Mother’s Day has its origins as a peace holiday, so it’s appropriate that this year’s How Weird Street Faire occurs on Mother’s Day. The 13th annual How Weird Street Faire takes place on Sunday May 13, 2012 in downtown San Francisco. The faire is a celebration of peace, bringing a diverse collection of people together to find similarities and overcome differences. The How Weird Street Faire is a project of the World Peace Through Technology Organization.
The history of Mother’s Day is also rooted in peace. In 1858, Ann Jarvis, a young mother from West Virginia, started organizing Mother’s Work Days. These were initially focused on improving sanitary conditions. After the Civil War, they focused on reconciling former enemies of the Union and Confederacy, and honoring mothers who had lost family in the war.
Inspired by the work of Ann Jarvis, and the traditional British day of Mothering Sunday, social activist Julia Ward Howe championed the cause of a national day for mothers, to unite women against war. Jarvis was popular at the time as the author of the words to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. She was horrified by the death and suffering of war, especially the recent Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. In 1870, she wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation as a call for peace and disarmament. By 1873, women in 18 cities across America celebrated Mother’s Day for Peace. While Julia Ward Howe failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace, she sowed the seeds of a national day for mothers.
When Ann Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter Anna Jarvis took over the task of creating a memorial day for mothers. The first Mother’s Day service was celebrated on May 10, 1908 at the Grafton, West Virginia church where Anna’s mother had taught Sunday School. The holiday was intended to be a sacred day. It quickly caught on and spread throughout the country. In 1912, West Virginia became the first state to make it an official holiday. And then on May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.
Unfortunately, the holiday was soon coopted by commercialization. Anna Jarvis was devastated, and spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the sacred celebration. She stated at one point that she “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control.” Well, now it’s time to take back Mother’s Day for peace.
From the words of Julis Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation:
“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.”
In honor of all mothers, and all those affected by war, we gather in peace.
(from the first Mothers Day for Peace)