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Editorial: Mothers Day

May 4, 2011

Julia Ward Howe, composer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," issued the first call to celebrate an international Mother's Day, when she wrote the "Mother's Day Proclamation."

Written in 1870, Howe's proclamation was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War.

The Proclamation was tied to Howe's feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level.

Howe's proclamation, written in poetry form, is reprinted below in its entirety:

Arise then...women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts!

Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,

For caresses and applause.

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."

From the bosom 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 out dishonor,

Nor violence indicate possession.

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.

Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,

But of God -

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 at someplace deemed most convenient

And the earliest period consistent with its objects,

To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,

The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

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