Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Mother's Day

My mother died in 2000, and I miss her, particularly on this day. Remembering her strong values, I found a piece from our parish newsletter today that I'm sure she would have enjoyed reading. I have no idea who wrote it.

The picture, by the way, shows the Fairlea Five. Read about them here.

From the perspective of Mothers...

In mid-May every year a day is dedicated to mothering. It has come to be known as Mother's Day. No doubt there are people who have ambivalent feelings about Mother's Day.

Women who live alone, women who have never married, women whose families are grown up and away from home, women who have outlived other members of their families and many of their friends, women who long to have children but are unable, refugee women who have been violated and the children they continue to nurture, women who make decisions alone in positions of leadership, in the workplace and the family, women who have lost their partner in marriage, women who have lost children. We are also mindful of mothers, women who have recently lost their husbands in war and torture.

The 1870 war in Europe made little sense to Julia Ward Howe. She wrote: 'why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone know and bear the cost?' 'Let women on this day leave the duties of hearth and home to set out in the work of peace'. Thus began here annual organisation of mothers' peace day festivals.

Anna Jarvis has also been credited with founding Mother's Day. She was inspired by her mother who organized mothers' workday clubs in the 1850's that provided medicine for the poor, milk for children, nursing care for the sick and shelters for children with tuberculosis. Anna's mother [Anna Reeves Jarvis] became a genuine peacemaker after the US Civil War. She organized mothers' friendship days to bring families together where the wounds and animosities of war between families from both sides were deep and harsh. Two years after her mother's death, in 1907, Anna Jarvis organized the first mother's day so as not to forget her mother's work of peacemaking and her struggles against poverty.

Whoever originally established mother's day, the central concerns were to gain voting rights for women; promote peace amongst the nations of the world; alleviate poverty; and stop the abuse of children. So, from the outset, it was a day, not simply to remember one's own mother, but to find in the experience of such active, courageous women as Anna Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe lessons for us all.

However, though Mother's Day was initially observed by women gathering to mourn the war dead and to devise strategies for peace, Julia Ward Howe's idea did not take hold, and she struggled for the next 30 years to have Mother's Day abolished when male politicians espoused a new version of the day where a more traditional view of mother was enshrined. In 1914 President Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day.

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