History Bytes: Julia Ward Howe’s Vision for Mother’s Day

May 10, 2019

Many of us know that Julia Ward Howe, a social activist who advocated for abolitionism and women’s suffrage, authored The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Perhaps few know that she also authored a proclamation titled the Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World urging women to unite for peace in response to the horrors of the American Civil War and other conflicts around the world. In 1872 she advocated unsuccessfully for a “Mother’s Day for Peace” to be celebrated annually in June. The American Mother’s Day celebrated today was born 36 years later and bears little resemblance to Howe’s vision for a mother’s day – a day where “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

Julia Ward Howe and her family summered at Oak Glen on Union Street in Portsmouth, and a portrait from her later years can be seen at our Museum of Newport History in the historic Brick Market.

Image: Julia Ward How in 1903. NHS, P34.