Over the next couple of days I will be posting pieces I find on Mothers Day. Enjoy.
On Mother’s Day each year, I light a candle during a special time in our church service. I light it in memory of my mother, Bernadette, and in honor of her mother, Lena, who died long before I was born. I also light a candle for Peace, in recognition of the fact that the first Mother’s Day celebrated in our country was a Mother’s Day for Peace begun by Julia Ward Howe in 1870, who was working with widows and orphans from the North and the South during and after the Civil War.
She appealed to war mothers with the proclamation, “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?”
Howe’s proclamation included the phrase, “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.” What a different world it would be if mothers all over the world could have heeded these words. I think of that when I hear women today say they are “proud” that their sons were killed in Iraq protecting our country. Or when a Muslim woman says she is so glad that her suicide bomber son has become a martyr protecting his country. Why is it that glory comes only to the killers and not to the peacemakers?
Howe’s Mothers Day of Peace did not catch on and has mostly been forgotten. Taking its place is the Mother’s Day begun by Anna Jarvis to honor her mother and all mothers in the country. Jarvis used carnations at the first celebration in 1907 because they were her mother’s favorite flower. It didn’t take long for businesses to cash in on this holiday. The Floral Institute wrote in its industry publication, “This was a holiday that could be exploited.” Indeed, it did turn into one of the best sales days for florists. Gift buying, especially of jewelry, became the focus of the holiday — the peace theme not being a profitable one.
There are women today who are carrying on the peace tradition of that first Mother’s Day. Sally Goodrich, whose son died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, turned her mother’s grief into hope for the future of peace by raising money to build a school for girls in a town near Kabul. Grandmothers Against the War (I wish they could have called themselves Grandmothers for Peace) spent the last Mother’s Day in a demonstration in Washington, D.C. There are planned activities by hundreds of women’s groups for peace all over the country, but these will be ignored by the mainstream media who will dismiss them as the views of a few fanatics.
One woman wrote on a Mother’s Day for Peace blog: “It breaks my heart to think of all the mothers who have lost children because the world is an unpeaceful place.” I have messages from many pro-war people who tell me that war is inevitable — always has and always will be. And I have messages from mothers who have children in Iraq who have to believe that we must stay there “to finish the job” because so many have died already. That doesn’t make sense to me, but then, I do not have a child in harm’s way as they do.
As our country enters its fifth year of a war begun under false pretenses (pretty well documented by even some former war supporters) and as the death toll continues to mount, Howe’s words are as appropriate now as they were in 1870. “Arise women of this day. Arise all women who have hearts. Let women 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.” I light a candle and pray that some day this wish can be fulfilled.
Paula Garabedian Wall writes from her home in Fremont. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.