rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Reclaiming Mother's Day as a day to oppose war and injustice

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Anti-war protesters during one of the first Mother's Days in history. Image: bravenewfoundation/Video Screenshot/YouTube

Mother's Day is this Sunday, May 10.

What is sometimes forgotten at this time of the year is that Mother's Day has its roots in the feminist struggle against militarism and war.

Slate reports, "The women who originally celebrated Mother's Day conceived of it as an occasion to use their status as mothers to protest injustice and war ... In 1870, after witnessing the bloody Civil War, Julia Ward Howe -- a Boston pacifist, poet, and suffragist who wrote the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' -- proclaimed a special day for mothers to oppose war."

Her original proclamation for the day states, "From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, 'Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.' Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession."

National Geographic adds, Howe "promoted a Mothers' Peace Day beginning in 1872. For Howe and other antiwar activists ... Mother's Day was a way to promote global unity after the horrors of the American Civil War and Europe's Franco-Prussian War."

And Jacobin magazine's Branko Marcetic notes, "At its 1874 anniversary, participants sang songs and read papers, including one calling for the abolition of standing armies and war armaments and the creation of a system for universal peace arbitration."

While Mother's Day was recognized officially in the United States in 1914, the message behind the day appears to have been largely lost by 1917.

Time reports, "When the United States joined World War I in 1917, and the war propaganda machine revved up, the burst of patriotism came with a renewed appreciation for mothers. Women were hailed both for raising the soldiers who were on the front lines and for the work they were doing on the home front, such as running fundraisers for the Red Cross. Mother's Day was a way to thank these women for their service."

Over the past 100 years, the day has become increasingly commercialized and sentimentalized. It has been estimated that Canadians spend about $492 million on flowers, cards and gifts for Mother's Day each year. Imagine if even a fraction of that was spent on challenging patriarchy, militarism, weapons and war.

This Mother's Day, let us work to reclaim the radical origins of the day, challenge war and militarism, and strive to deepen our understanding of the intersectionality between feminism, social justice, care for Mother Earth and peace.

Brent Patterson is the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. This article originally appeared on the PBI-Canada website. Follow @PBIcanada @CBrentPatterson on Twitter.

Image: bravenewfoundation/Video Screenshot/YouTube

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.