Women Rising: It’s Time
from LIFE archives

Women Rising: It’s Time

What We Don’t Know About Mother’s Day and Other Holidays Perpetuates Ignorance.

Haven’t we all heard that ignorance of the past condemns us to repeat our mistakes?

What would life be like if we embraced all of our sacred and secular holidays as if they applied to every day? How would that elevate our awareness? How would we behave if our reverence for the core principles of caring and kindness were our constant companions in every precious moment? I’ve often wondered how I would act if I could keep love in my heart and embody full acceptance of whatever was naturally arising in the present, with no lingering doubts from past conditioning or fear of the future.

Wishful thinking? Too much to ask? Let’s take a journey for the next few minutes together and ponder the possibilities.

The origin of things has always intrigued me. For instance, I find etymology, the study of the original intention of words, absolutely fascinating. When we understand where someone or something comes from, our awareness is profoundly enhanced. Here, I want to explore the original purpose of an event, a celebration, a special remembrance—Mother’s Day.

So to start…Surprise! Hallmark Cards didn’t invent Mother’s Day and neither did FTD. Certainly don’t tell the 27,000 marketing, recruiting and PR personnel at the Pentagon that the originators of Mother’s Day was a group of women who rose up in protest the brutalities of war. They were tired of sending their sons to die.

These women started “Mother’s Friendship Day” in 1868. It is to this celebration that our modern Mother’s Day can be traced back. “Mother’s Friendship Day” was organized in West Virginia by Ann Reeves Jarvis, a woman rising up to protest the carnage of the Civil War by bringing together mothers of dead Union and Confederate soldiers. On that day, the Northern and Southern mothers came together and mourned the loss of their precious children.

(For those women who are serious about contributing to the end of WAR, here’s an empowering tale that comes from ancient Greece—Lysistrata. Aristophane’s greatest comic drama first performed in 411 B.C. Athens provides an intriguing insight into the power of women to change old patterns of behavior. Also worth noting—the Greeks and Pagans honored the goddess and the divine feminine by expressing gratitude for the might of women).

After Ann’s death, her daughter Anna (who never became a mother) advocated for a national holiday called Mother’s Day, and Woodrow Wilson signed it into law in 1914 after a great deal of opposition and ridicule, including those from Colorado’s democratic Senator Henry Teller, who scorned the resolution as “absolutely absurd”.

Woodrow Wilson, who supported the signing of Mother's Day as National Holiday, with daughters and wife

Woodrow Wilson with his wife and daughters, 1912

The real irony and absurdity emerged as Mother’s Day became overtly commercialized; by 1920 Anna began to have second thoughts and fought to have the holiday abolished. In 2014 domestic spending on flowers, cards, gifts and restaurants reached nearly $20 billion.
But let us not let the true meaning of the holiday be buried by consumerism—the meaning which rings clearly in Julia Ward Howe’s “Mother’s Day Proclamation” of 1870. It emphasizes the importance of anti-war activism that Ann Jarvis originally wanted women to embrace.

An excerpt reads:
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! 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.

The proclamation resonates with the recent march on Washington by mothers who have lost their sons to street violence and police killings of young men.

This brings me to one more thing on my mind today—it’s the unintended and unconscious consequences of chaos in the streets. Don’t get me wrong, as a passionate protestor from the Vietnam War era, I’m all for healthy civil disobedience and public displays of one’s concern for the direction of our society. I applaud those who are thoughtfully and compassionately working for systemic change. However, the destruction of property and the abandonment of civil discourse have serious side effects.

For instance, it disrupts empowering community projects. A year ago, I promised a friend that I would write an Elephant Journal article about a really cool event, a Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership. The name she gave it was “IT’S TIME 2015″.
She worked diligently for years designing and planning this event and chose May 1-3 in Baltimore. Little did she know that chaos and violence would erupt on the very weekend she chose to convene her visionary project. She eventually had to cancel the event. I didn’t manage my promise well and didn’t manage to publish a supportive narrative. Because I know Betsy will regroup, stay tuned and watch for version 2.0 to emerge.

Betsy McKinney, who planned It's Time 2015, also dubbed as Seneca Falls 2.0

Betsy MicKinney

As something to ponder, did any of my faithful readers see girls or women looting and rioting in the streets of Baltimore or any number of other cities where senselessly violent demonstrations have flared? Just sayin’, IT’s TIME for men to rethink our actions and our behaviors. Enough already. Aren’t we sick of war and violence? Haven’t we had enough? It’s time to honor the women, the mothers, and the nurturing, peaceful feminine essence that we all know in our hearts and minds to be possible for all of us to express and foster.

As is my practice, I’ll share a music video to bring all this home to your heart and to the hearts of mothers everywhere. May the winds of change carry this message around the world.

Onward with Courage,

Bud Wilson

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