Women Leaders Rediscover Mother's
by Faiza Elmasry
It was President Woodrow Wilson who declared
in 1914 that the second Sunday in May each year would from then
on be observed as Mother's Day. But the idea of honoring mothers
actually got its start in the mid 1800s, when activists first
envisioned Mother's Day as a way to promote peace. With so much
conflict in the world today, a group of women peace activists
is trying to return to those roots, honoring mothers worldwide
with a globe-spanning gift of peace.
Flowers and dinner invitations are the
most common gifts mothers usually receive from their sons and
daughters on Mother's Day. But a new campaign suggests another
way to honor our moms.
This year, instead of giving your mother
chocolates or some other gifts, make a donation in her honor to
support these modern-day mothers who work to build peace all around
the world," Naila Bolus says. Bolus is Executive Director
of the Ploughshares Fund, a private foundation that funds peace
efforts worldwide. Bolus' group has launched a campaign called
Rediscover Mother's Day, to which Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan
has signed on as Honorary Chair, to educate people about the original
spirit behind Mother's Day observances.
"The history of Mother's Day is not
very well known," she says."It was actually conceived
of as a day to inspire people to work for peace. It was founded
by a woman named Julia Ward Howe. She was very moved by the devastation
she saw during both the Civil War in the United States and also
the Franco Prussian war. This goes back to the 1870s."
Bolus recalls that Howe wrote a Mother's
Day proclamation, and called on women around the world to dedicate
themselves to promoting peace in their local communities. "She
called for a Mother's Day for Peace," she says. "It
was now 1872, and women in a number of cities around the U.S.
actually held Mother's Day for Peace gatherings. She called for
this day to be the second Sunday of June. Over time it sort of
evolved into the Mother's Day that we celebrate today. But over
time, I think, that original meaning was lost."
Bolus' foundation created a web site to
honor modern mothers who are working for the cause of peace.
One woman, Susan Granada, is working on
the ground in Sri Lanka, where there is a 30-year old civil war
going on. Bolus says, "Susan is a member of a non-violent
peace force. She is working on things like identifying child soldiers
and reuniting them back with their families. She's been working
on monitoring elections to make sure that elections are free and
fair in Sri Lanka. She has been trying to facilitate talks between
the Tamil Tigers and the government of Sri Lanka."
Bolus says Granada keeps in touch with
her own kids in the Philippines everyday to share her experiences
Bolus cites Suzanne diMaggio as another
mother working for peace, with the United Nations Association
in New York. "She has focused her career on working to develop
and strengthen relations between the United States and Iran."
DiMaggio says she's been focusing her
efforts over the past three years on bringing peace to the Middle
East, stabilizing the situation in Iraq and stopping the spread
of nuclear weapons.
"It was a very ambitious goal, given
the fact that the United States and Iran do not have any official
diplomatic relation," she says. "What we're doing is
bringing together non-governmental players to discuss these issues
at the civil society level. So most of our participants include
professors at universities, leaders of non-governmental organizations,
analysts and scholars. We get together and try to learn from each
other, what each society is thinking about the other, what are
the concerns, what are the potential areas of cooperation."
Another mother featured on the Rediscover
Mother's Day web site is Jacqueline Shire of the Institute for
Science and International Security. "We seek to educate the
public and policy makers about the dangers of nuclear proliferation,
alert them to places where this is happening," she says.
"We also seek to promote a non-military alternative to preventing
proliferation of, in particular, nuclear technology and expertise."
Organizers of the Rediscover Mother's
Day Campaign say these mothers and many others who are working
to prevent war are inspired by their dream of creating a different
world, a more peaceful world they believe their children and grandchildren
deserve to inherit.
Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day
Proclamation - 1870
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
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
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 voice 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 our 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.