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Mother's Day

[The following piece, by Dona Seacat of Barnstable, was featured as a 'centerpiece' in the Cape Cod Times on Mother's day -- May 8, 2005]

             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!

Say firmly:

"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 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!

            If you want to honor your mother in a special way on Mother's Day, and like the idea of celebrating it in its original spirit of peace, you can buy an appropriate book, write a thoughtful inscription inside the cover about your mother, and present the book to your school or town library in her honor.

            There are hundreds of worthwhile books--for both children and adults--that tell stories of struggles for peace and of the joy that comes from experiencing them. The books listed below are suitable for elementary school children, perhaps younger if their parents read to them.

            FAITHFUL ELEPHANTS is a true story written by Yukio Tsuchiya, translated by Tomoko Dykes and beautifully illustrated by well known children's book illustrator Ted Lewin. First published in Japan in 1951, it has seen seventy printings there and is read aloud on Japanese radio every year to mark the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. It tells the tale of what happened to the animals in the Ueno Zoo--particularly to John, Tonky, and Wanly, three elephants--at the end of the war. A tomb on the zoo grounds was erected to contain the bodies of the elephants and all the animals that have lived and died at the zoo. Thousands of paper cranes--a familiar Japanese peace symbol--continuously decorate the monument.

            PEACE CRANE by Sheila Hamanaka is a long, graceful poem that uses the motif of the paper cranes Japanese use as a peace symbol. "This poem is dedicated to the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to all children everywhere who long for peace." The beautiful illustrations depict a young African American girl who wishes the peace crane would carry her away from the violence she finds in her own world.

            SECRET OF THE PEACEFUL WARRIOR tells the story of Danny Morgan, a young boy who is shown by an old man named Socrates how to become a "peaceful warrior" and deal with the school bully with courage and love. The book is written by Dan Millman and illustrated by T. Taylor Bruce.

            THE BIG BOOK FOR PEACE is a special volume created by more than 30 well loved children's book writers and illustrators. It contains stories, pictures, poems, and a song telling about diverse kinds of peace. The artists featured in the book--as well as the publisher (Dutton Children's Books)--donated their royalties to several peace-promoting organizations.

            THE GREAT PEACE MARCH by Holly Near is an illustrated version of a song celebrating the brotherhood of humanity and the possibility of world peace.

            SHALOM, SALAAM, PEACE. Howard Bogut designed an illustrated poem, presented in the three languages--English, Arabic, and Hebrew--which examines the meaning and benefits of peace.

            MUSIC AND DRUM - A collection of poems selected by Laura Robb and illustrated by Debra Lill exploring aspects of peace and war. Carl Sandburg and Eve Merriam are two of the poets included.

            MAKE SOMEONE SMILE: 40 MORE WAYS TO BE A PEACEFUL PERSON is a collection of photos of children modeling the skills of peacemaking and conflict resolution by author Judy Lalli and photographer Doug Mason.

            For junior high and high school aged children, select a biography of a famous "peace leader," such as Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony. If a biography is not an appealing choice, you can find other suitable works by typing the words PEACE into your Internet search engine.

            The following list of websites is just a sampling of places to turn for creative and practical ideas of working for peace.

Cape Codders for Peace and Justice ( - Our own local organization is open to all concerned citizens.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom ( - The Cape has a local branch of this venerable organization.

CODEPink: Women for Peace (

Educators for Social Responsibility (

National Peace Foundation (

Alliance for Childhood (

Kids Can Make a Difference (

Free the Children (

PeaceJam ( - Students work directly with Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Books Not Bombs (

Oxfam's Cool Planet for Teachers (

Youth Peace Literacy (
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