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Mother of Mother's Day Might Smile

The holiday spawned a commercial industry, but the dreams of its founders get their due in Berkeley.

Americans will spend nearly $18.6 billion today on Mother’s Day meals, cards and gifts, the National Retail Federation.

Mother's Day had its roots in the Civil War as a peacemaking campaign. It began in 1870 as Mother’s Day of Peace when Julia Ward Howe ("The Battle Hymn of the Republic") called on mothers to stop their sons from killing the sons of other mothers.

More than 30 years later, Anna Jarvis would press for a national Mother’s Friendship Day to honor her mother, Ann Jarvis, who had founded Mothers' Day Work Clubs to nurse and care for Civil War soldiers on both sides of the conflict and to work for the betterment of the poor and sick in cities at a time when deadly diseases ran rampant.

Jarvis said she deliberately cast Mother's Day in the singular, rather than the plural Mothers Day, to laud mothers as individuals who had planted in their children the desire for peace and the drive to pursue it.

Howe and Jarvis – who railed against the commercial institution Mother’s Day had become and was arrested for crashing an ersatz event to protest – might take heart in local peace efforts dedicated to the cause they championed.

We offer up three local organizations engaged in the nuts-and-bolts work of studying, teaching, or promoting peace as sterling examples.

Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC sponsors scientific research into the social and emotional well-being that promotes compassion, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior.

A World of Peace.  Through its summer camp and after-school programs, the organization teaches children entering kindergarten through seventh grade how to build a world of peace, through social interactions and positive problem-solving.

Project Peace. The faith-based organization partners with churches, business, and community agencies in service projects and other activities that promote its core values of mercy, justice, and a peace that is “more than a mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies."

What are your favorite peace organizations or projects? Share your nominees in the comments.

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