May 2011 Ritual: A Poem for Mother’s Day

By Julia Ward Howe

“The little document which I drew up in the heat of my enthusiasms implored woman, all the world over, to awake to the knowledge of the sacred right vested in them as mothers to protect
the human life which costs them so many pangs.”


Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
whether your baptism be that of water or of fears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions
decided by irrelevant agencies,
“Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage,
for caresses and applause.
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.
“We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the 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 out dishonor
nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let 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 the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,
And each bearing after her own time the sacred impress,
not of Caesar, but of God.

from Julia Ward Howe, Reminiscences, 1819-1899
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899.