Sheltering-in-place has cancelled our annual events but given us lots of time to be thoughtful and write:
Mothers Day 2020
We are on an epic journey affecting all habits, all people, all countries, and all economies as we endure a viral pandemic. As in the 1870s after the U.S. Civil War, when women were concerned with preventing international warfare, today we are concerned as to the causes of war: inequalities, consumerism, and inattention to the common good.
In this sixth year, Mothers and Others For Peace (MOFP) honors Mothers Day History Day, the Saturday before Mothers Day, proclaimed in 2016 by state Senator Don Harmon in the Illinois General Assembly. Sen. Harmon gifted every legislator with a copy of the Julia Ward Howe Proclamation to All Women to Protest War.
To me, Mothers Day will always mean Mothers Day History Day and Julia Ward Howe’s call to women to protest war. Consumerism and impulsiveness contradict Abraham Lincoln’s “better angels of us all.” We can learn how to spend wisely with the common good of all humanity and the earth as our guide.
Mary Rose Lambke
A New New Deal
Usually at this time of year I work with Mothers and Others For Peace, figuring out new ways we can spread the word about Mothers Day’s peaceful origins. Over the last few years we have hosted a lecture on women’s activism, a rally with speakers in Mills Park, and flower-making, peace book discussions and displays at the Oak Park Public Library. Each year we hope to nudge the focus of Mothers Day away from excessive consumerism toward a day to act to bring peace into our lives.
But this year as we shelter in place, our events are on hold. Can we use this screeching halt in our routines — this time that writer Arundhati Roy calls “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next” — to be thoughtful about what might truly benefit mothers (and others) on Mothers Day. Because this year we need a lot more than chocolate and flowers.
Is there any doubt our safety nets in the U.S. have collapsed? Rev. William Barber said, “Pandemics spread through the fissures of our society caused by inequality.” We have only to look at the growing numbers of unemployed, the long lines at food pantries, the disparity in deaths from the virus along lines of race to see those fissures becoming wider and more evident.
What I want for Mothers Day is a New New Deal.
I want a president with vision and compassion like FDR, whose public works programs kept millions of families from starving (including my dad’s family). I want a savvy woman like Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, whose relentless efforts pushed through the sweeping social programs that still protect working people today: the 40-hour work week, Social Security, workers compensation, unemployment compensation, to name just a few (Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams, I am channeling you).
Isn’t it time we insist that our taxes take care of us instead of being spent on corporations, militarism and disregard for the planet? Hasn’t the pandemic taught us how essential universal health care is, now that millions of the unemployed have lost their insurance? Don’t we need a Green New Deal to put people to work and ensure our children can continue to live on this planet? Wouldn’t good affordable child care, extended family leave time, paid sick days and a livable minimum wage help all caretakers?
Let’s reclaim Mothers Day by committing to work for change that brings peace to our lives. Read — see the list of titles on peace compiled by the Oak Park Public Library at oppl.org/peace-titles. Join the League of Women Voters (who sponsor many of our events) and speak out on the issues that are important to you. Vote. Help rebuild a nation that cares for all of its people.
Diane Scott is a former Oak Parker and member of Mothers and Others For Peace https://www.facebook.com/MothersAndOthersForPeace.
Feeding the seeds of peace
In May 2018, I viewed the exhibit “Back to Our Roots” at the Oak Park Public Library. This exhibit was sponsored by the group Mothers and Others For Peace with support of the League of Women Voters of OP-RF. It told the story of how Mothers Day began with Julia Ward Howe’s Mothers Day Proclamation of 1870, which called on women of the world to unite for peace.
The exhibit posed a striking question: “What can you do to feed the seeds of peace?” More than 200 visitors posted multicolored sticky notes with comments ranging from the personal to the communal: “Listen with an open heart,” “Love and forgive each other,” “Work with and support groups that promote justice for all,” “Take care of the environment so the world can be healthy,” “Vote for leaders who work for peace,” and “Each do what one can do where you are with your gifts.”
I was so impressed with the exhibit, I joined the group. Their mission of making peace spoke to me. Our celebration of Mothers Day for Peace at the library is stalled because of COVID-19. The question asked in 2018 is even more relevant today and so I ask, “What can you do to feed the seeds of peace?”
Models for peacemaking
I was welcomed into a group called Mothers and Others For Peace a few years ago. The founder was inspired by Julia Ward Howe, who created Mothers Day as a day for women to advocate the end of warfare and to promote peace. This original, now alternative way to celebrate the holiday has been with me all along, a chrysalis of inspiration to shape Mothers Day differently this year.
I will begin by celebrating the women who have emerged as leaders in promoting cooperation and healing — the female mayors of our towns, the women scientists who grasp the community implications of their data, the female leaders of countries like Germany and New Zealand who combine clarity, competent preparation and caring communication to inspire trust in their leadership.
I will celebrate our original Mother, Earth or Gaia, who is re-emerging in our conscious awareness as clear skies, fish swimming in the canals of Venice, wild birds returning to a healthier more nourishing environment after years of absence. I celebrate the blooming of the Feminine archetype we see in fathers returning home to nurture and educate their children, and leaders of all genders who are sharing their feelings more openly.
We see it in the creativity of groups forming online to offer music, drama, and art to soothe our souls. We see it in the growing recognition of all the women who are, and always have been, essential: health-care providers, teachers, food-service workers, factory workers, child-care workers, and volunteers who make masks at home for anyone who needs them.