erinnorman (erinnorman) wrote,

Mother’s Day Proclamation – it’s not what you think it is

Written in 1870 by a feminist, pacifist and activist, Julia Ward Howe's “Mother’s Day Proclamation” has nothing to do with women harassed by an over demanding modern life or a nice lunch out. Far more unsettling, it is a raw and powerful piece of writing that expresses the impotent fury of women forced to send their flesh and blood off to die in the name of causes that they did not believe in. Women who knew their sons were massacring the sons of other women who felt exactly the same way. What she writes was and is still revolutionary; we don’t want our men coming home covered in blood and asking for congratulations. We don’t want to raise our sons to be conscientious members of society, only to have them taken away and taught to kill. We say that the government does not know best, and we no longer wish to have our lives dictated by them.

The women she was writing for nursed through the night without the aid of medicines and slaved away to keep their families fed and clothed. They were largely without choices in life. They often married whom they were told to, had sex when they were told to and had babies when they passively became impregnated. Whether or not they lived through the whole experience was in the hands of the gods.

Irrespective of the circumstances that women have lived in, with few exceptions they show a notably feral love for their children. It is not uncommon to find a mouse transform into a tigress if her cubs are threatened. Julia Ward Howe was writing in response to the carnage of her place and time, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, but her words ring crystal clear to us today. I would urge for them to be passed on, so that her vision can still inspire 140 years later.

“Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
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.”

Tags: feminist, government, humanity, julia ward howe, mother, mothers day, pacifism, peace, progress, revolution, slavery, soldier, war
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