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.” ~Julia Ward Howe, 1870
From her Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace
I wasn’t actually aware of the origins of our Mothers Day celebration, until I was preparing for a Mother’s Day Rally that I was invited to speak at, hosted by Nova Climate. What became clear to me, is the many synergies and connections between the origins of mother’s day and the growing parent climate movement of today.
Here’s a bit of what I learned. Following the mother day 1870 proclamation by Julia Ward and her call to action, it would be more than 40 years until Mother’s day became an official national day of recognition in the US. The holiday was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, at the urging of Anna Jarvis the daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Both Julia Ward Howe and Anne Reeves Jarvis, are credited with being the inspirations for this national day of recognition for Mothers. These two women – mothers and activists – through the clarity of motherhood and their unwavering love for their children, created a strong and powerful vision of a safe, healthy and secure future for their children – born out of chaos around them. They acted with an urgency of NOW because of the immediate and upcoming dangers facing their children – at that time this was the double threats of the civil war and the revolutionary war. They recognized the importance of peace as necessary to ensure a safe and secure future for their children and for the children of mothers with different beliefs, on the other side of the conflicts at hand.
Fast forward to now, 2021. I see many similar sentiments as it relates to our climate crisis, expressed by mothers across our country in both Blue and Red states, and around the world in the global south and the global north. Mothers and fathers are calling for climate reality, climate clarity and climate action that will bring about peace and the chance for a livable future for all our children. As parents, with our eyes wide open to the realities of the climate crisis, while we see and feel the impacts of the damages we also see and feel the tangible opportunities that active hope through climate action can bring for our children and for us.
This is intergenerational in scope, it isn’t something we can, nor should try to do alone, nor is it something we can thrust on the shoulders of our children. To paraphrase Julie Ward Howe and her mother’s day proclamation: We mothers – in one country, in one region, in one state – must join with mothers across the aisle and across the ocean to protect our children and to secure a safe and hopeful future and now for them. We cannot have true and lasting world peace at the same time as living a climate emergency. As mothers we know that around our own country and around the world, many mothers don’t’ feel safe or secure right now. They and their families live on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, in the shadow of power plants and in the harsh path of climate impacts. We are seeing this play out not only from our climate emergency but with the COVID global pandemic. As we tentatively come out of lockdown in the US, we know mothers across the world are worried and reeling as they and their children still face the hardships and sickness that COVID brings. So, I ask you to give thought to this, and discuss these inequities with your children today on Mothers Day and also to find time regularly to do this as well. We must call for justice for all and remind our children to do so too. Environmental racism, vaccine inequity, climate injustice, these all go hand in hand. And for many of us, it is our children who keep reminding us of the intersectionality of it all.
On a final note, we want to bring attention to NOVA Climate’s call for a redefinition of Mothers Day that becomes, in this year and all future years, a day that honors not only our loving, dedicated, and ever-resourceful mamas but also our bountiful Mother Earth. In support and along side of this call to action, I want to share a wonderful global Mother’s Day action I am proud to be a part of. This is something you and your families can easily join in on too. In my work with ClimateMama I have the pleasure of being an advisor to the global climate parent coalition, Our Kids Climate. Over the past few months, leading into Mother’s Day, we have come together globally through art activism and a campaign called #ourothermother. Illustrators, children, poets, eco-preneurs, mamas and papas are creating art and sharing their heart visions using the hastag #Ourothermother. This global action is to remind our leaders and ourselves that Our Other Mother provides for all of us brilliantly, but like many other mamas, she’s seriously exhausted. With Global climate talks, COP26, scheduled for this November, we want to show our leaders how much we love and care for our planet. So, with the children in your life, I invite you to join this global campaign, this mothers day and share your #ourothermother far and wide; share it with us so we too can share it – share it with your family, your neighbors, your friends.
Your Climate Mama, Harriet
Bouquet illustration by Anita Bagdi