How many of us have spent the run-up to Mother’s Day debating whether to choose the fattening chocolate, or maybe just a card, or the flowers that will die versus the plant that will live? And feeling uneasy, somehow knowing we are being “sold” something, we still give in to the guilt and consumer pressure, because we all have our mother issues!
I was surprised to learn that when poet and social activist Julia Ward Howe, sickened by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, wrote the official Mother’s Day proclamation in 1870, she called on the women of the world to unite for peace. Her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” planted the seed for what would eventually become a national holiday.
When we at Brave New Foundation contemplated those stirring words–largely forgotten in today’s consumer culture–it became clear that the time was right to put together a piece highlighting Julia Ward Howe’s original Mother’s Day proclamation–and inspire people to do something really meaningful on Mother’s Day to promote peace and heal the victims of war.
Once we got started, the project came together quickly. Reaching out to some of the wonderful activists in Los Angeles, women who could bring the stirring proclamation to life, we were extremely fortunate to have mothers–Vanessa Williams, Felicity Huffman, Christine Lahti, Alfre Woodward, author Fatma Saleh and Ashraf Salimian–who agreed to donate their time and talents to give voice to Julia Ward Howe’s stirring words. Gloria Steinem, who happened to be visiting our offices recently to brainstorm about ways to use the short-form video, added historical perspective about Julia Ward Howe and the pacifist roots of Mother’s Day.
It was important to us, in making this video, to provide a concrete and creative action for our audience, so we went in search of an organization that was doing work with victims of the Iraq War. With the help of our partner organization Code Pink, we found No More Victims.
This nonprofit, nonsectarian humanitarian group’s Mother’s Day for Peace campaign encourages people to send e-cards to their mothers with contributions to help heal victims of the Iraq War, like Salee, a 10-year-old Iraqi girl. Last November she lost her brother and both her legs just outside her home in Hasswa. Donations to No More Victims would help send Salee to Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, to receive six months of surgery and prosthetics services. We incorporated their appeal in our Mother’s Day message.
I am also happy to report that as we were rushing to finish the film, one of the first people to see the rough cut was Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel. She gave us the official seal of approval, and now, in honor and respect for the real Mother’s Day, we bring you a twenty-first-century video reading of Julia Ward Howe’s immortal words and invite you on this day to be mindful of the love that binds the women and children of the world, to do something really meaningful for peace.