With Mother's Day this weekend, I want to invite you to reflect on the roots of Mothers Day’s. The celebration began back in 1858, when Anna Reeves Jarvis, a social activist, pacifist and community organizer, organized poor women in West Virginia into "Mothers' Work Day Clubs" to raise the issue of clean water and sanitation and work for universal access to medicine for the poor. After her own mother's death in 1905, Ann Reeves Jarvis began a campaign to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday in the United States. She first celebrated the modern holiday in 1907 when holding a memorial for her own mother at St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.
In 1870, 40 years before it became a holiday Julia Ward Howe, an American poet and author, best known for writing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation as an appeal for women to unite for peace in the world. Howe's "Appeal to womanhood" was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Howe believed women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level and called for women to join in support of disarmament. She wrote:
“Arise, then, 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."
Both Anna Reeves Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day and Julia Ward Howe embodied Mothering love beyond our modern observances defined by card companies, bound to gender roles and solely celebrating with one's biological offspring. Celebrating and honoring our biological mothers is important and holy, but let us not neglect the mothering offered to this world in the form of care beyond our own "tribes", putting aside one's self and holding in the good of all people in heart and mind.
No matter how you celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, remember all of us, whether male or female, biologically a mother or not- have within us an imprint of God’s mothering love that we get to share with this world. This weekend I invite you to take time to not only honor your biological mothers but honor all the people who helped birth you into the person you are today and offered their motherly love to the world.