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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

The Original Mother's Day Proclamation: Call for Peace

Updated: May 9, 2021

Society for Classical Studies
Society for Classical Studies

What is Mother’s Day? There are endless possibilities. I will bypass Mother Earth [this time] and focus on the actual holiday itself. Let’s take a step back in time and revisit the original "Mother’s Day Proclamation," written by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, (lest we forget).

Julia is most often remembered for penning the words to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." She was a powerful and courageous woman—a significant social activist known for her roles in abolitionism and women's suffrage. As a social historian, Civil War musicologist and performer, I have a profound connection to that particular piece of music on many levels, and I honor her deeply for standing in her truth. However, my admiration of this piece does not come close to affecting me as much as her earnest, vital, public outcry of sorrow and grief that women share for their sons and each other’s sons who fight, kill, and are killed in wars. She called to end the carnage, and she petitioned for peace.

Her proclamation for “Mother’s Day” was not about being caught in the jaws of consumerism or investing in huge corporations such as Hallmark or De Beers. Nor was it connected to cut and deliver millions of colorful flowers or bright foil-wrapped candy. It was a call for women of all nations to join together in the name of peace.

In addition to dramatic economic change and upheaval in the family structure, the Civil War resulted in unimaginable death and destruction, post-trauma, and devastating wounds to heal. This along with the Franco-Prussian War in Europe, brought about concerns, inspiring Julia’s call to all mothers—her proclamation for peace in the name of motherhood.

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another 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 not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow 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; 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 Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place 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.

—Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870

Mother's Day Proclamation, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation <>


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