The Common Good

Ryan Rodrick Beiler: The Mother's Day Manifesto

As we have in various ways over the years, it is incumbent upon us here at Sojourners/Call to Renewal to remind our readers of the history behind the Mother's Day holiday. For while honoring one's mother is important - see commandment #5 - like most holidays, Mother's Day has been distorted nearly beyond recognition by the greeting-card-candy-and-floral-industrial-complex.

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For the record, Mother's Day was first declared in the U.S. in 1870 by pacifist Unitarian suffragist Julia Ward Howe. This was not a day originally intended for saccharine sentiment - it was proclaimed as a day for empowerment and activism!

Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation:

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.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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