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The Courage of Mothers
May | 2014


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Courageous Leadership

The Courage of Mothers

It started off as it often does by a mother. This mother, wanted peace more than war and freedom for all who lived during her era. She was one of the first who recognized the power of motherhood and suggested that a national day of recognition for mothers could help her cause. And so did the others who followed her.

It was Julia Ward Howe, a Bostonian who first came up with the formal idea of a "Mother's Day Proclamation".

Howe, who was the author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", was a fierce social reformer, poet, author and journalist. In 1870 after founding a weekly journal dedicated to women's suffrage, she asked women to join together to work for peace and to establish Mother's Day to be celebrated on June 2nd. Her "Mothers Day Proclamation" that was written in reaction to the Civil War was based on the idea that women could do more to shape political outcomes of the nation.

During that same time period, Ann Jarvis a mother in West Virginia formed the Mother's Day Work Clubs as a way of improving sanitation condition in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. When the Civil War came to West Virginia (which had split from Virginia to stay loyal to the Union), Jarvis urged her members to declare neutrality so that they could provide aid and comfort to both union and confederate soldiers who were stationed in the area.

After the War her efforts were recognized as she was called

upon to help the healing process. She held a "Mothers Friendship Day" which brought together veterans from both sides of the conflict to sing songs and to put the scars of the war behind them. Ann Jarvis also recognized the power of motherhood and in 1876 led a prayer service asking for a day to be set aside which honored mothers for their strength and love.

It would take over 40 years for Ann Jarvis's prayer to be answered. Following her death in 1905, her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis held a church service in Grafton, WV memorializing her mother and honoring all mothers. She marked that day as the first official observance of Mother's Day. She soon started a national writing campaign to local papers, politicians, and business leaders pointing out that national holidays were biased towards male achievements and that a special day for honoring motherhood was the right thing to do. She formed an international organization to promote the idea and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the law that established the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

Anna Jarvis's original idea was for Mother's Day to be a day of personal time between children and their mothers. Each family member would wear a carnation as a way of honoring that connection. It was not long, however when the commercialization of Mother's Day took off with flowers, cards and other industries looking to cash in. Anna Jarvis despised how her mother's idea had morphed into a race for profits. She launched lawsuits

against groups that used the name "Mother's Day" trying to stop them from making money from the holiday. By the time of her death in 1948 she had disowned the holiday and even lobbied the government to repeal the day as a national day of recognition.

Ann Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe wanted to use the strength of motherhood as a way of promoting peace and good will. Their vision, as finally enacted by Anna Jarvis, changed Mother's Day from an idea of activism to a day of ease and loving for moms. Perhaps, however, their idea has not faltered at all. As you visit your mom this Sunday take time to talk to her about her views of the world. What does she think should be done about the kidnapped girls of Nigeria? What are her ideas about improving the state of healthcare in our country? How does she feel about her favorite baseball team? The founders of Mother's Day knew above all that there is a lot of wisdom in mother's minds. Make sure you mine it this weekend.

And don't forget that hug.

 

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TED Talks

Yossi Vardi is an Israeli entrepreneur, community builder and humorist. His hilarious Ted Talk on safe blogging will get you rethinking about how you write those important posts and will help insure the future of the species.

 

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