From Julia Ward Howe’s September 1870 “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world.“
These words were written as a women’s response to war. This Appeal is now often referred to as The Mother’s Day Proclamation. The gun violence of today tallies deaths comparable to those of war.
“But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.
Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of 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 been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”
I have been thinking about the words of Julia Ward Howe as I try to take in the horrific carnage loosed on Orlando, Florida this past Sunday and determine what response I will have to yet another assault on the children of Mother America. My reaction is one of numb grief. I’ve been oscillating between tears and confusion.
I do not know what to do. The quandary is that I only have my words. I have been a politically active person throughout my life. But as I built this site and began to create a map of how impactful the loosening of cultural restraints on the flow of women’s information has been and how much more feminine impact we can have by amplifying certain messages, I steered clear of political speech as much as possible.
I realize now that it is silly for me to attempt to be apolitical. I will keep this site non-partisan, but being a woman in and of itself is a political act. Our foremother’s words and actions shifted the political climate. Ours do too.
Julia Ward Howe, the woman who penned the words, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…” must have struggled with the concepts and contradictions of violence and peace. To have written, by request to replace coarse lyrics, what are considered some of the greatest inspirational lyrics to a Battle Hymn, a marching song for soldiers, and then, less than ten years later to write, “Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause,” in a call to women to come together and determine how to create a world where such carnage as that of the Civil War would not happen.
There were multiple branches of action within the women’s movement 150 years ago. WLP does not align with any one interpretation of waves or starting and stopping of groups focused on specific issues within women’s movements. Suffragist, Non-violent, Womanist, Liberal, and Cultural interpretations have all played roles in changing the situations in which women find themselves. Groups supporting votes for women and supporting peace and freedom overlapped significantly.
We have similar conundrums today. The vast majority of women do not want the children of their families and communities to die due to violence, nor do most women want children to grow up to kill.
The Civil War killed 620,000 soldiers. At the current rate of 89 gun deaths a day in the US, it now takes us a little less than 20 years to match the number of Civil War soldier deaths. But when we look at civilians killed in the Civil war we find that at least 50,000 civilians were killed in the war. So it takes just a bit under two years for U.S. civilian gun deaths to match the number of civilian deaths due to the Civil War.
Violence is a woman’s issue. The legacy of contemporary women will speak to violence in our society. How it speaks, and what will be said, is still being decided.
WLP is considering several different options to encourage women to engage in and maintain action toward building a non-violent world. Because we are located in the U.S. our actions will be skewed toward U.S. concerns, but women all over the world are welcome and encouraged to participate in our efforts.