History’s Most Famous Moms
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis is the reason Mother’s Day exists. In 1858 while pregnant with her sixth child, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis started the Mother’s Day Work Clubs in the towns of Grafton, Pruntytown, Philippi, Fetterman, and Webster. She did this to improve health and sanitary conditions and stop the community’s terrible infant mortality rates. They developed programs to educate mothers and their families about improving sanitation and overall health.
During the American civil war (1861-1865), The Mother’s Day Work Clubs turned their efforts to care for wounded soldiers. Jarvis urged the clubs to declare neutrality and to provide aid to both Confederate and Union soldiers. Jarvis illustrated her resolve to remain neutral and aid both sides by refusing to support a proposed division of the Methodist Church into a northern and southern branch.
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, and three years after her mother's death, Her daughter Anna held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, marking the first official observance of Mother's Day.
After the holiday became official in 1914, it quickly became a commercialized opportunity for producers to sell flowers, candies, and cards. Anna felt this was detracting from the personal and intimate aspects of the holiday and defied this by starting boycotts, walkouts, and even condemned first lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using the day as a means of fundraising. Jarvis would eventually use all her money in this fight and died at the age of 84 in a sanatorium.
Queen Elizabeth II
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She became Queen at the early age of 25 when her father King George VI passed in 1952. Queen Elizabeth is also the longest-lived British monarch, the longest-serving female head of state in world history, the world's oldest living monarch, the longest-reigning current monarch, and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state.
In 1947 she married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of the Royal Navy, formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in which the king bestowed the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. The couple has four children Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward.
Charles and Anne were mostly raised by the nursery staff and tutors, as was Elizabeth and her sister Margaret was when King George VI was still alive. Though the Queen was excited to be a mother, she was in her twenties and had to place Crown and Country above all else.
Ten years younger than Charles their first child, Andrew was born when Elizabeth had already been Queen for eight years and have relaxed into her role as a monarch. She took 18 months off after Andrew’s birth and enjoyed taking care of him herself, a capacity she didn’t have with Charles and Anne.
The youngest Prince Edward was born at a time where the Queen had settled into her role. And like with Prince Andrew, she spent a lot more time with him in his younger years. Out of all of the kids, Prince Edward is believed to be the Queen and Prince Philip's favorite child. It's reported that Edward's portrait is the only one in Philip's study.
Because of Elizabeth's busy schedule, she and Philip mainly saw their children during breakfast and teatime. Not even in those brief moments did they show affection as that was how the upper class was expected to behave, even in private. And while people mainly assumed Elizabeth to be an absentee mother, she was involved with her children as much as she could even with the demands of the job as Queen. In fact, the queen chose to breastfeed all four of her children, just like her mother before her.
Josephine Baker, born Freda Josephine McDonald, grew up fatherless and poor in St. Louis, Missouri. At an early age, she dropped out of school and worked as a waitress at The Old Chauffeur's Club where she met her first husband Willie Wells who she married at the age of 13. The marriage lasted less than a year and she later found work with a street performance group called the Jones Family Band. At 15 she married Willie Baker whose name she took, but this also ended in divorce.
At an early age, she developed a fascination for the flamboyant. She went to New York where she eventually got a part in the chorus for Shuffle Along, the first successful black musical.
After her success in Broadway, she moved to Paris where she got her big break at the age of nineteen when she took on a starring role in La Revue Nègre, a musical comedy show featuring an all-black cast. She modeled for Picasso and partied with Ernest Hemingway, who called her “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.”.
When France declared war on Germany in World War II, Josephine was recruited by the French Military Agency as an "Honorable Correspondent". Being able to move freely across borders as an entertainer, she gathered what information she could during the war. Her fame allowed her to rub shoulders with high officials and bureaucrats and reported back what she heard. After the war she was given the Croix de guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance for her contributions.
After discovering that she could not bear children, she and her fourth husband, French orchestra leader Jo Bouillon set in motion her plan to build their own family by adopting children of different nationalities. It was easier to adopt internationally in the 1950s, and more so because she was famous. Josephine had the means and the connections while on tour to bring home children in need of a family. Her first child came from an orphanage in Japan, and soon the Baker-Bouillon family grew to 10 sons and two daughters.
Josephine’s family functioned as a social experiment and demonstration of racial and religious harmony. She called her children her Rainbow Tribe and installed them at her home, a 15th-century castle. She charged admission to the grounds so that people could watch them playing peacefully together. The children also sang for paying guests.
Dubbed as The Iron lady of Great Britain for her uncompromising politics and leadership style, Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain and the longest to hold that position in over 150 years. During her premiership, she reduced the influence of trade unions, privatized certain industries, scaled back public benefits, and changed the terms of political debate setting the country’s economy on the right track.
Like most women in a position of power, Thatcher carried the image of a bad mother in the public’s minds. But things weren’t always what it seems as she was very discreet about her private life and discussing the details was never something easy for her.
She became pregnant two years after her wedding when she was already in law school. She even sent out her exam application for the bar from her hospital room after giving birth to her twins.
Reportedly sleeping for only 4 hours a day, she did everything around the house even with a tight schedule. Being domestically involved she oversaw the twin’s upbringing even making food for picnics, personally wallpapering the twins' bedrooms, and teaching her daughter to drive. In a documentary, her daughter Carol said “All my childhood memories of my mother were just someone who was superwoman before the phrase had been invented. She was always flat out, she never relaxed, household chores were done at breakneck speed in order to get back to the parliamentary correspondence or get on with making up a speech.".