We recently celebrated Mother’s Day at our house, as, I’m sure, many of you did as well. The holiday comes with mixed emotions for many. Perhaps you recently lost your mother, or you may have some conflict with your mother or children. Women who don’t or aren’t able to have children struggle on that day. So Mother’s Day isn’t as universally loved, even in the country where the secular trinity includes Mom, along with baseball and apple pie.
My Facebook feed was full of emotion over the weekend, a lot of happy pictures and grateful tributes, but also some anger and real frustration from those for whom those pictures and tributes don’t reflect their own experiences.
I think I’ve brought this up before, but I often find it interesting to go back into history to see where things have come from—especially when there are some conflicts about things. The past occasionally helps frame the present in a way that eases tension. As it happens, Mother’s Day officially became a holiday in the US because of the work of a woman named Anna Jarvis. Ms. Jarvis never had children herself, but she wanted a holiday to honor her mother and other mothers.
Before Jarvis, Jula Ward Howe, known for being an abolitionist and for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, just a few years, of course, after the Civil War. Weary of the violence and mourning the loss of life, Howe dreamed of a gathering of women whose conversations might engender a more peaceful world. She writes:
“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 learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.”
So far as I can tell, her dream of such a congress never happened. But her plea for women’s voices to rise up with empathy and passion to counter the dominant desire for war and bloodshed was nothing short of prophetic.
Whether Mother’s Day is a struggle for you or not, let’s all remember that among its originators were two powerful women – one who was not a mother herself, and another who was an anti-war activist who wanted to raise and empower women’s voices. I hope that we would honor and celebrate the richness and complexity of women’s lives not just on the second Sunday in May, but always.
Grace and peace,