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A Return to the Roots of Mother’s Day as an End to War

A true visionary, Julia Ward Howe saw the end of the practice of going to war as a way to resolve conflict.

This Sunday many of us will recognize and celebrate Mother’s Day. As we do, let us pay homage to the women who established this day of recognition, and recognize their efforts to put an end to war. Let us first remember and honor Julia Ward Howe. Julia Ward Howe was heartbroken and distressed seeing the ravages of the American Civil War. She wrote “The Battle Hymn of The Republic” as a way to express her anguish and outrage, and saw this simply was not enough to bring about change. A true visionary, she saw the end of the practice of going to war as a way to resolve conflict. Equally important to her was the role of women in society, in the community and in conflict resolution. I see her as one of the first feminists, striving to make equality of the sexes a reality.

Anna Jarvis was another trailblazer during the Civil War, establishing and organizing “Mother’s Work Days.” Julia Ward Howe was directly influenced by Jarvis’ tireless work and activism.

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war erupted, and Julia Ward Howe began to organize women, her goal was to petition Congress to end all wars. A true activist, she took her campaign international, issuing a “Manifesto For Peace” at conferences in Paris and London. In 1872 she put forth and promoted the idea of a “Mother’s Day For Peace” to be celebrated on June 2 each year, and a year later, women in eighteen U.S. cities made this a reality.

Jarvis’ daughter, also named Anna, was motivated by her mother’s and Howe’s work to promote equality and peace, established the first “Mother’s Day” celebration in West Virginia in 1907. Through Anna Jarvis’ activism, by 1912, 45 states had official declarations, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the “Mother’s Day” recognition into law.

Within a few years, Jarvis became disappointed with the increasing commercialization of Mother’s Day. In keeping with the original intentions of Howe and Jarvis and their purpose of Mother’s Day to promote peace, equality and justice, I invite you to look beyond the ‘feel-good’ façade and ask yourself “how can I honor the work of these visionary and brave women? What can I do to promote peace and equality?” I encourage you to look in the mirror and affirm “Peace Begins With ME!” and then go out into the world and make a difference.

Peace Begins With Me!

Both Howe and Jarvis saw the power in organizing people toward a common goal. While we each have power as individuals, when we come together in a focused purpose, our energy and effect is multiplied many times over. Looking at the peace movement, I believe Howe was the first to put forth an organized effort to end war. Compare this to the thousands of years that humans have used violence and war to address conflict, we’re just now coming into our own as supporting the possibility that nonviolent efforts can also resolve conflict and bring about change. I encourage you to follow in Howe and Jarvis’s footsteps by promoting programs such as Nonviolent Communications, and by raising your voice to support equality, nonviolence and justice.

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