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In the United States, Mother’s Day was originally suggested by poet and abolitionist activist Julia Ward Howe. In 1870, after witnessing the carnage of the American Civil War and the start of the Franco-Prussian War, she wrote the original Mother’s Day Proclamation calling upon the women of the world to unite for peace. This “Mother’s Day Proclamation” would plant the seed for what would eventually become a national holiday.
After writing the proclamation, Howe had it translated into many languages and spent the next two years of her life distributing it and speaking to women leaders all over the world for this cause. In her book Reminiscences, Howe wrote, “Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?” Her activity on this proclamation initiated annual “Mother’s Day” gatherings in Boston, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
In 1907, thirty-seven years after the proclamation was written, women’s rights activist Anna Jarvis began campaigning for the establishment of a nationally observed Mother’s Day holiday. Her mother, an Appalachian homemaker, had worked to develop better sanitary conditions for both sides in the Civil War, and to
reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors after the war. Jarvis sought to honor her mother’s work and vision, and in 1914, four years after Howe’s death, President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day as a national holiday on the second Sunday of May.
This Mother’s Day, the North Carolina Council of Churches encourages you to honor mothers past and present by reading Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation aloud in your congregation. We also encourage you to support mothers and families in Iraq that have been displaced as refugees by making a designated gift to your denominational mission or relief agency, if active in Iraq or Jordan.