By Lori Tremmel Freeman, BS, MBA
Chief Executive Officer, AMCHP
This issue of Pulse is perfectly timed! We've just concluded celebrating Women's Health Week and Mother's Day and are eagerly looking ahead in a few short weeks to Father's Day. You'll read in this issue how states honored Women's Health Week as well as learn about the coinciding launch of new AMCHP publication, Health for Every Mother: A Maternal Health Resource and Planning Guide for States. What a wonderful time of year to recognize the role and importance of women and men's health and well-being to their children, families and communities!
As an avid reader and a lover of trivia and facts, I decided to do some exploratory work around Mother's and Father's Day for fun. Julia Ward Howe introduced the idea of Mother's Peace Day in 1872 in Boston. Julia was considered far, far ahead of the times with regard to her ideas around women suffrage, pacifism, education, and peace. According to her biography, Julia's Mother's Day idea was "envisioned as a day of solemn council where women from all over the world could meet to discuss the means whereby to achieve world peace. They would also convene as mothers, keeping in mind the duty of protecting their children." In another part of the country at around the same time, Anna Jarvis of West Virginia was busy helping to start "Mothers' Day Work Clubs" to teach local women how to properly care for their children. Anna also later organized "Mothers' Friendship Day," at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. In fact, it would be Anna who later initiated the actual campaign in 1908 that resulted in President Woodrow Wilson recognizing Mother's Day as a national holiday on May 9, 1914 'as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.'
Father's Day wasn't such an embraced concept unfortunately for many years, yet there were early glimpses of the need to honor dads. Around the same time Anna was helping to start Mother's Day in West Virginia, a woman in Washington State, Sonora Dodd, began a movement to recognize male parents because she was one of six kids raised by a widower and Civil War veteran. As a result of her work, the governor of Washington state in 1910 proclaimed the nation's first Father's Day. Many states later came on board with the idea of celebrating fathers, but believe it or not, it would be 1972 before Father's Day would become a national holiday under then-President Richard Nixon.
Mother's and Father's days have not been without controversy. Because of the heavy commercialization of the holidays even in the early 19th century, those responsible for the movements later lobbied against Mother's and Father's days! There also was an effort that started about a decade after the Mother's Day proclamation to replace Mother's and Father's Day with a single holiday, Parents' Day to recognize "that both parents should be loved and respected together." The idea, spearheaded by Robert Spere, sadly did not catch on because of the Great Depression.
Today, more than ever before, we really need to celebrate and honor moms and dads and their families. With an estimated 80.9 million families in the United States, the health of the women and men heading these families is crucial to the well-being of the family unit and the kids (and to this country). About 43 percent of families (34.4 million) have children under the age of 18 in the household. As expected, beneath the surface of these larger numbers lie some troubling statistics that are greater than can be explored here, yet cannot afford to continue to be ignored. For example, today one in four children under the age of 18 – a total of about 17.4 million – are being raised without a father and nearly half (45 percent) live below the poverty line. The more the data is stratified, the more the sad story of inequity rears its ugly head once more.
For now, please read on to learn what the most current, topical concerns and interests are in the women's health area and let's together celebrate the important role of women and their good health within their families and greater communities.