Urgent Message from Mother
By Jean Shinoda Bolen
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Excerpted with permission from Urgent
Message From Mother: Gather The Women, Save The World by
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. Copyright © 2005 by Jean Shinoda
Bolen. M.D.. Published by Conari Press, September 2005.
Message From Mother, click
The original Mother's Day proclamation, written by Julia Ward
Howe in 1870, was not a commercial idea created to sell cards,
flowers, or candy. It was a proposal to bring women of all nationalities
together to bring peace to humanity. Howe had seen the horrors,
devastation and the aftermath of the American Civil War and saw
war rise again, this time in Europe with the Franco-Prussian War.
This first Mother's Day proclamation
was a call to gather the women. It was directed to women to add
their voice to "the
voice of a devastated Earth" and called for women to take
counsel with each other to find the means to bring peace to the
world. The sentiments in the proclamation express what women the
world over have felt since wars began. Now, at the beginning of
the 21st Century, it may be truly possible to bring this intention
to fruition. Since the second half of the 20th Century, there has
been a significant shift in the status and influence of women in
the world, as well as an urgent necessity to find a means to end
the threat of war, with nuclear weapons poised for use. Matthew
Arnold predicted in the 19th Century: "If ever there comes
a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply
for the benefit of (hu)mankind, it will be a force such as the
world has never seen." Empowered maternal concern is an untapped
feminine force that the world needs to balance and transform aggression.
The groundwork for women coming together to be such a force was
done by the women's movement women in the nineteen sixties and
seventies who opened doors that the baby boomer generation came
through in great numbers. In a matter of decades, women had opportunities
and positions in the world that women never had before. The second
element that would make this possible is the communication technology
that developed over these same years, so that information and images
are now almost instantly sent all over the world. Women can meet,
discuss ideas, and make plans through emails, arrange for translations,
have conference calls, and forward news to all their friends with
a key stroke. The third element is the emergence into consciousness
collectively that it is up to women to change the world.
The original Mother's Day proclamation was an expression of the
concern that women can have for each other's children, the importance
of expressing grief and sorrow, and then getting on with finding
ways to bring about peace.
Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who
have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great
questions decided by irrelevant agencies. 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.
We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated earth
a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is
not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for
a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly 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.
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that
a general congress of women without limit of nationality may
be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and
at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote
the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of
- Julia Ward Howe, Boston 1870
One hundred and thirty-five years later,
on Dec. 26, 2004. Amalia Avila González, mother of Marine Lance
Cpl. Victor González , flew more than 19 hours from San Francisco
to Amman, Jordan. Victor González, 19, was killed in combat in
Iraq, barely a month after he'd arrived. During eight days in
Jordan she met Iraqi refugees, including mothers like her who
had lost a son or a relative in the war. The delegates from Global
Exchange and Code Pink, the two groups that organized the trip
traveled with translators, but González said she understood what
they felt because of their common bond as mothers. 'They cried."
Motherhood, Mother Archetype
The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious
and Spiritual Leaders in Geneva, which I attended in 2002, was
an historic first meeting of several hundred delegates. This
was an unprecedented international meeting at the beginning of
the 21st Century, sponsored by the United Nations that recognized
the untapped potential of women spiritual and religious leaders
as a necessary force for peace. At this conference, the Gandhi-King
Peace Award (previously given Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, and
Jane Goodall) was given to Amma, who is best known in the west
as the hugging guru. In her acceptance speech, this spiritual
leader from India said: "With
the power of motherhood within her, a woman can influence the entire
world. The love of awakened motherhood is a love and compassion
felt not only toward one's own children, but towards all people,
animals and plants, rocks and rivers--a love extended to all beings."
Amma's definition of motherhood was archetypal
and eloquent: "It
is not restricted to women who have given birth; it is a principle
inherent in both women and men. It is an attitude of the mind.
It is love--and that love is the very breath of life."
Mother archetype, maternal concern, and
Amma's description of "motherhood" are
interchangeable. Until maternal concern has a strong voice--that
is heeded--on matters of peace and security, the agenda for the
world will not change: it is about control and acquisition of power,
which are the basic patriarchal goals. The specific items on the
agenda change, but the motivation remains. Power-oriented leaders
determine what matters, men follow, women obey the men and tend
to household and children. Patriarchy considers this the natural
order and war an effective or necessary means to gain control.
Different Perspectives on War: Gender Differences
Six months after the Women's Global Peace
Initiative in Geneva, the president of the United States decided
that the danger that Saddam Hussein posed was sufficient to necessitate
invasion of Iraq. When the invasion began, there were journalists
embedded with the military and television crews on the ground.
There were maps with arrows marking the unimpeded progress of
the invasion which had been code-named "Operation Shock and Awe." As
a generality (by this I mean that what I am saying applies to most
men and most women, but definitely not to all), there was a decided
gender gap in response to the invasion, even among women who believed
that it was necessary.
I think it would be fair to say that men were impressed, interested
in seeing and hearing about the equipment and the strategy. In
bars, large screen televisions were turned on as they normally
are to football. The experience was, in fact, very much analogous
to watching a sport. The arrows marking troop movements were like
those that are used to demonstrate successful plays: who carried
the ball, who ran interference, how many yards were gained. That
our team is bigger and stronger and has a decided advantage is
all the more reason to cheer, as our team moves ahead and scores.
Only war is not a game, even when it is on screen.
Most women were also following what was happening on TV during
the first days of the invasion, more with concern than admiration.
For mothers, an 18 to 24 year old son or daughter is not much more
than a kid. It was easy to imagine one's own in harm's way. It
was also easy to think that innocent people were going to be hurt.
When the nighttime sky was illuminated by bomb blasts, it crossed
our minds how hard it must be to live there and how terrified the
children would be.
The weekend of the invasion coincided with a Millionth Circle
gathering in the Bay Area. I had several friends staying with me
who had come for the meeting. We watched television together and
were appalled that this was happening. The only lightness came
from appreciative comments we made about David Bloom, our favorite
embedded journalist. In just a matter of weeks, I learned that
he had died. Within the year, what we older mothers dreaded came
to pass, every day there were photographs of young people killed
in Iraq with their names, rank, age and hometowns. Unmentioned
were the six or ten others wounded, many horribly so, for every
soldier who was killed, and the silent damage that will surface
as traumatic stress disorders when the troops come home. Unnewsworthy
were the numbers of casualties in the civilian population.
There are gender differences. Psychologist
Simon Baron-Cohen says that the essential difference is that
women are natural empathizers, while men are better at systemizing.
Most women who were tested, agreed with statements such as "I get upset if I see people
suffering on news programs," or "It upsets me to see
an animal in pain." or "Friends usually talk to me about
their problems," or "I can usually appreciate the other
person's point of view, even if I don't agree with it." Men
who are tested usually do not agree that this is so for them.
When the agenda for the world is determined by men, it means
that decisions and actions that affect the planet, its people and
all life upon the Earth are made by the gender that most likely
does not know or care about what others are feeling, experiencing
or suffering. Until women are really involved in what goes on in
the world, essential information and crucial concerns are not brought
to the table.
What if it were up to mothers to make the decision to go to war?
This was so for the Iroquois Confederacy, the people who are also
called the Seneca Nations and who still maintain their sovereignty
in the northeast United States. The elected Council of Clan Mothers
were grandmothers, women whose own children were grown and who
were beyond their childbearing years, They determined the priorities
for the confederacy, including whether to go to war. If war was
decided, the conduct of the war including electing the war chief,
would then go to the Men's Council, whose members had been nominated
by the Council of Clan Mothers. Deliberations were not made in
haste. The experience of the past seven generations and the effect
upon seven generations to come is taken into consideration. A wise
and sensible consideration because war and its aftermath invites
retaliation, retribution, and revenge for the past and may involve
generations to come.
Maternal Concerns, Women's Rights, Third Wave Feminism Women
want a world that is safe for children, one in which they do not
live in fear themselves. It will never happen unless women as a
gender become actively involved and full partners in determining
the fate of the Earth and life upon it. Toward this end, every
effort to empower and educate women counts, as well as every neighborhood
and school made safer. For peace to become a reality, women have
to gather together, learn from each other and then work with men
toward ending violence as a means of winning arguments or gaining
power--in households or in the world. In recent years, American
women have specifically mobilized maternal protective instincts
and sister-bonds effectively. It has resulted in MADD--Mother's
Against Drunk Driving, which affected laws, sentencing, and created
the designated driver. The Million Mom's March, a demonstration
for gun control was began by Donna Dees-Thomases after a gunman
randomly shot a group of school children. It was an appeal to gather
outside the White House on Mother's Day 2000 to demand the passage
of gun control legislation. 750,000 demonstrators showed up, while
simultaneously sixty marches took place across the country. Protecting
innocents, enough is enough! outrage, and indifference from
the powers that be, are making activists out of mothers.
To gain a voice and have an influence in
the world, women have had to first stand together to overcome
ridicule and disregard. Individually and together, women have
had to face threats of violence against them, and been willing
to be arrested in order to gain the right to vote (suffrage).
It took seventy years of political effort for women to vote in
the United States, achieved through a constitutional amendment
in 1920. In Britain and Ireland, women over thirty gained the
vote in 1918, by an act of Parliament. "Suffragettes" now
a respectable word, was initially derisive--used to minimize women
Suffragists. Their efforts were denounced from pulpits as being
against God's will. When they marched in the streets they were
spit upon, laughed at, and some were arrested. Of those that were
jailed, numbers of them were beaten. It is easy to forget that
rights women take for granted now, are historically very recent
and were gained for us by women who were strong and courageous
together. The right to own property, the right to keep money earned,
the right to marry without a father's or a father's surrogate's
permission, the right to be educated, and the repeal of laws, such
as one that gave husbands the right to discipline their wives with
a stick as long as it was no thicker than his thumb, all occurred
in the context of women seeking the right to vote. This was the
first wave of feminism.
Second Wave: the Women's Movement The second wave was
the women's movement. It brought about social, economic, personal
and political changes, and defined new rights. It had its beginnings
in the mid-1960's with Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and
President John F. Kennedy's 1963 Report on the Status of Women which
documented women's economic inequalities.
The women's movement began in the minds of women who began talking
together about their own lives and examining the premise that they
were inferior to men, and the laws and common practices which supported
this. Consciousness-raising groups arose spontaneously whenever
one or more women decided to call friends together. Ideas are infectious,
and ideas of inequality and oppression became understood as patriarchy,
which spread rapidly through the collective consciousness of women.
Each consciousness-raising group generated energy, contributed
to and drew from the women's movement.
In these circles, women shared personal
stories, saw common themes and became aware of sexism. With the
support of each other, individual women challenged stereotypes,
defined themselves, spoke truth to power, and strove for egalitarian
personal relationships with men. They raised each others' awareness
of what needed to be changed in society and in personal situations.
The ringing theme in the '70's, the decade of the women's movement,
was "the personal
is political". Women had found out that their personal lives
and politics--power inequality--in the economic, social and political
spheres were related. Relationships, stereotypes, and laws changed
as a result, and these changes rippled out and were an influence
in the world.
Third Wave: Women's Peace Movement I believe that the
third wave of feminism is taking shape, much as waves themselves
form in the ocean. They arise from deep below the surface, away
and out of sight, just as thoughts, intuitions and feelings arise
in the psyches of individual women and gain momentum as they spread
to others. New ideas become a movement, when the force and energy
behind them overcomes resistance to change. I believe the third
wave of feminism will be a women's peace movement that is growing
out of the recognition that only when women and children are safe
from violence, deprivation, and abuse, will the cycles of violence
begetting violence, which underlies terrorism and wars end. Compassion,
spirituality, the desire and necessity for peace, maternal concern,
combined with feminism is the force that can save the world.
The first Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
conference, held in 1915 in the Hague, The Netherlands, was the
equivalent of The first Women's Rights Conference held in 1848
at Seneca Falls, New York, which began the suffragette movement,
that took until the next century to achieve. In 1915, during World
War I, thirteen hundred women from countries at war against each
other and neutral countries attended. Their vision was similar
to that expressed in the original Mother's Day proclamation. Their
proposals for a lasting peace are still relevant, as is the active
organization that grew out of this conference.
The women's movement raised consciousness about patriarchy, and
the use and abuse of power that can be applied to understanding
the cause and effects of war. The psychology of unequal relationships,
where one person has power over the other and can harass, humiliate,
rape, control, or intimidate the other often can be applied to
conflicts between nations. War is on a large scale, similar to
domestic violence for children: it is serial and chronic traumatic
stress. This second wave of feminism grew out of the first, just
as a third women's peace movement can grow out of the women's movement.
Traumatized Children and Oppressors
The concerns of mothers--to make the world save for children,
would move the world in the direction toward peace and sustainability
for everyone. Most oppressors who seek to intimidate or exercise
control over others, felt humiliated and often were traumatized
as children or adults by people who had power over them.
Anxiety begins in the womb when the pregnant mother is terrified
by the violence around her or fearful for herself and her unborn
child. Cortisol, the stress hormone, goes up in traumatized pregnant
women which crosses into the placenta and affects the brain of
the fetus. These mothers give birth to infants that are often premature
and small, who grow into children with a predisposition to poor
impulse control, inattention, learning and behavior problems. These
would be made worse by witnessing violence and being a target of
anger and abuse themselves. Violence does beget violence.
Older children dominate younger ones, boys abuse girls, a dominator
pattern results. Basic trust develops in children who are nourished
and nurtured, and have mothers who can respond to their distress
and needs. In contrast, children who live in war zones, do not
feel safe, are startled by loud noises, by gunfire or explosives,
or angry or terrified voices. A bad neighborhood with drive by
shootings, or households where domestic violence erupts and women
and children are hurt, are war zones for those who live there.
In all such situations, children's needs are ignored, they are
in harm's way, and feel abandoned by adults who go away for any
reason. Without an adult or a society to protect them, children
are vulnerable to whatever bad happens. Boys wait their turn to
be men with the upper hand, girls become acculturated to becoming
Amnesty International's "Stop Violence Against Women: It's
in Our Hands" calls the statistics on violence against women
as a human rights catastrophe: at least one out of every three
women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise
abused in her lifetime. Abuse of pregnant women by their male partners
is not unusual. Usually the abused is a member of her own family
or someone known to her. A common trigger for violence, was refusing
Domestic violence is the major cause of death and disability for
women aged 16 to 44 and accounts for more death and ill-health
than cancer or traffic accidents. In the United States, women accounted
for 85% of the victims of domestic violence. Up to 70% of female
murder victims are killed by their male partners. Besides domestic
violence, Amnesty International describes violence toward women
in the community and by the state, which includes acts committed
or condoned by police, prison guards, border guards and so on,
as well as rape by armed forces during conflict, and against refugee
women or women held in custody.
Disempowered and fearful mothers cannot protect their children
no matter how much they may love them. To an infant or young child,
mother is all powerful. She is the source of food and comfort,
of approval or punishment. Adults are giants compared to their
physically small selves. Then, if a mother (who herself could be
a child bride in many traditional cultures) cannot protect them
or provide for them, children feel deeply betrayed, not just by
the mother, but by the world, Powerless mothers instill mistrust
and devaluation of women in boys and girls.
Safe and Empowered Girls and Women
When girls are educated, literate, and knowledgeable about nutrition
and spacing their children, and have positive role models, they
marry later, have fewer children and those children are born healthier.
As a result of individual women making choices in their best interest
and in the interest of healthy, wanted children, the planetary
problem of overpopulation also is eased.
Ingrained in patriarchy, is that women belong to men, and that
male potency is reflected in the number of children they father.
The more patriarchal the family, the religion, and culture, the
younger, less educated and less independent the women. Women's
sexuality and child-bearing is then in the service of men. Roe
v. Wade gave every woman in the United States, in principle,
the right to determine whether she will bear children or not. This
right has been undermined and efforts to reverse this law continues.
When this choice is up to her, it fundamentally undermines the
patriarchal principle that men, individually or as religion or
government, have the right to control women's bodies. Without access
to birth control and reproductive choice, traumatized women who
cannot refuse sex are also forced into bearing children, who will
also suffer the consequences.
There is a blueprint to begin construction of a world in which
women would be safe from violence, exploitation, and discrimination,
could look after the well-being of their children, and have a voice
in all areas including the environment. It is spelled out in the Beijing
Declaration and Platform for Action, which was adopted by the
United Nations Fourth International Conference on Women in Beijing
in 1995. It names twelve critical areas of concern. with specific
steps toward remedying them. Signing a document such as this was
a major symbolic step that required overcoming a lot of resistance.
Actualization is what really counts, however, and truth is--in
this patriarchal world--concern for women and girls does not rank
very high in importance.
This lack of concern is horrifyingly reflected in the trafficking
of women and children, mostly girls, which is a huge international
business. Women in third world countries are lured by promises
of marriage or work, are raped and beaten until they are docile
and cooperative, are transported from country to country, to be
used and abused sexually. Little girls are in this same pipeline,
bought or kidnapped to provide for the sexual appetites of men
who pay well for pubescent girls or even younger ones. Fetching
less but still a profitable commodity are women and children that
are sold into domestic or factory slavery. Very little if anything
has been done about this trade, even though reports to the United
Nations estimate that this involves over one million women and
girls every year. Only after a missing twelve year old Swedish
boy was reportedly seen at a clinic after the 2004 tsunami, did
Americans hear about the trafficking in children or that other
children who had been separated from parents or were now orphans,
could be prey for profit.
For women, peace is not just the absence of war, but safety and
security for their children and grandchildren, and freedom from
terrorists of all kinds including those who represent their own
government or commit domestic violence upon them. A mother with
global consciousness knows that it is not only her children and
grandchildren, or the children in her community, or even in her
country, but everybody's children, everywhere, who are deserving
of a good and safe life.
How different reality is! The United Nations
Children's Fund in its 2005 Report "Children Under Threat," says
that more than half of the world's children of more than one
billion suffer extreme deprivation because of war, poverty, and
HIV/AIDS. The world is small. A deprived and abused child soon
becomes an adult, and as an enraged adult with the power to harm
others, may do just that.
Mother Power of Women Together
The dormant power of women together is the untapped resource
needed by humanity and by the planet. Only when mothers are strong
is spirit, mind, and body, will it become possible for children
to be wanted, nourished, and secure. It would then be possible
to bring about an evolutionary change in relationships between
men and women for the benefit of everyone.
To exercise rights or claim rights not given to us in order to
look after our home planet, the human family, and those we share
the Earth with, is women's work, best done when it is done
with permission from Urgent
Message From Mother: Gather The Women, Save The World by
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. Copyright © 2005 by Jean Shinoda Bolen,
M.D. Published by Conari Press, September 2005.To purchase Urgent
Message From Mother, click
JEAN SHINODA BOLEN, M.D. is an internationally
known author, speaker and workshop leader who draws from spiritual,
feminist, Jungian, medical and personal wellsprings of experience.
She is a Jungian analyst, psychiatrist and clinical professor at
the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, and
is the author of The Tao of Psychology; Goddesses in Everywoman;
Gods in Everyman. Ring of Power; Crossing to Avalon; Close to the
Bone; The Millionth Circle, Goddesses in Older Women, Crones Don't
Whine and most recently Urgent Message From Mother: Gather
the Women, Save the World.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. Websites: