The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


May 11, 2007

Mother's Day for Peace

I’d about had it with glossy or noisy ads for pearls by the yard and perfume by the ounce, for watches with pink lizard wrist bands and cell phones with pink leather cases...and, truth be told, with the softer side of sentiments and encouragements about how to honor “Mom.” So I decided to write a little rant for my blog, today.

But you’re saved from that, Dear Reader, because of my reporter’s itch to check a few sources before putting words on a page. “Just when did all this sweet salute begin, and why?” I wondered as I typed “origin of mother’s day” into the google.com box on my screen.

Predictably, the list that popped up was long, very long. Try it yourself. But a click-click here to Anna Reeves Jarvis, a click-click there to Julia Ward Howe proved that the history has precious little to do with buying for or brunching with our mothers. Or even, really, with honoring our mothers’ love for us, their children.

It’s a far tougher love we should be celebrating...and emulating.

Consider Anna Reeves Jarvis who, in the 1850s organized Mother Work Day Clubs with members working to provide medicine for the poor and to improve sanitary conditions. When the Civil War broke out the women cared for all soldiers injured on their soil, regardless of whether they wore blue or gray uniforms.

Consider Julie Ward Howe not for her famous “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but for these lesser known of her words: “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 rained to injure theirs.” That she said during the Franco Prussian War—part of her effort to enlist mothers in a global peace movement. In the U.S., she even promoted a Mother’s Day for Peace, which was celebrated on June 2 for some 30 years.  It was a peace that included working to protect children and to improve the working conditions of women—not only protest war.

Why, or why, was it ever stopped? And what might we—who are all children of mothers, if not mothers ourselves—do to make every day a Mother’s Day for Peace?

Queen Noor of Jordan, remembering her own American upbringing, perhaps, has studied this history and lent her support as honorary chair of Rediscover Mother's Day.

"With so much conflict in the world today, it's time we return to those roots," she says.

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