By Elizabeth Barger

As we celebrate Mother’s Day to honor the most important person in our lives, let us not forget the history behind its origin in our country.

In the years after the Civil War, a young Appalachian mother named Anna Jarvis worked to heal both the physical and emotional wounds of families on both sides, calling for a Mother’s Work Day to improve living conditions for all and build reconciliation between neighbors.

Inspired by the work of Anna Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe, author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” took up the cause. When the Franco American War began in 1870, Howe used her fame to send a call to women of all nations to recognize their common humanity, seek peaceful resolutions to conflicts and take a firm stance against any and all wars. She issued a proclamation calling for a Congress of Women, stating, “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.’”

Across the years, Julia Ward Howe’s words speak as true today as they did then. The conflict in the Middle East has affected us in more ways than we may be aware. For example, Tennessee has lost the use of billions of tax dollars — an amount calculated from a percent of taxes removed from the state to pay for the occupation in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the funding of conflicts in the Middle East. All of our cities and counties have thinner budgets because of the cost of this war. That means everything from health care to education gets less attention and less money.

Yet even more tragic is the loss of precious Tennessee soldiers and the terrible reality of the wounded in body and soul who come home to the lack of proper medical and psychological care. And, the loss of lives and resources for millions of innocent civilians caught in the conflict must rouse our compassion and calls for peace.

Six years ago, a group of Tennessee women, led by founders of PeaceRoots Alliance and More Than Warmth, came together with middle Tennessee women to honor Julia Ward Howe, and remember that Mother’s Day began as a call for our children’s future and a call for peace.

This Mother's Day at Dragon Park in Nashville, Code Pink, and the Nashville Peace Coalition will bring mothers and their children together with church and civic groups, and a growing number of families to oppose violence and work for peace.

"In 2009, may we reach farther into our hearts and souls to help others,” says Judith Biondo Meeker, the founder of More Than Warmth and one of the original organizers of an event in Nashville. Because Barak Obama has said, “sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved," we feel, as mothers, we can reach Michelle Obama, who has shown the world compassion and intelligence of humane citizenship, who may then influence her husband toward peaceful policies.

In Nashville we will carry a banner that says, “We will raise our children to be kind to every mother’s child.”

Honoring our mothers is a good thing. Honoring the strength and fortitude of mothers who demand peace and stand for the protection of all children and families is the true meaning of Mother’s Day.
Barger is a recipient of the 2009 TAP Lifetime Achievement Long Haul Award and long time advocate for peace and freedom.
Copyright (C) 2000 by the Tennessee Editorial Forum. 5/09