Mothering Sunday, or the potentially more problematic concept of Mother’s Day, can be a difficult day for women who have a sense of loss associated with not being a mother. This might be a bit controversial but the way I see it is Mother’s Day makes it about the fact of being a Mother, Mothering Sunday is more about the act of mothering. Mothering meaning caring for people in the way a mother does, and it doesn’t mean you have to be a mother to do this!
We, as women, create new, awesome things in any number of forms – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. We all have invaluable gifts of love, generosity, strength, passion and general awesomeness that we bring to the world. We all have value and are all worthy of love.
this year seems an especially important one to remember the radical history of Mother’s Day, and its ties to community care and justice.
Origins of Mothering Sunday
Originating in the 16th Century, Mothering Sunday has traditionally been celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent in the UK and Ireland. It was originally a day when people would make a journey to their ‘mother’ church. The services that took place symbolised the coming together of families. Another tradition was to allow those working in the fields on wealthy farms and estates to have the day off to visit their mothers and possibly go to church too, reuniting families.
Mother’s Day – from radical beginnings
Anna Jarvis, from West Virginia, first introduced the concept of Mother’s Day in the early 1900s. Her own mother had been an activist and community leader who cared for wounded soldiers during the US Civil war. Jarvis fought for a national holiday to recognise all mothers after her own mother died in 1905. By 1914, Mother’s Day was recognised by President Woodrow Wilson and it became a national holiday. Jarvis became opposed to the mass commercialisation of the special day, it was not what she had intended it to become.
The radical beginnings of Mother’s Day go back even further. In 1870, the suffragette poet, Julia Ward Howe wrote the ‘Mother’s Day Proclamation’, a rallying cry against war and state violence. Her ‘Mother’s Day For Peace’ would be celebrated every year on June 2nd, and was first organised in opposition to the Civil War and Franco-Prussian War in solidarity with working mothers across borders.
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience,” Howe wrote, “We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
It seems an especially poignant today to remember the radical history of Mother’s Day, and its ties to community care and justice. Howe’s quote rings true what with the tragic murder of Sarah Everard in the week and in the shadow of yesterday’s vigil on Clapham Common. It seems there is still much learning of charity, mercy and patience that needs to take place. Communities are places of mothering and educating. Sadly a light has been shone on just how much mothering is needed in all of our communities and our nation as a whole.
Shine your wonderful light
To my amazing sisters and friends, with or without children you are loved. Continue to mother in the way you support and guide everyone whose lives you touch.
Be your awesome self, shine your light and continue to brighten up the world in your wonderfully unique way. It may feel like you’re not shining very brightly, but collectively we make an incredible light show.
Each of us contributes on a daily basis to to the care and compassion that’s felt in our communities. So today, I celebrate all women and the bold radical steps we take every day to enable all of us to be seen and heard.