// The Mothers Monument | Mothers Monument

Honoring mothers and those who protect them.

Public Recognition of their Sacrifice

Effectively addressing maternal mortality is much more complicated than ensuring that a mother has access to appropriate healthcare at the point of birth. Every country with extremely low maternal deaths (or rapidly falling rates) achieved these results because of concerted public efforts to support the numerous systems required to produce a safe birthing experience. Any solution to reducing preventable maternal deaths must involve the whole community. One effective way to do this is through public memorials.

Public memorials draw attention to causes, values and hopes, and they help teach us how to react to the sacrifices and great works of our fellow humans. Across the globe, paintings and monuments honoring the courage and sacrifice of soldiers, civil rights and political leaders cover our cities, parks and museums. But what is there to honor those that have given birth to our nations? To begin this conversation, let us demonstrate a mutual relationship between maternal death and another type of death we already appreciate and speak freely about in the public sphere: soldiers that have died defending our nations.

More Women Have Died in Childbirth than Soldiers Have Died in War

No matter what era or area of the globe we examine, this relationship holds true. Matthew Stearmer first discovered the relationship while researching sex ratios during the time of the American frontier (1850-1920). He noticed that, despite losing approximately 600,000 male lives to the Civil War, the census record immediately following the War showed that the sex ratio was—surprisingly—only slightly abnormal. By the time of the next census, the sex ratio had already evened out again. When examining wartime deaths throughout the world, in different eras and different countries, the pattern remains the same (see the chart to the left). The chart below exemplifies this with a modern-day comparison in the United States, showing how many US soldiers have died compared to US mothers from just 2001-2014. As you examine the chart, think about the juxtaposition of these two types of ultimate sacrifice: the soldiers who have given their lives defending their country, and the mothers who have given their lives creating it.

Defense Industry Personnel Deaths vs. Maternal Deaths in the United States

The ways in which we honor, celebrate, support and resolve these two types of sacrifice is drastically different. All around the world, every culture celebrates the soldiers who have given their lives in defense of their countries.

Monuments and memorials help communities make sense of their loss by granting them a public space in which to grieve, ponder and ultimately comprehend the significance of the sacrifice. We often inscribe the names of the fallen upon the memorials, reminding visitors that each soldier was a unique, irreplaceable individual, and helping them recognize the extent of the collective lives lost. Statues often depict the soldiers in the prime of their life, and each memorial connects the visitor to the magnitude of the loss as well as the face of the soldier—even if they have never known a fallen soldier personally.

Memorials dedicated to soldiers also communicate values. They tell us what society deems important and for which issues we should demonstrate public support. They help us develop a sense of that which is worth sacrificing for, both personally and collectively. However, when other, equally important issues are not visible, it can become easy to undervalue those issues and simultaneously overvalue war and its associated sacrifices.

Throughout the world, thousands of memorials honor those who have died defending our nations, yet no memorial currently stands to honor those who have given life to these nations. We can and should maintain a better balance in the public sphere between the juxtaposed ultimate sacrifices of soldiers and of mothers. The peacefulness and stability of entire nations depends on a balance between protecting interests in both the public and private spheres. When we fail to protect women’s interests, society itself is unstable, ultimately requiring even more sacrifice. However, when we show that we value the life of each individual equally in the public sphere, we will gain greater overall social stability. The Mothers Monument will stand as a symbol of balance, reflecting that which society values by broadening our definitions of security and sacrifice.

When you look up “maternal mortality” on the internet, these images appear. They are simply charts and figures. There is nothing to represent or connect the loss of life with the individual. By granting a public presence to mothers who have died due to pregnancy-related causes, our communities can begin to see and value this equally important loss of life. The Mothers Monument will give these women a face and a voice, helping each of us connect more meaningfully to the magnitude of their sacrifice—and more earnestly desire to improve maternal health worldwide.

The Mothers Monument will:

Help families heal.
Families will be able to share their personal stories of the lives that have been lost. We can make donations in their name and honor.

Promote awareness.
As a public memorial, the central goal is to help each visitor connect with the loss, understand the cost, and commit to action. Everyone can make a difference.

Enable action & partnerships.
As each visitor to the memorial and website becomes more aware of the challenges that contribute to this loss, we hope it will prompt them to action. We have established several partnerships with organizations in the United States and around the globe that visitors can connect with and donate their time, money or specialized skills to help directly reduce the risks.

The memorials we build will motivate communities to work together to ensure the safety of childbearing women. By ensuring their safety, we help ensure the stability and resiliency of families, cities and ultimately, nations as a whole. 

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