Mother love needs to be cultivated for the good of mankind and for the wellbeing of our sacred planet. The potential for this all-embracing maternal consciousness lies within all of us, male and female. Very often, it is when we hold our first child in our arms that the flame of mother love is ignited. Once burning, it cannot be extinguished. Throughout history, women have acted to bring the love and compassion felt for their own children into their community, their country, and their world. Passionately expressing a mother’s love, they have worked to create a better world for future generations. Their work has left a legacy for us to follow.
The History of Mother’s Day
To the women who contributed to the inception of Mother’s Day, the connection between mother love and the fight for social and economic justice and peace seemed self-evident. To Anna Reeves Jarvis, Julia Warde Howe, and Anna Reeves, (the daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis), Mother’s Day was much more than recognition of individual mothers. It was an opportunity to use mother love as a powerful force for peacemaking, reconciliation, and community cohesion.
Anna Reeves Jarvis
In the 1850’s, Anna Reeves Jarvis organized Mother Work Day Clubs that focused on providing medicine for the poor and on improving sanitary conditions. Then, during the Civil War, Mother’s Day Clubs cared for all soldiers—regardless of which side of the battle they had chosen. After the war ended, Anna Reeves Jarvis continued her peacemaking by working to bring people together to heal the deep wounds of those who had been divided by the war.
Julia Ward Howe
In the 1870s, Julia Ward Howe began organizing “Mothers Peace Day.” After the blood bath of the civil war, she focused on voting rights for women and world peace. When war broke out between France and Prussia, she wrote an impassioned plea to mothers saying, “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, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” At the end she implores, “In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held to promote the great and general interest of peace.” Following unsuccessful efforts to pull together an international peace conference, she made a global appeal to women while the Franco-Prussian war was still in progress. She implored women to speak out for peace asking, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?” For the next thirty years, Americans celebrated Mother’s Day for Peace on June 2nd. During this time, mothers played a leading role in the abolitionist movement to end slavery and launched campaigns to protect children and to improve the working conditions of women.
Anna Reeves Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis, is generally credited with the establishment of Mother’s Day in America. She tirelessly organized a letter-writing campaign so that the work that her mother waged for peacemaking would not be forgotten. In 1914, her efforts paid off when Congress passed the Mother’s Day resolution, appointing it as a national holiday to be celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May.
Mother’s Day Today
Today Mother’s Day is a time for honoring and thanking our own mothers for giving us life, raising us, and providing a source of emotional support and love. It is that rare day to enjoy breakfast in bed and receive cards and flowers from our own children and husbands. Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate mother love and its life-affirming value that is inherent to us all. And most importantly, Mother’s Day provides us an opportunity to put this love into action in the defense of the sacredness of life. Today, our greatest threat is from an indifference and irreverence for human welfare and the health of our planet. But mothers’ hearts are not indifferent. Heartbroken by the suffering and death of their own sons or daughters or those of another mother’s child as a result of war, women around the world are gathering to fuel the flame of mother love, urging women to speak up, to say no to war, and to work for peace. Together, our mother love is powerful.
Organize your own circle of women to fuel the flame of mother love in order to protect our children and the planet. Help your children to discover and maintain inner peace, compassion, and acceptance. Peace starts with each individual. Each child whose heart is filled with inner peace, compassion, and acceptance will grow up to become a beacon for peace on Earth.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #13.
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