Today I celebrate Mothers as Activists.
Mother’s Day is an official holiday in the United States of America since 1914. Yet its origin was a call for activism to all the grieving mothers in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, which claimed over 750,000 lives in grey and blue uniforms. Julia Ward Howe, in 1870, raised her voice with this proclamation:
“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears! … 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.”
This call to action, like many made by women in the 19th century, was ignored.
Today, I look forward to having fun with my daughter and maybe getting a sweet treat or flowers. Many people post a picture of their mother on social media to honor her memory. But today let us also honor the mothers that did not passively surrender to accept the status quo.
Let us honor Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or MADD, who channeled their outrage and grief into action, by insisting that convicted drunk drivers be held accountable for their actions. They changed legal and social customs around drinking. They raised awareness about safe drinking so that it is now common for a “designated driver” to be determined in a social group, and bartenders are empowered to stop the incapacitated drinker from getting behind the wheel of a car.
This activism of mothers coming together when they see a situation that imperils their offspring is not just in the U.S., but worldwide. Here are just a few:
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo is a group of Argentine mothers who have been protesting and advocating for justice for their children who were “disappeared” during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) is a women-led grassroots movement in Zimbabwe that is fighting for human rights and social justice.
Milk Moms is a group of lactating mothers in India who are advocating for the rights of breastfeeding mothers and their children. The group provides support to mothers who face discrimination and harassment while breastfeeding in public and campaigns for better policies and facilities to support breastfeeding.
And in the USA, Moms Demand Action against gun violence is a grassroots organization expressing a mother’s love for all children and protecting them from getting killed in, of all places, schools, a previously unthinkable venue for murder. They advocate for stronger gun control laws and their voices raised have grown into a powerful political force.
Today we celebrate all mothers– and all of us with a beating heart are mothers because it takes a village to raise any child. The child may be down the block, in your apartment building, or across the ocean. We are all mothers of our global community.
Today, I salute the activists that have unified, and raised their voices to make the world a better place. Happy Mother’s Day.