Written in collaboration by Canadian Voice of Women for Peace & Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Canada
“From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.”
-Julia Ward Howe, American author and peace activist, 1819-1910
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe led the first movement in North America towards establishing a Mothers’ Peace Day, a day to call for disarmament, the end of war and the protection of life. Over a century and a half later, Mothers’ Day has changed course– narrowing in its focus on a limited idea of what it means to be a mother, rather than the day’s great capacity to encourage peace building.
Of course, Mothers’ Day holds different meanings for people, as relationships bring a variety of complexities with them. Motherhood is complex, and beyond any particular biology, body, or identity. The role of motherhood itself usually goes unrecognized and unpaid. Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) recognize the strength in diversity found within the variety of international roles of motherhood, the right for all work to be paid, and call for all of us to create space for connection and the inclusion of everyone’s unique experiences and efforts.
Motherhood is associated with the practice of care, creation, nurturing, love, empathy, protection, and hard work. These values of motherhood are the same ones required to create a culture of peace.
A culture of peace is vital to a healthy society and a sustainable planet. Building this culture is a continuous process that requires everyone’s efforts at the interpersonal, community, national and international levels. At VOW and WILPF, we, as mothers and others, honour the values of motherhood by striving to transform our current culture of harm, violence, militarism and war to one of peace, care, and justice through the practices of cooperation, disarmament and non-violence.
We also honour our Mother Earth. We do this by calling for the protection of the land, air and water and for action on the climate emergency. We support the Indigenous mothers of colonized lands in their fight against militarism, and violence against Indigenous peoples– recognizing the loss of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirited peoples. We stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples on truth and reconciliation, the need for land back and clean water, and in their undertaking as land defenders, waterkeepers, opposition to pipe lines, and building cooperative societies.
“We have no replacement planet. We have only this one. We have to take action.”
-Berta Cáceres, Lenca Water Defender, Honduran Environmental Activist, Indigenous Leader
We know that earth connects us all and is our shared home. Intergenerational dialogue–engaging in conversations with our grandmother and mother figures, children and friends– is a key action we can take towards peace. These conversations allow us to learn from one another, promote knowledge sharing and greater understanding between us, and foster significant relationships with each other and with nature.
This Mothers’ Day, we encourage you to reflect on how you can build a culture of peace in your home, community and world. How can we reclaim Julia Ward Howe’s message of nonviolence and disarmament? How can our celebrations of our mothers’ acknowledge their leadership and expand to become more inclusive to protect others and the environment? How can we amplify the motherhood ethic of care, using our power (e.g., our energy, time, funds, and attention), to make change and engage with purpose on this and every day?
Let our appreciation and love extend to all beings on earth and power our actions in achieving justice and building peace.
“Peace is not the absence of war—peace is the absence of fear and the presence of justice.”
– Ursula Franklin, Canadian scientist, feminist and pacifist, 1921-2016