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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

This morning, I was a guest (along with Atty Barbara Arwine & Dr. Mariko Chang) on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” weekly radio show on every Sunday Morning from 8-10 EST.  This morning’s show explored the real meaning of MOTHER’S DAY, as well as the state of mothers today.  Rev. Jackson explored the question of “What should the agenda be for Mother’s Day today?”

Like many holidays, such as Christmas and Easter which began as a way of trying to remember and commemorate Christ’s birth and death, they have now become so commercialized that many have forgotten the real meaning of these special religious holidays.  Rather than worshiping Christ on Christmas and Easter, most of us have grown up thinking of them as times with Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny rather than He who died for us.

In the same way, we have forgotten the original meaning of Mother’s Day and why it’s origins in the United States began with a desire to fight against social injustice and war.

In 1870, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe established “MOTHER’S DAY for PEACE”.  Howe was a prominent abolitionist, social activist and the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” which quickly became one of the most popular songs the Civil War.

After the war she paid attention to the causes of pacifism and women’s suffrage.  In 1870 she wrote Mother’s Day Proclamation which was a “Mother’s Day for Peace”, inviting women around the world to join for world’s peace. Then in 1872, she asked that “Mother’s Day” be celebrated on the 2nd of June but her efforts were not successful.

In 1908, Anna Jarvis celebrated Mother’s Day and campaigned to make it an official holiday. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday on May 9, 1914 to promote peace by means of honoring mothers who had lost or were at risk of losing their sons to war.   Carnations came to represent Mother’s Day since Anna Jarvis delivered 500 of them at the first celebration in 1908 and many religious services held later adopted the custom of giving away carnations.

Only nine years after the first national Mother’s Day celebration, it became a577298_3950558061673_692177603_n

commercialized holiday.  Anna Jarvis became a major opponent of what the holiday had become, and saw it an abuse of the celebration. She was even arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

Today, Mother’s Day is so commercialized and traditions of making homemade gifts has been replaced by trips to the Mall. Holiday cards, flowers and gifts are on the rise and we feel that we need to buy into this commercialization of Mother’s Day to replace simply honoring Mom.

The panel of women guests on Rev. Jesse Jackson’s radio show discussed what we need to do today to bring back the spirit of the original intent of Mother’s Day.

We affirmed the need to work for pay equality, child care support, transportation and education to be accessible for all women.  Mothers today are multitasking and trying to accomplish too much without necessary support needed to raise good children and support a family.  We need to recognize that it takes a village to raise a child and that everyone needs to be involved to raise a healthy, spiritual and loving child.

Rescue work at the site of a garment factory building

Rescue work at the site of a garment factory building that collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka. Photograph: Ismail Ferdous/AP

So many women are suffering around the world.  The recent tragedy of the garment factory in Bangladesh which collapsed and killed around 1127 workers illustrates the magnitude of social injustice around the world due to globalization of production and the selfish desire for cheap clothes and merchandise by the wealthy.  This is just one modern method of enslaving women. All the older methods are still around.

We need to promote justice of all women.  Women’s issues are racial issues, social issues and economic issues.  These are three issues which cannot be separated.

Today, as we honor our mothers, let us remember that it is a day to work for the equality and justice of all women which in turn will build an equal and just society for all.

[read also: Joshua Lee: Happy Mother’s DayEaster Morning, & After Newtown]


blog1Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary. She is the author of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).