Homily: Mother’s Day
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, a day on which we honor our mothers, living and deceased for their care, concern and unconditional Love for us throughout the years of our lives. It is one of those special days we cherish and look forward to each year.
Few people really know, however that Mother’s Day was originally conceived by a mother and social activist Julia Ward Howe during the Civil War with a call for Peace, and to unite women against war. She wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, after the War, as a call for peace and disarmament. Here is an excerpt from the Proclamation:
From the voice of a 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 our dishonor,
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…
Howe failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace.
Her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young homemaker from West Virginia, who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers’ Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.
Jarvis’ daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, much later, when her mother died, started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women.
The first such Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908, in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. Grafton is the home to the International Mother’s Day Shrine. From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. The holiday was declared officially by some states beginning in 1912. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day.
Nine years after the first official Mother’s Day holiday, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. She was arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mother’s convention where white carnations, the flower that was popularly associated with the holiday, were being sold for profit. Mother’s Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful days of the year, while it’s origins in mothers’ opposition to war, has been lost.
So, in your remembrances of this Mother’s Day, remember these brave women who, as mother’s, called upon the whole nation not to forget the ravages of war. Make a promise to become a proponent of peace in the name of all our mothers, who never lose sight of the needs for protecting their own and all children everywhere.