The piece commonly known as the Mother’s Day Proclamation was originally titled “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World” written in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe in response to the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. In 1872 Howe proposed an official observance of a “Mother’s Day for Peace” on June 2 of every year but was unsuccessful. Mother’s Day as we know it in the US today was established by Ann Jarvis in 1908. Her campaign was inspired by her efforts to honor her recently deceased mother Ann Reeves Jarvis, a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to improve public health. In honor of Mother’s Day and the remarkable women who founded it, the following is the full text of Julia Howe’s “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World”:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!
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
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow 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 then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time 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.
For more information on the history of Mother’s Day, visit the Zinn Education Project.