Antoinette F. Konikow, M.D.

Mother’s Day Is May 12 –
What of Other 364 Days?

(11 May 1940)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 19, 11 May 1940, p. 4.
Transcribed by Marty Goodman.
Marked up by David Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mother’s Day comes this Sunday, May 12. What a mockery! The brain storm of those miracle men of this ailing system, the advertising specialists, who conceived it as business tonic and a rare opportunity to unload on a limitless public (everyone has a mother) tawdry and unsaleable merchandise that might otherwise remain unsold. Thus a fine and genuine emotion is degraded and distorted by contact with the world of quick sales and huge profits. Mother love is now given its market value by these worthy sentimentalists, the manufacturers and shopkeepers, whose crabbed souls respond to only one overpowering emotion – greed for profit.

Today mother is feted with candy and flowers and gifts. Today, by order of the bosses, everyone remembers mother. Tomorrow and tomorrow, for 364 tomorrows mother continues to struggle with problems created by those very bosses and their system – poverty, unemployment, hunger, want, disease, and the scourge which often deprives her of her motherhood – war.

What does motherhood mean to the wife of a worker or middle class man today? Mother may be the wage earner, partially or totally. Motherhood means extra work and constant worry not only for the immediate present but also for the future. Mothers recall their own unhappy childhood, their overworked, embittered parents dulled and aged by lives of toil and drudgery with whom no real companionship was possible. They remember their dreams – of school, of training for useful work, of simple luxuries, of contact with an unknown world of art and music – most of which were never realized. And because they so love their children, born and unborn, women today recoil from motherhood rather than see repeated by those dear to them a miserable childhood and thwarted preparation for adult life.

Many women today are on strike against children, as their expression of protest against the conditions in which they must face motherhood and raise families. The first inquiry of every newly-married woman is how to avoid unwanted motherhood. Has human nature changed? Have women become hard and loveless and selfish? How absurd! The urge to recreate one’s own, to watch the development of a human being, almost part of yourself, from a little animal that sleeps and eats to a growing, thinking adult whose progress you follow with pride and concern – that instinctive desire for progeny cannot be repressed – no! not even by the capitalist system that today deprives so many parents of their right to raise families. The dream of most young married couples is to achieve that condition of modest financial security which will make it possible for them to have a child and perhaps a whole family.

Women today are not granted (legally) the right to regulate the size and spacing of their family. Clinics and physicians in many states are not permitted to inform women about birth control. A business dealing in bootleg information, dispensing inadequate, expensive and often harmful drugs and appliances has been created because of this hypocritical and barbaric law. Women every day endanger their health, suffer pain and needless torture, rather than bear children whom they can offer nothing but love.

Today with war on the agenda, celebration of Mother’s Day adds insult to hypocrisy.

“Mother,” the bosses say, “we appreciate you – you bear the young men we need for the army. You suffer and toil, sacrifice and plan, to produce fine healthy boys. We can use plenty of them in battle with the sons of mothers of other countries – to protect our trade and profits that is – democracy. The thought of those mothers whose sons are killed shouldn’t disturb you. They are enemies and haven’t the same feelings as you have. What’s that you say? Your son may be killed and the sons of other mothers who are not enemies? Yes, but then you will have the satisfaction of knowing he died a hero – and you will be rewarded with a gold medal and given an honor seat at public functions. Besides, he probably would not have had a job, and have been a bum or a crook, so perhaps it’s just as well.”

Mothers! The sugar-coated gifts hide the bitter pill of the boss system. Under capitalism there can be no improvement of conditions for women, mothers of families. Only in a Socialist society will mothers achieve that security which will permit them to raise children without fear for their future. But no one will give you that as a gift. You will have to struggle and fight for Socialism, you together with the workers, men and women, black and white, old and young in this country and in others – for their cause is yours and only through the victory of the workers will mothers solve their problems. Only when all mankind raises itself from slavery and exploitation and enjoys a free and full life will women choose mother happily, confidently and proudly. Rearing and preparing the young for a life in a socialist society, for useful labor, for boundless achievements in science, industry and art – that will indeed make of motherhood an interesting, important and honored profession.

Boston, Mass.

Last updated: 14 July 2018