Monday, May 09, 2005

A Wild Things' Mother's Day

Wild Things is the name of the girls softball league in my town. Lest we think that all interventions and change must be large and dramatic, let me tell you what happened yesterday. First, as we know, I got up early to be on CNN. Probably there's a limited ammount of times in a life that one can write a sentence like that, so let me enjoy it now. By ten-twenty, the black town car (yes, they sent a car service for me, again, not an everyday experience around here) had delivered my back home to my family. By dinner time we will have hosted a lunch for my in-laws, and I will have appeared at a wonderful Mother's Day bookparty and tea, and been part of a terrific discussion by activist women about motherhood.

At noon, however, we were off to Wild Things practice for the annual mother-daughter softball game.

After the game, Andy Lamas, leader of Wild Things, gathered all the girls, and all the parents, and had us sit down under a large shade tree. He passed out pages from the New York Times, pages that were filled with Mothers Day perfume and jewelry ads. Nothing wrong with presents for mom, he said. But why is this all we read about? Then he passed out red pages to everyone, and on the red pages he had typed Julie Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, written in 1870, way at the beginning of Mother's Day, when the full name was Mother's Day for Peace. It wasn't always about jewelry, he told the girls. Mother's Day was once political. The moms wanted peace, too.

My daughter that it was silly, but after dinner, as her dad went upstairs to draw her bath, we did our after dinner sit-on-lap (will we do this when she's 18 and taller than me, I wonder?). She threw her legs over mine. The red page was on the other side of the table. Read it to me, she said. And we did. And we talked about all the things that mothers day can be, and how this day, and all of life, really, is both about us, and bigger than us, all at the same time.

So for all of us who need this memory to become a new reality for this year and all the years to come, Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, 1870, with special thanks to Andy Lamas for all he does for girls, and for the example he sets for us all.

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 of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender to those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice 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 our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the sumons 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.


chip said...

Thanks for posting this. I do have to admit that as I read it I got a deep sense of sadness, because it seems like we have not advanced one bit in this area since that poem was first written. Or maybe we advanced, but have taken several giant backwards steps. I really do fear for my son and his friends, and for boys his age the world over.

MaryScott said...


How startling and thrilling to learn that "Mother's Day" did not begin as a Hallmark Holiday after all, but in fact had much nobler origins! (Not quite sure how I missed this before as a Wellesley-educated feminist.) So thanks for sharing, and fair warning: I'm about to send your blog link to a Yahoo group of 90+ women here in Houston, mostly moms. I hope you'll sell a couple of books, at least.

Viva la Revolution!