Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Proclamation

In 1870, the Unitarian Julia Ward Howe, most famous for having written the Battle Hymn of the Republic, wrote a call to the celebration of Mother's Day in the U.S. Howe saw the holiday, borrowed from England, as a way of opposing the carnage of war. The idea didn't take immediately, but due to the work of Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis and Anna Marie Jarvis, a Mother's Day was eventually proclaimed to honor the mothers of sons who had died in World War I. Howe's manifesto for Mother's Day can still be found in Unitarian Universalist hymn books (a remnant of a time when Unitarians actually wrote good hymns), and has begun to be more popular in recent years, as a way of opposing the frivolous commercialism that has attached itself to the day. Here it is:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided 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."

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 indicate 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 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 own 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
May be appointed and held at someplace 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.

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