Howe, a writer, poet, playwright, abolitionist and feminist, was sickened by the horrible bloodshed during the American Civil War and by the Franco-Prussian War that devastated Europe in the 1870's.
In 1870, she issued a Mother's Day Proclamation urging women of all nations to call for an end to war as a means of settling national differences:
"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that 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.'"
Beginning in 1872, Howe initiated a Mothers' Peace Day, "dedicated to the advocacy of peace doctrines," to be observed on the second Sunday in June. An invitation to the event said it was a day "to speak, sing and pray for those things that make for peace." Mothers' Peace Day was celebrated by Howe's friends and followers each year until her death in 1910.
But if you think about it, a day calling for peace is much more in line with the true meaning of motherhood. Who suffers more in times of war than the mothers who are called on to sacrifice their children?
The greatest tribute we can give to the mothers of the world is to do everything in our power to work for just and lasting peace.