The Civil War made a wreckage of America’s young men. When it was over, not only had 600,000 been killed, but vastly larger numbers had been physically and psychologically ruined.
One of the people at the time who recognized the insanity of war and the corruption that led to it was the very woman who wrote the Union’s marching song. Julia Ward Howe wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” not as a war song, but as an abolitionist song. She was not unhappy to see a war start that most thought would be over quickly, and, for abolitionists, would take care of the slavery issue. But as it wore on, she began to see it for what it really was. By the time it was over, she had become a pacifist. And then she saw it play out again five years later in the Franco-Prussian war that killed over 100,000 — again with uncountable maimed soldiers strewn about their countries’ futures.
So in 1870 she wrote a proclamation (below) calling on women to put a stop to the carnage. I knew about the origins of Mother’s Day as a pacifist effort, but I hadn’t seen the actual proclamation until today. I’ve attached a PDF which would make a good handout to leave around town where mothers might find it.
Retired Minnesota doctor/activist Gary Kohls has written a good piece on the background of that proclamation, soon to be at
In it, he also includes General William Tecumseh Sherman’s full quote on the hell of war, for the benefit of all the politicians and “journalists” who promote war and have never personally experienced combat:
“I confess without shame that I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have never heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is Hell.”
A riveting companion piece is Mark Twain’s “War Prayer”
And to top off a peace-ful Mother’s Day, there is Lysistrata of Athens:
————————————————————————- Julia Ward Howe’s 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation
“Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or 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 taught them of charity, mercy and patience.
“We women of one country will be too tender of those of another 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 does 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 solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar but of God.
“In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions and the great and general interests of peace.”
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