Mother’s Day and Mothers’ Day

Mother’s Day and Mothers’ Day


On this Mother’s Day, we celebrate mothering in all its different forms, from all its different practitioners, upon all its different recipients. We will speak about the special day for your mother, and why not so much for all mothers. We will also look in on the conversation between the so-called “Bad Mothers” and the so-called “Good Mothers.”


An ethos was passed down in our family and other families: It is that being pregnant is enough for anyone to be and do, especially in the late stages. She says “I’m discharging my duty to God and humanity with this alone. Anything else I do today is gravy, for which extra credit would not go amiss.”

Imagine. Nine months of a little life conceived, nurtured, protected, growing inside, in the warm and dark perfection of the womb, getting ready for a big show, and then suddenly not inside anymore, but yet still flesh of the mother’s flesh, the little beating heart she created beating now outside her body.

No wonder so many mothers love their children beyond all reason.

Dear mothers of all kinds:

You are our heroes today.
Many of you have had the courage to give birth.
Many of you have brought precious life into this world. Thank you.

And let us be sure to include the people who mothered although they were not the birth mother, but is the grandmother, or an autnie, or a cousin, sometimes an older friend, sometimes a teacher, and all the adopting mothers, and those who had the help of a surrogate. I know a man whose mother was his older sister. I know many whose mothers were their fathers.

All of you have had the courage to parent, and endure the trials of living with the child while all the time knowing that in most cases, separation is coming.

Thank you.

Julia Ward Howe

The love in your hearts, if gathered together, organized, and unleashed, could solve many serious problems of the world. Julia Ward Howe, the Unitarian author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” thought so. In the first attempt at establishing a women’s peace movement, in 1870, only 5 years separated from our Civil War, and as the Franco-Prussian War was beginning, she tried to harness mother-love into a world-wide anti-war movement.

In examining the documents for this little talk, it appears that the Mother’s Day for Peace, proposed in 1872, was retroactively renamed by the Anna Jarvis people, the ones who got Mother’s Day passed in 1910, when Howard Taft, a Unitarian, was president, 40 years after the proposal Ms. Howe, still a Unitarian, was calling for: a nationwide women’s alliance for peace.

Well that makes sense. Ms. Howe was a former anti-slavery abolitionist. She was an activist and as much as the oppressed farm wives and housewives of these years deserved some loving attention and to be freed from farm work and housework for one day a year, Ms. Howe’s plan was much more audacious.

Here is Ms. Howe’s call to action in 1870. This is the “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World.” Of course, it was easier to get the men in power to countenance an observance that was only one day a year, and on a Sunday than to contemplate a mass, international anti-war movement. They already had a mass movement on their hands: the temperance movement people, who were actually prohibitionist people, and who had a number of fiery women leaders.

“Again, in the sight of the Christian world, have the skill and power of two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field. Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. The word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.

Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of 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 been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We, 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 devestated 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 vindicate 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 council.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind of sacred impress, not of Caesar, 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.

The word “mother” is not mentioned in Howe’s appeal, only women, and womanhood.

Anna Jarvis

The mother’s Day that Anna Jarvis got passed into law was about relieving the pain and strain of everyday life of ordinary women. Even in 1914, when the Mother’s Day as we know it was established, the official government Proclamation spelled it Mothers’ Day. It seems that something happened to change the name, to make it less capable of political power.

Congress and the President legalize and immortalize Mothers’ Day, Second Sunday in May. A Proclamation:

“Whereas by a join resolution, approved May 8, 1914, designating the second Sunday in May as Mothers’ Day, and for other purposes, the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May, as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country;

And. Whereas by the said join resolution it is made the duty of the President to request the observance of the second Sunday in May as provided for in the said joint resolution:

Now, therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said joint resolution do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places, on the second Sunday of May, as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country. In witness whereof I have set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed.

Done at the city of Washington this 8th day of May in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and fourteen, and of the independence of the United States one hundred and thirty-eight.

Today wear white flowers for Mothers’ memory, Bright flowers for Mothers living.

Once again, human nature proves to be always and everywhere the same.

But it’s not one or the other – we can have both. We can honor mothers, and mothering, and mother-love, and help the entire class of female people find empowerment. As a class, women are more peaceful, and less warlike, although they are capable of waging war, and being as disagreeable as men. But I believe in the women, and would like to give them more chances to have and wield power. But we have to hope against hope. It’s happening now, and it can’t be stopped, and I hope we will all help speed the day when all women, all over the world, mothers and non-mothers, can live as equals with men and each other.


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