Mothers' Day is celebrated in the United States the second Sunday of May, and throughout the world on various dates. But in them all, this day in which reverence from the heart is rendered to the mother, is at the same time pretext for a cloying sentimentality that commerce foments to sell saccharin cards, odorless carnations, and expensive trinkets to increase profits.
We forget the origins of this relatively modern holiday. Mother's Day was started after the U.S. Civil War as a protest to the carnage of that war by women who had lost their sons to war. Such was the beginning of an annual Mothers' Day proposed by a mother. Let us render with a full heart our homage to our mothers and the mothers of everyone and let us not fall into facile sentimentality but dedicate ourselves to preventing the suffering of all mothers (and their children): poverty, hunger, abandonment, lack of shelter, lack of education, violence, war.
Here is the original Mother's Day Proclamation from 1870, followed by a a reminder of what the original intent of Mother's Day was from 'A history of Mother's Day' by a UC Davis historian:
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears! Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall 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 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 our dishonor nor violence indicate possession. 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 bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place 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.
Honor Mother with Rallies in the Streets.
The holiday began in activism; it needs rescuing from commercialism and platitudes.
Every year, people snipe at the shallow commercialism of Mother's Day. But to ignore your mother on this holy holiday is unthinkable. And if you are a mother, you're supposed to be devastated if your ingrates fail to honor you at least one day of the year.
Mother's Day wasn't always like this... because Mother's Day began as a holiday that commemorated women's public activism, not as a celebration of a mother's devotion to her family.
The story begins in 1858 when a community activist named Anna Reeves Jarvis organized Mothers' Works Days in West Virginia. Her immediate goal was to improve sanitation in Appalachian communities. During the Civil War, Jarvis pried women from their families to care for the wounded on both sides. Afterward she convened meetings to persuade men to lay aside their hostilities.
In 1872, Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", proposed an annual Mother's Day for Peace. Committed to abolishing war, Howe wrote: "Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage.. 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 of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs".
Julia Ward Howe
For the next 30 years, Americans celebrated Mothers' Day for Peace on June 2.
Many middle-class women in the 19th century believed that they bore a special responsibility as actual or potential mothers to care for the casualties of society and to turn America into a more civilized nation. They played a leading role in the abolitionist movement to end slavery. In the following decades, they launched successful campaigns against lynching and consumer fraud and battled for improved working conditions for women and protection for children, public health services and social welfare assistance to the poor. To the activists, the connection between motherhood and the fight for social and economic justice seemed self-evident.
In 1913, Congress declared the second Sunday in May to be Mother's Day. By then, the growing consumer culture had successfully redefined women as consumers for their families. Politicians and businessmen eagerly embraced the idea of celebrating the private sacrifices made by individual mothers. As the Florists' Review, the industry's trade journal, bluntly put it, " This was a holiday that could be exploited."... Since then, Mother's Day has ballooned into a billion-dollar industry.
Americans may revere the idea of motherhood and love their own mothers, but not all mothers. Poor, unemployed mothers may enjoy flowers, but they also need child care, job training, health care, a higher minimum wage and paid parental leave. Working mothers may enjoy breakfast in bed, but they also need the kind of governmental assistance provided by every other industrialized society.
With a little imagination, we could restore Mother's Day as a holiday that celebrates women's political engagement in society. During the 1980's, some peace groups gathered at nuclear test sites on Mother's Day to protest the arms race. Today, our greatest threat is not from missiles but from our indifference toward human welfare and the health of our planet.
Imagine, if you can, an annual Million Mother March in the nation's capital. Imagine a Mother's Day filled with voices demanding social and economic justice and a sustainable future,....public activism does not preclude private expressions of love and gratitude. (Nor does it prevent people from expressing their appreciation all year round.)
El Día de madres se celebra en los Estados Unidos el segundo domingo de mayo, y por el mundo entero en distintas fechas. Pero en todas, este día en el cual se le rinde veneración de corazón a la madre es a la vez pretexto para un sentimentalismo empalagoso que el comercio fomenta para vender tarjetas sacarinas, claveles sin aroma, y chucherías para aumentar las ganancias.
Olvidamos el origen de esta fiesta relativamente moderna. El Día de Madres empezó después de la guerra civil de los Estados Unidos como protesta a la mortandad en esa guerra por las mujeres que habían perdido a sus hijos a la guerra. Tal fue el principio del Día de Madres anual propuesto por una madre. Brindemos de todo corazón nuestros homenajes a todas nuestras madres y las madres de todos y no caigamos en el sentimentalismo fácil sino dediquémonos a evitar el sufrimiento de toda madre (y sus hij@s): la pobreza, el hambre, el abandono, el desamparo, falta de educación, violencia, la guerra.
¡Levantémonos, entonces, mujeres de este día! ¡Levantémonos todas las mujeres que tengamos corazones, sea nuestro bautismo de agua o de temores! Digamos firmemente: “No permitiremos que las grandes cuestiones sean decididas por agencias que no vienen al caso. Nuestros esposos no vendrán hediendo a carnicería a nosotras por caricias y aplauso. No se nos quitarán a nuestros hijos para que desaprendan todo lo que les hemos podido enseñar de la caridad, la piedad y la paciencia.
Nosotras las mujeres de un país seremos demasiadas tiernas de las de otro país para permitir que nuestros hijos sean entrenados a dañar a los suyos. Del pecho de la Tierra devastada una voz se alzará con la nuestra. Dice, “¡Desarmad, desarmad! La espada del homicidio no es la balanza de la justicia.”
La sangre no limpia nuestra deshonra ni la violencia indica posesión. Como los hombres han a menudo abandonado el arado y el yunque a la citación de la guerra, que las mujeres ahora dejen todo lo que se pueda dejar del hogar para un gran y fervoroso día de deliberación. Que se encuentren primero, como mujeres, para llorar y conmemorar a los muertos.
Que entonces solemnemente se aconsejen unas con la otras de modo que la gran familia humana pueda vivir en paz, cada quien llevando a su propio tiempo la empresa sagrada, no la de César, sino la de Dios.
En el nombre de la mujer y de la humanidad, fervorosamente pido que un congreso general de mujeres sin limites de nacionalidad sea designado y convocado en algún lugar determinado más conveniente y en el más cercano periodo consistente con sus objetivos, promover la alianza de las distintas nacionalidades, la resolución amigable de cuestiones internacionales, los grandes y generales intereses de la paz.