind when she first proposed Mother's Day as a day dedicated to peace. Her "Mother's Day Peace Proclamation" of 1870 is as stirring today as it was following the Civil War. Part of it goes like this:
Arise then women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have questions answered 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."
Sadly, Ms Howe's original anti-war sentiments have been lost in this marketing blitz of schmaltz and family activities that recognize individual mothers. While all mothers find pleasure in familial recognition, a more lasting contribution might occur if we turned that loving attention, and the dollars spent on cards and gifts, into finding ways to bring lasting peace to all the world's children.
I urge women and their children to reclaim Julia Ward Howe's original concept of Mother's Day as a day for commemorating peace. But we should concentrate on peace for more than just one day a year. We must work diligently and fervently to find peaceful solutions to world problems. You don't have to be a strident activist to do this. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Support the creation of a Department of Peace. There is now a bill in Congress that would create such a department. At home, the department would address issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, and mistreatment of the elderly. Internationally, it would advise the president on addressing the root causes of war and interventions that can be taken before violence begins. If you have a computer, go to www.dopcampaign.org to find out the status of current legislation and how you can support it.
2) Teach peace. As mothers, we are all teachers. It is relatively easy to teach children about war; it is much more challenging to teach them how to create peace. Some ideas: encourage your public school to offer a peace curriculum; encourage your public libraries to purchase books and magazines that emphasize developing non-violent communities and solutions to problems. Help your kids--and other young people--find ways to work for peace and justice. Talk to them about the bad results of war, the need for ending all fighting, the necessity of preserving what's left of our Mother Earth. As the mothers and teachers of the world, let us rededicate ourselves to communicating with our children, with our mates, with each other about our passionate desire for peace.
Those of us who can speak in public must do so.
Those of us who can write must do so.
There are hundreds of orators and poets among us; let them make their voices heard throughout the land.
It's really not so hard. We just have to DO it!