Mothers’ Day/Mother’s Day

Ah, the apostrophe! Where would we be without it?

In my never ending quest to blog about holidays, I found Mothers’ Day (with the apostrophe after the “s” ) to be much more to my liking. It’s a communal thing: you know, collective action versus taking your mother out to brunch with free flowing mimosas and signing your name to a Hallmark card.

As with most things, there’s some great background here, background that those marking Mother’s Day eating out and shopping tend to forget. This first little bit is minimally edited from a website on West Virginia culture:

It started with Ann Marie Jarvis who organized a series of Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in West Virginia to improve health and sanitary conditions. Among other services, the clubs raised money for medicine, hired women to work for families in which the mothers suffered from tuberculosis, and inspected bottled milk and food. In 1860, local doctors supported the formation of clubs in other towns.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad made a county in West Virginia a strategic site during the Civil War. Ann Jarvis urged the Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to declare their neutrality and provide relief to both Union and Confederate soldiers. The clubs treated the wounded and regularly fed and clothed soldiers stationed in the area. Jarvis also managed to preserve an element of peace in a community being torn apart by political differences. During the war, she worked tirelessly despite the personal tragedy of losing four of her children to disease. In all, eight of her twelve children died before reaching adulthood.

But, that’s not all. Julia Ward Howell, of Battle Hymn of the Republic fame, as well as an advocate for suffrage and a pacifist also envision Mothers’ Day as an “s” apostrophe holiday. In fact, she wrote a poetic proclamation:

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 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 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 out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough 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 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.

How the holiday morphed from one promoting the great and general interests of peace to one promoting (unfairly traded) floral bouquets and canned sentiment is far beyond the scope of this blog, and perhaps my somewhat rusty research skills. But, with that said, Happy Mothers’ Day to all!

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Filed under mother's day, peace

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