As a mom, it’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. On May 8, mothers may receive cards, flowers, breakfasts in bed and restaurant dinners. These are all lovely things, of course. No one is complaining.
But the origins of Mother’s Day are darker and far more complex. In 1870 Boston — on the first modern Mother’s Day — mothers marched for peace. This was shortly after the American Civil War, and in the midst of decades of bloody fights on the American frontier, against the Comanches, Paiwan, Navaho, Lakota, Sioux, Shoshone and others.
Organizer Julia Ward Howe delivered a Mother’s Day Proclamation, stating: “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.”
Later, she calls on mothers to: “Take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God . . . [And to] promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”
More than a century after Howe’s declaration, UC Davis professor Ruth Rosen wrote: “Honor Mother with Rallies in the Streets. The holiday began in activism; it needs rescuing from commercialism and platitudes.”
Indeed, the bonds of motherhood should run deeper; we all face the same terrors, some closer and some further. In that spirit — and without rejecting brunch at the same time — here are five grittier ways to celebrate Mother’s Day in 2016.
1. Mothers for peace
At issue: Sons, daughters, husbands and mothers being maimed or killed in the Syrian Civil War and actions against ISIL, by Boko Haram, in the Iraqi Civil War, the Mexican Drug War and elsewhere. Plus, new threats from nuclear proliferation.
The gift: Support Another Mother and Grandmothers for Peace International.
2. Mothers for the environment
At issue: Global climate change is crushing human mothers’ ability to feed and educate their own children, causing chaos for some animal mothers while threatening future climate wars.
The gift: Support Mothers Out Front and WWF-Canada (the adopt-a-species Mother’s Day campaign includes a cute stuffed animal mom and cub).
3. Mothers for prosperity
At issue: About one in five families with kids in Canada live below the poverty line — many of them led by single mothers. Globally, poverty is associated with vulnerability to hunger, sex trafficking, disease and more.
The gift: Support Canada without Poverty; Grassroots Women (in Vancouver) and Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.
4. Mothers for maternal health
At issue: Each day, about 830 women die from pregnancy-related causes — most of them preventable, and nearly all in developing countries. That’s just over 300,000 women per year. Deaths have been reduced by 43 percent globally since 1990, however.
The gift: Support Care Canada and Canadian Red Cross.
5. Mothers for childcare
At issue: More than half of young Canadian children spend time in formal childcare due to the rise in dual-income families, yet it’s perilously expensive and quality childcare often has long wait lists, especially in cities (This, of course, is the most controversial item on this list, as many families choose non-daycare solutions to the dilemma of caring for children in modern households.).
The gift: Support Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada’s Rethink Childcare Campaign.
Get The Observer’s latest stories on justice, faith and ethics by signing up for our e-newsletter. It only takes a few seconds to join and we’ll deliver award-winning content to your in-box.