The Origins of Mothers’ Day and the Call for Peace

While Mother’s Day is not on the Christian calendar, it does have Christian roots, but not the sentimental ones you might think.

Julia Ward Howe spawned the idea of an official Mother’s Day in the United States in 1872.  An activist, writer and poet, Howe shot to fame with her famous Civil War song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She suggested that June 2 be annually celebrated as Mother’s Day and should be dedicated to peace. She wrote a passionate appeal to women and urged them to rise against war in her famous Mother’s Day Proclamation, written in Boston in 1870. Here are a few choice paragraphs.

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 decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of 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 women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

As men have 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 solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

Out of this passion she organized a Mothers’ Peace Day observance on the second Sunday in June in Boston which lasted for a number of years.

In that same spirit in 1996 a group of mothers in Roxbury organized to stand up to gangs and violence. Fed up and angry that they were losing their children to violence on the streets they organized and began “The Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.” The walk has become a place for families and friends to feel solidarity and support with scores of others who pledge their commitment to peace. Through the years, it has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.

The Peace Institute has become a leader in working with families through their sudden loss, grief, and trauma. In addition to aiding the healing process for the families and individuals they work with, the Peace Institute also trains professionals from the police, the hospitals, the courts, and the government systems to improve services intended for families in crisis. If you go to their website this action springs from their faith.

So, this Mother’s Day instead of just supporting FTD and Hallmark, let’s honor our mothers by doing something that makes for peace. Whether you march, volunteer, write a check to the “Children’s Defense Fund,” or teach your children peace you will be sowing those mustard seeds (Mt. 13:31) that grow into the Kingdom of God.

About Norman Bendroth

Norman Bendroth is a Professional Transition Specialist certified by the Interim Ministry Network. He has served as a settled pastor in two United Church of Christ congregations and as a Sr. Interim pastor in seven other UCC congregations. He was also an executive for three different non-profit agencies. He has had additional training in Mediation Skills for Church Leaders from the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center and training in Appreciative Inquiry from the Clergy Leadership Institute. Rev. Bendroth has the M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his D. Min. from Andover Newton Theological school where he concentrated on theology and systems theory. He is married to Peggy Bendroth and has two adopted Amerasian children.
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