The Radical Roots of Mother's Day

By Rachel Walden

Long before Mother’s Day was celebrated with brunches and flower bouquets, Unitarian Julia Ward Howe wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation to urge women across the world to join the cause of peacebuilding. Her words held a radical call to create peace that still resonates today:

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!"

Following her proclamation, Howe began advocating the creation of a “Mother’s Day for Peace” to be held on June 2 each year. The initiative lasted about 25 years. Afterward, Methodist Anna Jarvis campaigned to have a national Mother’s Day holiday to honor the important role of mothers. By 1917, Mother’s Day was a national holiday. Over time, Jarvis came to lament the commercialization of the holiday. Today, Unitarian Universalists join Strong Families’ Mamas Day campaign to shift away from the commercialized version of Mother’s Day.

Mama's Day graphic of family reading.

By adopting a “mamas” framework, Strong Families makes visible the diverse kinds of families that exist today. They create beautifully rendered e-cards to honor all kinds of mamas and provide an alternative to the Mother’s Day cards typically found in the greeting card aisle.

Unitarian Universalists identify with Strong Families’ expanded frame of motherhood as we welcome and support all families in our congregations and spiritual communities.

Strong Families takes this a step further by helping people advocate for laws that protect and help families thrive. This is a cause worthy of Julia Ward Howe’s radical vision of Mother’s Day.

You can participate in your own radically-rooted Mother’s Day this year. Here are some ways to get started:

Julia Ward Howe was a Unitarian trailblazer who called for world peace, women's equality, and abolition during her lifetime.

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Strong Families offers beautifully rendered e-cards to share with all of the mamas in our lives.

Send an e-Card

Strong Families: We Are Typical American Families

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