Tomorrow will be Mother’s Day 2012. And most of us go through the motions of celebrating without having any idea about the day’s original intent.
Mother’s Day can be traced back to Julia Ward Howe.
In her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870, Howe called on her “sisters” to work to establish peace so that her son could return home from war:
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. Blood not wipe out dishonor, nor 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 & 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 Caesars 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, the great and general interests of peace.
Christy Turlington Burns is a global maternal health advocate, founder of Every Mother Counts, and the director/producer of the 2010 documentary “No Woman, No Cry.”
Christy proposes for this year’s Mother’s Day: A “No Mothers Day.” Her “proclamation” encourages mothers to join in solidarity to “disappear” for the day, out of solidarity with those who needlessly die in pregnancy and childbirth. She believes that in acting together, mothers can show just how much a mother is missed when she is gone.
Christy asks that we — mothers and everyone else — reignite the spirit of common purpose that Julia Ward Howe sought to inflame in Americans, and direct it toward a silent wartime that is taking hundreds of thousands of women’s lives each year — childbirth.
About 360,000 girls and women die worldwide each year from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications according to estimates made by the World Health Organisation. And sadly, nearly all of these deaths are preventable.
They are preventable if we extend very basic, known and trusted services: If we help women get to health care facilities in their time of need; if we ensure that a skilled professional is available to oversee their labor and delivery; if we provide access to family planning so that children are spaced. These goals are all within our reach, but only if we decide that women’s lives are worth saving.
While rates of maternal mortality are often highest in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, in several of those countries we are beginning to see declines.
Two years ago, in her quest to raise awareness and support for maternal and child health care, Christy made a documentary film, “No Woman, No Cry,” and founded an advocacy and mobilization campaign called Every Mother Counts.
Every Mother Counts measures success by the actions taken to reduce maternal mortality and improve maternal health. The goal is 5 million actions by 2015 — perhaps signing a pledge, running a 5K or even a marathon or donating an old cell phone so it can be used to facilitate communication and medical care in rural areas. Their website, everymothercounts.org, suggests specific actions to take, many of them straightforward steps that help spread the word or raise resources for simple solutions. Individually they may seem small but together, they can save lives.
You can join Christy at http://www.facebook.com/everymothercounts.