UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Five ways to celebrate Mother’s Day beyond cards and flowers

By Pieta Woolley

As a mom, it’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. On May 8, mothers may receive cards, flowers, breakfasts in bed and restaurant dinners. These are all lovely things, of course. No one is complaining.

But the origins of Mother’s Day are darker and far more complex. In 1870 Boston — on the first modern Mother’s Day — mothers marched for peace. This was shortly after the American Civil War, and in the midst of decades of bloody fights on the American frontier, against the Comanches, Paiwan, Navaho, Lakota, Sioux, Shoshone and others.

Organizer Julia Ward Howe delivered a Mother’s Day Proclamation, stating: “Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”

Later, she calls on mothers to: “Take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God . . .  [And to] promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

More than a century after Howe’s declaration, UC Davis professor Ruth Rosen wrote: “Honor Mother with Rallies in the Streets. The holiday began in activism; it needs rescuing from commercialism and platitudes.”

Indeed, the bonds of motherhood should run deeper; we all face the same terrors, some closer and some further. In that spirit — and without rejecting brunch at the same time — here are five grittier ways to celebrate Mother’s Day in 2016.

1. Mothers for peace

At issue: Sons, daughters, husbands and mothers being maimed or killed in the Syrian Civil War and actions against ISIL, by Boko Haram, in the Iraqi Civil War, the Mexican Drug War and elsewhere. Plus, new threats from nuclear proliferation.

The gift: Support Another Mother and Grandmothers for Peace International.

2. Mothers for the environment

At issue: Global climate change is crushing human mothers’ ability to feed and educate their own children, causing chaos for some animal mothers while threatening future climate wars.

The gift: Support Mothers Out Front and WWF-Canada (the adopt-a-species Mother’s Day campaign includes a cute stuffed animal mom and cub).

3. Mothers for prosperity

At issue: About one in five families with kids in Canada live below the poverty line — many of them led by single mothers. Globally, poverty is associated with vulnerability to hunger, sex trafficking, disease and more.

The gift: Support Canada without Poverty; Grassroots Women (in Vancouver) and Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign.

4. Mothers for maternal health

At issue: Each day, about 830 women die from pregnancy-related causes — most of them preventable, and nearly all in developing countries. That’s just over 300,000 women per year. Deaths have been reduced by 43 percent globally since 1990, however.

The gift: Support Care Canada and Canadian Red Cross.

5. Mothers for childcare

At issue: More than half of young Canadian children spend time in formal childcare due to the rise in dual-income families, yet it’s perilously expensive and quality childcare often has long wait lists, especially in cities (This, of course, is the most controversial item on this list, as many families choose non-daycare solutions to the dilemma of caring for children in modern households.).

The gift: Support Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada’s Rethink Childcare Campaign.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

Outrage is the new normal

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


October 2017

Fall from grace

by Justin Dallaire

Don Hume was a United Church minister nearing retirement. Then he tried crack cocaine.


September 2017


by Jane Dawson

Restless longing is at the core of the human condition, urging us onward through life. What happens when it veers off course?


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Promotional Image