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Famous and Infamous Moms

Mother Teresa, Rose Kennedy, and other notable mothers

by Beth Rowen
Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange's photo, "Migrant Mother"

God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers."
—Jewish Proverb

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Mother's Day is the one day when we take time to express our love and gratitude for the women who have devoted their lives to making ours safe and happy. Here's a list of mothers who've achieved fame not only for their many diverse accomplishments, but also because they have distinguished themselves in their roles as mothers.

Political Matriarchs

Coretta Scott King
After the 1968 assassination of her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., Scott King carried out his legacy by continuing his crusade for civil rights. She created the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Ga., and she fought for 15 years to have him honored with a national holiday. She also devoted much of her life to children. In fact, the American Library Association named an award in her honor. The Coretta Scott King Awards recognize African American authors and illustrators whose children's books "promote an understanding and appreciation of the American Dream."

Rose Kennedy
She buried five of her nine children, raised a president, two U.S senators, and presided over one of the most famous families in American history—all with elegance and dignity. "I looked on child-rearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully as interesting and challenging as any honorable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring it," Kennedy once said. When she died at age 104, she had 28 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
After weathering eight years in the White House and Bill's series of humiliating sexcapdes, Hillary Clinton emerged from her husband's shadow and forged her own political career, having been elected to the U.S. Senate from New York as a Democrat in 2000, becoming the first first lady to be elected to public office. Despite enduring immense pain and endless scrutiny, Clinton has raised a seemingly well-adjusted, level-headed daughter, Chelsea.

During the 18 month-long Monica Lewinsky scandal, the First Lady lived her personal life in a very public forum. While enduring immense pain and endless scrutiny, Clinton managed to maintain her professional and personal integrity. Despite her husband's series of sex scandals, she has raised a seemingly well-adjusted, level-headed daughter.

At the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Clinton said, "For Bill and me, there has been no experience more challenging, more rewarding, and more humbling than raising our daughter. And we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us."

In her 1996 bestseller about child-rearing, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us, Clinton explains that children's developmental needs are linked to society—a society that must come together as a village to provide children with the tools necessary to mature into responsible, compassionate adults.

When It Comes to Benevolence, Some Mothers Are in a Class of Their Own

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, this Albanian-born nun touched millions with her missionary work aiding lepers, the blind, the disfranchised and the terminally ill. In 1948, she established the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman-Catholic congregation of women dedicated to serving "the poorest of the poor," especially India's lowest castes.

Mother Teresa's selfless devotion earned her a Nobel Peace Prize and truly made her a spiritual mother to the downtrodden and an example for us all.

Mother Jones (Mary Harris)
Always passionate about the labor movement, the tempestuous Mother Jones dedicated her life to it after her husband and children died in an epidemic in 1867. As a founder of the Social Democratic Party and the International Workers of the World, she organized miners, whom she called "her boys," as well as garment and streetcar workers, and fought against child labor.

She looked like a kindly grandmother, which belied her toughness. Living by the motto, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living," she spent a number of nights in jail, was said to use "unwomanly" language, and once dared a gunman hired by a coal company to shoot her. At the same time, however, she held a very traditional view of women: their importance was in the home.

The Rich and Famous Change Diapers, Too

Sheryl Swoopes
Few women athletes have done as much for advancing the cause of women's sports than Swoopes, the forward of the Women's National Basketball Association's Houston Comets. Her charisma, jump shot, and dedication to the game has earned her superstar status. Swoopes temporarily gave up hoops and went on maternity leave to care for her new son, Jordan Eric Jackson.

Melissa Etheridge
One of the first female rockers to come out of the closet, the Grammy-Award-winning Etheridge and her partner, Julie Cypher, became the proud parents of Bailey Jean Cypher in 1996. Cypher carried the child, and mum is the word on the father's identity. Etheridge and Cypher had their second child, a son Beckett, in November 1998. The couple split up last year, but they continue to live next to each other and share joint custody of their children.

Rosie O'Donnell
A single mother, O'Donnell gave up her movie and stand-up career to host a daytime talk show so she could spend more time with her adopted children, Parker and Chelsea Belle. The irreverent, ebullient actress is also a generous philanthropist who has used her show to donate money and gifts to needy children.

Mothers Least Likely to Get Breakfast in Bed on Mother's Day

Source: Archive Photos

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

Joan Crawford
She won an Oscar for her performance in 1945's Mildred Pierce, was fabulous opposite Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and even served as a director of Pepsi-Cola, succeeding her late fourth husband, Alfred Steele. But she's perhaps best remembered for being a tyrannical mother, thanks to Faye Dunaway's portrayal of her in Mommie Dearest, the film based on adopted daughter Christina Crawford's autobiography.

Lilith
She's been getting a lot of press lately, with the success of the summer music festival, Lilith Fair. In Jewish folklore, Lilith was Adam's first wife, thrown out of the Garden of Eden because she refused to subordinate herself to him. In some rabbinical literature, she is portrayed as the mother of Adam's demonic children, as well as a child-killer and the symbol of lust.

Thank Goodness for Nannies

Musician mom Lauryn Hill volunteers for youth outreach programs.

Lauryn Hill
The multiple- Grammy-winning rap artist has balanced motherhood and music, and her dual roles inspired several songs on 1998's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, her critically acclaimed and commercially successful solo debut. In addition to recording, producing, and caring for her two children, Hill devotes significant time to Camp Hill and Refugee Camp, two New Jersey youth outreach programs.

Madonna
After rising to the top of the music industry, making a name for herself in film, rewriting the books on marketing and self-promotion, and creating her own media empire, there was little left for Madonna to conquer - except motherhood. In 1996, she gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon and transformed herself into a yoga disciple and Earth Mother devoted to her daughter. In 2000 the famous entertainer starred in The Next Best Thing, about an unusual parenting arrangement (Rupert Everett plays her gay best friend and the father of her character's child). Off-screen, the happy mom had her second child in August 2000, Rocco Ritchie, and married the child's father, British film director Guy Ritchie, later in the year.

Demi Moore
One of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses, the sassy Moore has combined her acting and business careers with a highly publicized role as a mother. Moore and ex-husband Bruce Willis have three daughters, Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah. Moore doesn't go it alone, however. She is known for traveling with a substantial entourage, including nannies and personal trainers.

Courtney Love
Love has fiercely denied she took drugs while pregnant with daughter Frances Bean and has claimed she's a devoted mom who totes the moppet along on film shoots and concert performances. The angry woman of rock reinvented herself after the death of her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, shedding her drug-addled, volatile personality for one of glamour and mainstream respectability.




Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
“Florida” comes from the Spanish, meaning “feast of flowers” (Easter).

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