Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day--not what it used to be

As the CodePink women observe Mother's Day with a 24-hour vigil in Washington, they are restoring Mother's Day to its original purpose. Mother's Day for Peace was established by anti-war activist Julia Ward Howe, who is best known for writing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, a call for peace and disarmament, led to a Mother's Day Peace Festival in Boston on June 2, 1873. Anna Jarvis, whose mother had tried to establish Mother's Friendship Days to heal emotional wounds caused by a divided nation in the War Between the States, was successful in getting Mother's Day established as a national holiday in 1914. One assumes that President Woodrow Wilson, who fought viciously against American suffragists, was only too happy to be part of a day that honored mothers, and thereby re-established women's traditional roles.

Now, Mother's Day is a boon for American florists, greeting card companies, and phone companies. Just as Christmas brings about grief for many people, so does Mother's Day. The in-your-face observance is hard on people whose mothers have died, women who have had miscarriages or whose children have died, and women who desire children, but--for various reasons--cannot have any. If only the observance were still a Mother's Day for Peace, it would be an inclusive day that questioned society's romance with war and killing.

Today, I think about the thousands of flag-waving, yellow ribbon-displaying, Republican soccer moms who actively support the killing and maiming of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens, and who hold in disdain those who work for peace. If competent people had been in charge of the war in Iraq and if it were not going so badly, hundreds of thousands more mothers would be supporting the bloodbath, just as they did not too many months ago.

Mother's Day has certainly changed.


Great post, Diane. Let's hear it for Howe and friends!

By Anonymous ae, at 7:40 PM  

Thanks, ae.

By Blogger Diane, at 2:55 PM  

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