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Gun Violence – A Women's Issue

Archival copy of Julia Ward Howe's Appeal to Womanhood, now known as Mother's Day ProclamationFrom 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.

"At my brother's grave." Self-portrait at military cemetery.
“At my brother’s grave.” Self-portrait at military cemetery.

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.

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  1. Dear Nancy! I have long felt that it will be up to the women of this world to bring peace about if it is ever going to happen. A first step of course, would be to come together for a common and pressing cause like gun control in the U.S. We simply cannot leave it any longer to the men in our country to make this happen. I hope and pray that we can put aside our differences in all other issues and address this together. Thank you for this post and at least attempting to rally us together. Meanwhile, I’m continuing my tiny steps in the same direction with posting on FB and Twitter words that keep the gun control issue front-and-center for that time period. I’m calling it #notgivinguponguncontrol and invite any and all women to join me with that as well as anything else they feel appropriate. Let’s do this!~Kathy

    1. I know the butterfly effect is real. “It’s a Beautiful Life,” is my favorite movie. And we do do make a difference, very much so. Yes, let’s do it!

  2. Thank you Nancy. What a great quote, and it demonstrates so beautifully that there are passions and sentiments that remain timelessly relevant.
    Yes, I truly believe that violence is a woman’s issue, in the sense that we feel and comprehend its impact in ways that many men don’t … even if they can.
    Please keep me in mind in your future endeavors. I’m Canadian, but I believe that what impacts one country impacts all. We are global, this race called human. 🙂

    1. Everything is a woman’s issue as we bring every single human into the world. Thanks Tracy, for encouraging me. Sometimes I wonder, but I keep on keeping on.

    1. Thanks Kim. Sometimes we just have to put it out in the world to stop the incessant playback in our brains. Turns out we often feel the same as others.

    1. I sometimes want to slip into the alternate universe where we never allowed the men to take over governance.

  3. You know I am 100% with you on this. I have not stopped posting on Facebook, Tweeting to our elected officials, signing petitions and calling Congress. I do believe it’s going to be women who finally have a positive effect on this issue – and it’s why I’m voting for Hillary. She is the only one ready to stand up to the NRA.

    1. She had better carry through and stand up to gun manufacturers lobby. We have to keep speaking out!

  4. It is without a doubt going to be women who find a way to stop the violence in the world but before that can happen we have to find away to stop, not talking to one another because we disagree on one or a few points. I am stunned at how cruel women can be to women of opposing views. This is a horrible example to our daughters and granddaughters. If we would just focus on what we have in common and appreciate our differences the problems could be solved much faster.
    I am on the side of enforcing the gun laws we already have (but closing gun show loopholes,) disarming the young people who carry illegal weapons and greatly increasing the jail time of those carrying or using illegal weapons to commit crimes and throw away the key on anyone who purchases a gun for someone who cannot purchase their own.
    I must carry because most of the 15-year-olds in my area have guns. It gets worse everyday. I feel like I live on the edge of a war zone. When there is a law that will disarm them I’m on board. A 3-year-old was shot the other day by a stray bullet while he played with Legos on his kitchen floor.

    1. I know many people who carry. I have to walk out of restaurants here in Tucson when I see macho idiots not only open carry but open display (as in ethology) their weaponry in over the top conspicuous manners in ice cream shops, and grocery stores. I am for registration and regulation which would not impact you but would decrease the idiots who drive by and kill kids. We do have to work on common ground! We just have to keep working to make things better. Don’t give up.

  5. This is chilling: “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.”
    I lean toward being apolitical online as politics are so divisive, so often hatefully expressed, hurts my heart. This, though, hurts my heart more. It requires action and who can better proceed than women? I look forward to learning about your efforts and how I might be able to be bold and take action.
    Thank you for this!

    1. Lisa, I understand about apolitical online presences. I just know that with all the women who read posts a consistent womanly take on the issue, beyond politics, can make a difference.

  6. Hurrah! Please keep us posted on your decision. Women must decide what action to take against the horrors inflicted on us by those who mistrust anyone who believe in something other than what they believe. Then they do harm on them. No more!
    We must accept each other as we are, and teach those around us to do the same. Good for you, Nancy, for writing this splendid piece. Your dialogue adds to the great discussion of stronger gun laws, less violence and more understanding.

    1. Thank you Cathy! I’m currently thinking about something along the lines of “I’m a gun sense & safety writer.” In the meanwhile I am posting once a day, at least, on Facebook/Twitter with the hashtag Kathy Gottberg is promoting use of the hashtag #notgivinguponguncontrol for the next month. I’m doing that while I think about what I can do.

  7. I try not to get too involved in discussions about gun control because I have such strong and yes, unyielding feelings about the issue. However, I am putting my words into action. We must do whatever it takes to stop the incessant murder of innocent people.

    1. Yes Helene, we have to stop the insane slaughter. Every flap of butterfly wings shifts the climate somewhere.

  8. This is such a huge issue that you face in America – so much death in a time of peace. I’m not sure how you will turn it around but I truly hope someone’s voice (combined with the voices of others) can start the process soon.

  9. Thank you Nancy,
    My work and post graduate study in Ayurveda and meditation is all about building peace from inside out of a person’s soul from birth. I was there at Chopra University to re-initiate the global meditation movement. Three hours meditating reaching half a million people, now reaching a million and more with Oprah involved.. I have also been invited to partner with powerful women’s peace movements in India as a result.
    It is a mindset from birth that has to shift deep inside the cells. Ancient war is still in our DNA. It is heartbreaking how many talented souls gifted to our world are leaving because our world is lead by insane decisions, greed and emotions.. I have also met evil head on, the back and forth on whether evil is real or not continues.
    Love to our Mother Earth and Women Everywhere, Jilly

    1. Jilly, It all stems from our connection to our inner wisdom doesn’t it? Finding, expanding, and connecting the sacred feminine within us all can help and heal. Blessings.

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