Mother's Day! Today Mom becomes "Queen for a Day," like the name of
that old TV show. Newspaper and TV ad sales will soar and florists and department
stores will be bless whoever dreamed up the holiday. To them, the Day means Sales!
To the rest of us it stands for nothing more than loving and honoring Mom.
there is another way of looking at Mother's Day, the celebration of which in the
United States was fashioned in large part by a truly great American heroine, Julia
Ward Howe, now long forgotten as the nineteenth century suffragette and
abolitionist and author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (for which
the Atlantic Monthly reportedly paid her $4) that she was. She was a mother too.
in New York City, descended from colonial administrators, at 24 she married Samuel
G. Howe, a Boston opponent of slavery, who became her lifelong partner and fellow
reformer. Having lived through the Civil War, she was especially haunted by the
Franco Prussian War, as stunned by its barbarism as she was by her belief
that the war was entirely unnecessary.
led her to ask a question that's as relevant and vital today as it was then: "Why
do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste
of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?" Deeply respectful
of the "august dignity of motherhood and its terrible responsibilities"
and that their sons and husbands and in today's even more savage wars,
themselves and their daughters as well bear the pain while too often foreign
policy "elites" and nations' warhawks and their children go untouched
while regularly preaching the virtue and necessity of war, she helped initiate
Mother's Day, which, she insisted, "should be devoted to the advocacy of
Mother's Day peace (and justice) seems further away than ever before. The "war
on terrorism" and predictions of an American invasion of Iraq early next
year, and who knows where else after that, seems to leave too many American mothers
unmoved and mute, though millions of them with male teenagers ought to be trembling
before the possibility that their sons may one day be compelled to join in yet
Ward Howe would understand their silence for she too experienced the identical
indifference towards matters of war and peace. In her memoir, "Reminiscences:
1819 1899," she reluctantly recognized that even women suffragettes
were loathe to offer her a platform. Votes for women and these days the
multiple distractions of ordinary life it seems, were infinitely
more important than, as she wrote, "in my scheme of a world wide protest
of women against the cruelties of war."
Happy Mother's Day to all. I intend to tell the moms in my extended family to
think about their kids and organize "Mothers Against War" groups. Though
hardly optimistic it will happen, I have never forgotten the lamentation of a
wounded British lieutenant after World War I:
want to know what was the most awful thing? To find out that the women can smile
and throw roses, that they can give up their men, their children, the boys they
have put to bed a thousand times and pulled the covers over a thousand times,
and they gave us up that they sent us sent us! The women sent us.
No general could have made us go if the women hadn't allowed us to be stacked
on the trains, if they had screamed out that they would never look at us again
if we turned into murderers."
by the wounded lieutenant from "Men and War" by Andreas Latzko (Boni