Mother’s Day began as a call to action to improve the lives of families through health and peace.
During the Civil War a young Appalachian homemaker, Ann Jarvis, organized women to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides of the war through what she called Mother’s Work Days. In the postwar years, she organized Mother’s Friendship Day events as pacifist strategies to unite former foes.
Julia Ward Howe, who is known for writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was influenced by the work of Ann Jarvis. Distressed by her experience of the realities of war, Julia Ward Howe called for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She urged women to come together across national lines and to commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts.
Julia Ward Howe was unsuccessful in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace. However, the daughter of Ann Jarvis continued the work of these two women by establishing a Mother’s Day to honor mothers, living and dead.
Let us remember those two mothers, and so many more, who loved and served not only their own families, but also individuals and families affected by war.
“… [L]et 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 then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace …” Julia Ward Howe, 1870
The Peace Alliance
West Virginia University