Julia Ward Howe and the History of Mother’s Day


Julia Ward Howe is a poet and women’s suffragette. She is not totally responsible for the holiday of Mother’s Day, but she certainly helped plant the seeds that lead to the holiday. In the 1870’s she wrote a Proclamation that called women to join together for peace. She wanted the women of the world to bond together over the things they have in common, such as being women, mothers and those that take care of their husbands. She had been part of the Civil War, and she saw a lot of atrocities that made her want to help all women be more socially responsible.

When she saw the beginnings of the Franco-Prussian war, she opposed it greatly. This started her on a cause, she wrote her proclamation calling all women to come together against war, and work toward peace. She wanted them to come up and oppose war in all its forms, and asked them to come together for a “Mother’s Day for Peace”. It failed, but it planted the seeds in the mind of Anne Jarvis for a day to celebrate mothers and celebrate their common traits.

She wrote the following:

Mother’s Day Proclamation 1870

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.