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Famous Mothers of History

Moms are amazing, but these women are famous for it.

By:  |  May 12, 2024  |    717 Words
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Mary Ball Washington and son George (Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Anna Jarvis began celebrations for mothers over a century ago, in 1908. Now, the second Sunday in May is carved out to honor the hardworking, nurturing, and seemingly super-human women we often call Mom. Today, we will look at historically famous mothers who have proven how deserving matriarchs are of the world-recognized holiday – Mother’s Day.

Mary Ball Washington (1708 – 1789)

Mary Ball Washington, the mother of our founding father, George Washington, was different from other women of that time. Descriptions of Mary vary from highly complimentary to awful and derogatory. She was widowed at a young age with five children to care for. She chose not to remarry after the passing of the children’s father, Augustine Washington, which was unheard of at the time. Instead, she took on life as a single mother and taught her kids the value of hard work, honesty, and obedience.

Historians over time have described Mary as a crude, greedy, unloving mother. However, she may be severely misunderstood, as she made difficult choices concerning her children and what was best for them and their futures.

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Mary hugging her son after he became president of the US (Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Historian Mary Saxton has tried to clear up the misconceptions regarding Mary and her parenting habits. “The fond mother, the mother who is psychologically and emotionally utterly available and has nothing but unconditional love for her children came about in the late 19th century,” she explained. “That’s not the kind of mother Mary was.”

“She treated George seriously as a man and seriously as a religious being,” she continued.

Mary Washington was a stern woman who felt strongly about teaching her children independence rather than indulging them with loving gestures and gifts. The kids helped her run Ferry Farm, and Mary did her best to educate them. She knew what was essential and strived to give her children the necessary skills to become successful adults. Though the family had little money, Mary paid for George to attend dancing classes, knowing that skill was imperative to acceptance into the elite Virginia society. She also shared her knowledge of serving and drinking tea, a monumentally significant expertise of the time.

Mary Washington’s independence and strength in a challenging era pay testament to George’s successes as a military man and leader. He often wrote to his mother, addressing her in the letters as ‘Honourd Madam,’ displaying his respect for her and how he was raised.

Irena Sendler (1910 – 2008)

Irena Sendler is a famous mother, though she is not renowned for the way she raised her own three children, but instead for the nearly 2,500 Jewish children she rescued from the Nazis during the Holocaust. She found a way to create false, non-Jewish identities for the children and placed them into different orphanages, churches, and homes.

She was eventually captured by the Nazis, who beat her and tortured her and sentenced her to execution for her crimes. Still, she never revealed the whereabouts or names of the children she saved. Thankfully, she was never executed and lived until 2008 and bore three children of her own.

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(Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Ann Jarvis (1832 – 1905)

Ann, the mother of Anna Jarvis (the official founder of Mother’s Day), inspired her daughter and many others throughout her lifetime. Ann lost all but four of her at least 13 children to different diseases. Those losses inspired her to reach out and help other mothers. She put together Mother’s Day Work Clubs, which provided healthcare, medicine, and more sanitary conditions for moms who struggled financially. The organization still exists today in West Virginia.

After Ann passed away, her daughter, Anna, continued her inspirational work. Anna wrote letters and gave speeches to persuade President Woodrow Wilson to establish a day to honor mothers and their hard work and dedication to children. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when Mother’s Day was made an official holiday to be celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May. But she later expressed disgust regarding the exploitation of the holiday by companies that make money off the material items sold to commemorate the women who forge our future doctors, lawyers, and leaders. In 2023, more than $35 billion was spent on Mother’s Day gifts and merchandise in America alone.

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