Sunday, May 13, 2007

The idea of a 'Mothers' Day' is basically a product of western civilization. Other countries have borrowed the concept, and the holiday is celebrated on a wide number of different days across the world (see the Wikipedia article on this matter), from February to December. The definition of 'Mothers' Day' overlaps with that of 'Women's' Day' in many countries. The prehistory of Mothers' Day given in the Wikipedia article is very much speculative. It is doubtful that the festival of Cybele, the wife of Chronos, held around the Vernal Equinox had anything to do with Mothers' Day traditions. Similarly the Roman festival of Matronalia, dedicated to Juna, most likely died out without any tradition.
Modern Mothers' Day most likely had its start in the custom of 'Mothering Sunday' in Europe. This falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent and is believed to have originated from a 16th century custom of visiting one's mother church annually. This meant that most people would be reunited with their mother on this day. Young female apprentices and servants were released on this weekend to visit their families.
In imitation of the European Mothering Sunday the modern Mothers' Day was founded by the American social activist Julia Ward Howe in the late 1800s as a day to unite women against war.Howe was a feminist,pacifist and the author of the famous 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'. Howe attempted to have the day recognized as a 'Mothers' Day for Peace'. She was influenced by an Appalachian housewife by the name of Ann Jarvis who in 1858 attempted to improve sanitation by what she called 'Mothers' Work Days'. She went on to work to reconcile Union and Confederate ex-soldiers in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Howe failed to have her proposed day recognized, but the daughter of Ann Jarvis took up the work when her mother died. The first Mothers' day in the USA was celebrated on may 10th, 1908, in Grafton, West Virginia at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1912 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church advocated celebration of the day. The idea caught on, and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mothers' Day in honour of those mothers whose sons had died in wars. The idea became a commercial success, to the distress of Ann Jarvis, the daughter of the likewise named Ann Jarvis. She went on to be a major opponent of what the day had become.
Today some are trying to revive the original idea of Mothers' Day, buried beneath the commercial hype of a day that celebrates peacemaking by mothers and others (see ). The following is the original 'Mothers' Day Proclamation' by Julia Ward Howe:
"Arise, the, women of this day !
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears !
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided 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 the 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 dishonour, 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 nearing 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 at 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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