War and bloodshed have always been the ugliest part of human history. Since mankind came into existence, numerous wars have been fought for various reasons. The Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, two of the deadliest battles of the modern era, had resulted in unmitigated horror and unimaginable bloodbath, and remain as two of the bloodiest events in the history of human race.
Of the millions of people the wars affected directly or indirectly was Julia Ward Howe, an American social activist. Deeply disturbed at the aftermath of the aforementioned wars, Howe tried to issue a manifesto for peace at international peace conferences in London and Paris in 1870. Inspired by the British observance of Mother's Day, Julia Ward Howe made an impassioned "appeal to womanhood" to rise against war while the Franco-Prussian War was still going on. To make her views public, she composed in 1870 a powerful plea to all women, especially the mothers of the world, to unite and put an end to the war. She translated it into several languages and distributed it widely. This is generally considered to be the original Mothers' Day proclamation.
Mothers' Day Proclamation Julia Ward Howe, Boston, 1870
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!
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 been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
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."
Blood does not wipe our 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 and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, 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.
Julia Ward Howe Boston 1870