Canberra & Region Quakers

Mother’s Day for Peace & It’s Radical Roots

Mother’s Day for Peace was declared in 1870 by the American peace activist Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation (see below). Ward Howe’s Proclamation was a call to all women to stand up against the violence of war through the power of their traditional roles.

Her Proclamation was specifically in response to the US Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War.

Ward Howe’s calling for a Mother’s Day for Peace likely evolved from the UK’s Mothering Sunday. However, it is distinct in that it is in response to war and is a call for peace. Of course, a later iteration of Mother’s Day, perhaps more like our modern Mother’s Day, was created by an American, Anne Jarvis, in 1907. (For one history of Mother’s Day, go here.)

While Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated in a number of countries, Julia Ward Howe’s message of peace and non-violence has been lost.

So this Sunday, 11 May, let us focus on Ward Howe’s intention for the day and celebrate it as mothers and others standing together for peace, non-violence and against all wars.


Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870

Arise, then… women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our 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 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 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, each bearing after his own kind the 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.

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