Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers' Day: Peace, Not Hallmark

Mother's Day Proclamation
1870 (after the carnage of the Civil War and at the dawn of the Franco-Prussian war)

by Julia Ward Howe

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

Say firmly:

"We will not have questions answered 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 voice of a 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 our 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 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.

For more on Julia Ward Howe (yes, the author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic) and peace, see here. And there's an interview with the author of a biography of Howe here.

A short documentary, "Mother's Day for Peace," has a dramatic reading by public figures including Gloria Steinem, Alfre Woodard, Felicity Huffman, and Fatma Saleh.

Happily, the Episcopal Church's little bulletin insert leaflet today had a reminder of the origins of Mothers' Day (or Mother's Day, depending on your preference for the plural or the singular) in Julia Ward Howe's call for peace and also of the life conditions of mothers and their children worldwide.

Did you know that the United States has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)? 185 countries have ratified the Convention and in many of them, CEDAW has been a vital instrument in addressing the well-being of women and girl-children. CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that comprehensively addresses the fundamental rights of women and girls in political, legal, economic, cultural, social, and family life. The Episcopal Public Policy Network has a Mother's Day action idea related to CEDAW. It also has a bulletin insert on CEDAW which you can use any time. (Yep, as Mama always told you, every day is Mother's Day.)

And a little later history (not much later! early 20th century) of women and peace movements...


Ed said...

Lots of good stuff here! Julia Ward Howe's proclamation gives me goose bumps. I included it in our Sunday bulletin today (and, of course, on my blog). There's another good esay by Ruth Rosen here.

Jane R said...

I just checked your blog and am about to go back there to catch up. (Started reading your description of the service music, always interesting.) Thanks for the Ruth Rosen link. She's always good.