Women and children in blue shirts speak to a woman in a gray suit.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper, and Climate Chief Melissa Hoffer accept a letter from kids and climate activists from Mothers Out Front at the State House on January 25, 2023.

(Photo: Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

In Honor of Mother's Day, Let Us Organize

Moms are the best hope for Americans who are concerned about climate change.

To be a good mom, you have to be a great organizer. Whether it’s fair or not, in most families, moms organize just about everything—transportation to school and sporting events, shopping, meals, medical appointments, and much more. That’s why we’re the best hope for Americans who are concerned about climate change. We’re already skilled organizers. Many of us are already successfully applying our organizing skills to the climate crisis. If we want to have a planet that is safe for our kids, more of us need to do so.

While it’s mostly a forgotten history, Mother’s Day was never meant to be a day for expressing gratitude to mothers. The original Mother’s Day was an effort by women in the 1870s, horrified by the bloodshed of the Civil War, to exert their collective influence on our society in calling for peace. Julia Ward Howe led the charge, calling for a “festival which should be observed as Mother’s Day, and which should be devoted to the advocacy of peace doctrines.” Howe organized international peace conferences, and states created their own Mother’s Day festivities. She went on to advocate for women’s suffrage so women could shape our democracy as equal citizens.

Howe was by no means alone in recognizing the unique power of women—and particularly moms—coming together as an organized force for social change. Often these stories are left out of history textbooks that typically focus more on the individual heroism of charismatic leaders (usually white men), but from civil rights to marriage equality to vital environmental protections, women and moms have been key players in advancing public good.

This time around, it’s not the horrors of war that unites us but the terrifying prospect of a world made inhospitable for children–and all life–by the ravages of our climate crisis.

At Mothers Out Front, we’re carrying forward a vision of bold, women-led action in the tradition of what Howe exemplified and advocated. This time around, it’s not the horrors of war that unites us but the terrifying prospect of a world made inhospitable for children–and all life–by the ravages of our climate crisis.

In communities and states across the country, our moms have been advancing climate justice in a myriad of ways. They’ve helped pass policies in Massachusetts, California, and New York that protect families from pollution from oil and gas, whether that’s from appliances in their homes or drilling in their neighborhoods. They’ve pushed local school districts in Virginia and New York to transition to clean electric school bus fleets so that children don’t have to breathe dirty diesel fumes. They’ve secured more accurate air pollution monitoring in neighborhoods in Pueblo, Colorado, and run a successful no-idling campaign at Boston Logan International Airport to help address high asthma rates among children in East Boston. The list goes on. Energized by their collective concerns, our moms have become powerful leaders in their communities and beyond.

Mothers Out Front is one example of how mom power can be turned into a force for good. But if we're talking about the power of moms organizing, we have to talk about how motherhood has been weaponized by some groups as a front for reactionary, divisive politics. Oddly, far more media attention has been paid to this minority of moms who, under the guise of “parental rights,” promote banning books, removing curriculum that teaches about civil rights and racism, and restricting classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sometimes it feels like those of us who have a more hopeful and inclusive vision for the kind of world we want for our children are being out-organized. There’s no reason for this.

We’ve learned at Mothers Out Front that any mom out there can learn how to organize effectively around creating a better world for her kids: Start by talking to other moms—get together, discover the values you share, and identify the changes you want to make in your community. You’ll be surprised by how your relationships with one another will sustain you and the work that you do together. Pick your targets. Strategize: Figure out how to turn the resources you have into the power you need to achieve your goals. Work in teams with clear roles so that you can share the responsibilities and decision-making. Start small, win early, get more moms involved, and build from there.

We need to pay more attention to the stories of moms who are working to make our world more safe, equitable, just, and sustainable. These are the moms who can inspire a sense of hope and agency in all of us, allow us to imagine a better path forward, and spur us into action.

This Mother’s Day, we would do well take inspiration from Julia Ward Howe and embrace the uniquely powerful role we can play as women and as moms in driving transformational change for a better world. Let’s get to work.

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