A Few Famous Mothers -- and "Mothers"

Mother's Day History

Lucy Stone with daughter Alice Stone Blackwell
Lucy Stone with daughter Alice Stone Blackwell. Courtesy Library of Congress

In honor of Mother's Day, here are some of history's more famous (and infamous) mothers -- and women who were given the nickname Mother.

  • Abigail Adams - married to one US president, she was also the mother of a president.  She managed the family's business when her husband was overseas.
  • Aelfgifu - mother of the long-serving Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelraed, sometimes known as "the Unready."  She disappears from  history when her husband was overthrown and then returned to power, when he married Emma of Normandy, known for marrying two different kings and for bearing each an heir who became king.
  • Josephine Baker - she adopted twelve children after World War II to make her home a model of world "brotherhood."  She's known less for this, though, than for her career as a performer.
  • Anne Beauchamp was the mother of Anne Neville (the Princess of Wales, when married to Henry VI's heir, and later Queen of England in her marriage to Richard III) and Isabel Neville (married to George, Duke of Clarence, who attempted for a time to become king of England).  Anne Beauchamp's husband, Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick, was famous for his roles in the Wars of the Roses as "the Kingmaker," switching sides several times. 
  • Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I, was the mother of Queen Mary I of England, who died childless.
  • Lydia Maria Child - she wrote books in the early 19th century to guide mothers in raising their children and running a home; she was also an active abolitionist.  And she's also the author of a long-beloved lyric used as a Thanksgiving and winter holiday song.
  • Marie Curie - known as the "Mother of Modern Physics," she was twice a Nobel Prize winner (in different fields), her daughter Irene also was awarded a Nobel Prize, sharing it with her mother.
  • Margaret Douglas - her son, Henry Steward, Lord Darnley, married Mary, Queen of Scots, and gave his family name to the royal family following the Tudors, the Stuarts.  Margaret Douglas was a niece of Tudor king Henry VIII and granddaughter of Henry VII, first Tudor king of England.  She was also a friend of England's Mary I.
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine - mother of three kings; her daughters married into the royal houses of Europe; she's been called the Mother of Europe.
  • Elizabeth, Queen Mum - Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, mother of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, who was the queen consort of Henry VII and the mother of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Margaret Tudor.
  • Elizabeth Woodville married Edward IV, disrupting plans of some of his allies to marry him to European.  Her descendants from her first marriage to Sir John Grey and her second to Edward IV included many key figures in history.
  • Sally Hemings - many conclude that her children were fathered by Thomas Jefferson
  • Isabella I of Castile was the mother of five living children, including Queen Juana, known as "the Mad," her heir; Catherine of Aragon; her first heir; Juan who died before his parents did; and Isabella and Maria, who successively married Manuel I of Portugal and had many descendants -- many of whom intermarried as part of the Habsburg dynasty.Mary, Queen of Scots - mother of James I of England, first Stuart king.
  • Mother Jones - called the "most dangerous woman in America," all four of her children died in a yellow fever epidemic long before her career as a labor organizer.
  • Empress Matilda - mother of Henry II, first Plantagenet king.
  • Cecily Neville played a role in the conflicts later called the Wars of the Roses in medieval England.  Her 13 children included Edward IV of England; Margaret, who married the Duke of Burgundy; George, who was a contender for the throne of England for a few years; and Richard III.
  • Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, was also known as an ambitious and violent ruler.
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - mother of John F. Kennedy, jr., Caroline Kennedy, and the short-lived Patrick Kennedy.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh - a pilot herself, married to the famous Charles Lindbergh; their son was the subject of a tragic kidnapping.
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton - mother of eight; one daughter also became a leader in the 
  • Lucy Stone - a suffrage leader, so was her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell.

More Mother's Day History