Mother's Day is a challenge. While advertisements evoke misty eyed memories and quaint appreciation for mothers, the truth is that Mother's Day began as a call to action by Julia Ward Howe. Howe is best known as the author of the words for The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She was an abolitionist and a women's suffrage advocate. She wrote the "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870 (excerpted below):
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts. . .
"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 . . . ."
Her words are underscored by Archbishop Desmond Tutu's words in God Has a Dream (p. 49):
Ending sexism and including women fully in every aspect of society not only ends its own great evil--the oppression of women--but also is part of the solution to the rest of the world's problems. Until women are deeply involved in opposing the violence in the world, we are not going to bring it to an end. All women must be equally at the forefront of the movements for social justice. And they also have a special leverage over the men in their lives, who often perpetuate death while women are left creating life. But women can say, "We have had enough of this business. If you keep going out to fight and kill, we're not going to have anything to do with you." It is tremendous that women are increasingly taking on positions of leadership, but they must not simply settle for business as usual. They have the potential--if they have the courage--to transform the institutions they are inheriting and to make them more humane and more just. Unleashing the power of women has the potential to transform our world in extraordinary and many as yet unimagined ways. . . ."
Something to think about on this weekend . . .
Rev. Ruth Hawley-Lowry is a pastor in Michigan.