Virtuous mothers

Although honoring mothers may have originated in time immemorial, with the custom of mother worship existing among ancient cultures and primal religions, the history of Mother’s Day in the United States goes back to the early 1870s.

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), the American pacifist who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” first conceived the idea of a Mother’s Day celebration. Howe was the director of the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, the founder of the first American women ministers’ group, an abolitionist and a peace activist.

In 1870, five years after the American Civil War, a senseless conflict broke out in Europe, the Franco-Prussian War. Howe wrote a manifesto against that war and had it translated into five languages. She went to peace conferences in Paris and London, yet because she was a woman, they would not permit her to speak. So she rented a hall, advertised and delivered a speech for peace to her own audience. Her efforts resulted in little success.

Howe returned to America with a new idea — Mother’s Day. Linking motherhood, mother earth, womanhood and peace, she asserted that the unconditional love mothers hold for their children invests them with a natural and deep interest in preventing bloodshed.

Howe reasoned that fathers send their sons to war; mothers remain at home to grieve. Who could better symbolize the need for peace than a soldier’s mother? Mother’s Day would serve as a reminder that the world would be a better place if only everyone rose to the challenge of motherhood — nurturing life, fostering peace and giving love. 

In 1908, Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia took up the cause and set aside the second Sunday in May to pay tribute to her late mother and honor all mothers. The idea caught on and spread to many cities across the United States. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

A poster advertising the annual Mother’s Day parade in Pennsylvania in 1915

There are many kinds of mothers — natural mothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers… Sad to say, there are also unappreciated, neglected and even abused mothers.

Whoever they are and whatever their lot in life is, these women know their sublime calling as mothers and rightly deserve our love, affection and appreciation. Honor and praise should be given to them for their matchless love and their irreproachable faith. They have a love that does not grow cold, does not betray and is not depleted. 

Their “love is patient, kind…is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Cor. 13:4-7).

There is a word for that kind of ultimate love — altruism. What is altruism? The dictionary definition is “selfless devotion to the welfare of others.”

Altruism is a description of God’s love. Isaiah quotes God as asking, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:15, 16).

Egotism includes the instinct for survival; altruism is an acquired trait. Altruism is more than conscience; it is the one basic fundamental Christian characteristic. Altruism is giving with no ulterior motive. When we give, we do not and cannot expect anything in return.

True motherhood is a total commitment to love. Virtuous mothers express their love through their sacrificial acts, giving up their sleeping patterns and disdaining personal care, pleasures and desires. Their hearts beat in harmony with and for their children. Self-sacrifice and self-denial are characteristics of such a love. Virtuous mothers give graciously and magnanimously on the altar of love and, with their lifestyles, inspire their children.

Their children, in turn, “Arise and call them blessed.”

Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian

Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian

Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian is the Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council.
Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian

Latest posts by Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian (see all)

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.