Battle Hymn of the Pacifist Mom

Professor Cynthia Wachtell on Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation

Cynthia Wachtell
Dr. Cynthia Wachtell

Last week, I received an email message from the Ploughshares Fund, a nuclear disarmament advocacy foundation, asking, “What does Mother’s Day Mean to You?” Suspecting that the correct answer was something other than a dozen roses and a box of chocolates, I read on:

Over the years, we’ve lost the original meaning of Mother’s Day to Hallmark-style commercialism. …Mother’s Day originally grew out of abolitionist Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in the wake of the Civil War, calling for a day for women to promote peace and disarmament.

As it happens, I was already familiar with Julia Ward Howe’s “Mother’s Day Proclamation.”

In 1870 Howe drafted the forceful pacifist manifesto—also known as her “Appeal to Womanhood throughout the World”—in which she called upon women worldwide to protest war and demand universal disarmament. “The sword of murder is not the balance of justice,” she declared.

Howe wanted women to join together for a day to advocate for peace. Read full article at The Huffington Post

Cynthia Wachtell is an assistant professor of American literature and director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Yeshiva University. She is the author of War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914 (Louisiana State University Press, 2010).

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