In honour of Mother’s Day, we look at eight famous mothers and their achievements. Words Victoria Tait
Actress Angelina Jolie has become as well-known for her charity work as she is for her Oscars. Through her celebrity status, she actively supports human rights movements. Angelina first became involved with humanitarian work for refugees and people displaced by conflict in 2000, when she was filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia. It was there she adopted her first son, Maddox, two years later. In addition to three biological children with now exhusband, Brad Pitt, Angelina has two more adopted children, from Ethiopia and Vietnam. Brad Pitt told The Wall Street Journal that when she has a day off “the first thing she does is get up and take the kids out”. “This is the most important ‘to do’ of the day. No matter how tired she might be, she plans outings for each and all.” Angelina has travelled to more than 30 countries in her role as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
Ann Jarvis (1832-1905) was the mother who inspired Mother’s Day, due to her daughter wanting to recognise the achievements
of her life. As was the way for many poor women of the time, only four of Ann’s 13 babies children survived. Because of this, Ann wanted to help other mothers and organised Mother’s Day Work Clubs in West Virginia. These organisations helped to provide medical care, raise money for medicines, and improve sanitary conditions for poor mothers. After Ann’s death, daughter Anna Jarvis continued her mother’s work by writing letters and giving speeches in support of Mother’s Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson designated Mother’s Day a national holiday. Anna never became a mother herself, and she became horrified by how flower, chocolate, and greeting-card companies exploited Mother’s Day for their own financial gain. She advocated boycotts of Mother’s Day and tried to sue companies that were commercialising the holiday.
Irena Sendler (1910-2008) worked for the Warsaw Social Welfare Department and was responsible for saving the lives of almost 2500 Jewish children, smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. Using the code name ‘Jolanta’, Irena gave the children false identification documents, established temporary (non-Jewish) identities for them, and placed them in convents, orphanages, and Christian homes.
Arrested by the Nazis, tortured and sentenced to execution (which she avoided thanks to the Zegota bribing a guard), Irena never gave up information about the whereabouts of the children or the inner workings of her smuggling operation. A mother of three herself, Irena received Poland’s Order of the White Eagle in 2003
JOANNE “J.K.” ROWLING
Joanne “J. K.” Rowling, now a famous writer and multimillionaire, wrote the first four Harry Potter books as a single mother, while receiving state benefits to get by. Today, J. K. is the president of Gingerbread, an organisation that works with single parents and their children find resources and programmes to help them succeed. “I am prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life,” J. K. said. For Mother’s Day 2016, she tweeted: “Today’s Mother’s Day
in the UK. If your mum isn’t here to treat, do something nice for yourself because she’s part of you. Take a hug, too.”
Alexandrina Victoria (1819-1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg
and Gotha, in 1840. They had nine children together. Each child was married into royal and noble families across the continent, earning her the sobriquet “the grandmother of Europe”.
1. Victoria Adelaide Mary, Princess Royal (1840-1901) married Frederick III of Germany (1831-1888).
2. Albert Edward, King of England as Edward VII (1841-1910) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925).
3. Alice Maud Mary (1843-1878) married Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (1837-1892).
4. Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1844-1900) married Marie Alexandrovna, Grand Duchess, Russia (1853-1920).
5. Helena Augusta Victoria (1846-1923) married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (1831-1917).
6. Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939) married John Campbell, Duke of Argyll, Marquis of Lorne (1845-1914).
7. Arthur William Patrick, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1850-1942) married Duchess Louise Margaret of Prussia (1860-1917).
8. Leopold George Duncan, Duke of Albany (1853-1884) married Princess Helena Frederica of Waldeck and Pyrmont (1861-1922).
9. Beatrice Mary Victoria (1857-1944) married Prince Henry of Battenberg (1858-1896)
Victoria’s legacy was so great that she had 42 grandchildren, 34 of whom survived to adulthood. Their descendants include Elizabeth II; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Harald V of Norway; Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden; Margrethe II of Denmark; and Felipe VI of Spain.
In 1970, when she was five years old, Waris Dirie was a victim of female genital mutilation in her home of Somalia. At 13, her parents arranged for her to marry a man in his sixties. To escape this life, Waris ran away to London. Working as a maid and for McDonald’s, she was discovered by a photographer and became a successful model. Waris even appeared in the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights. In 1997, Waris retired from modelling to work as a UN Special Ambassador. Having founded the organisation Desert Flower, she devotes her time to combating female genital mutilation around the world. As the mother of four children, she told Harper’s Bazaar that female genital mutilation isn’t just a women’s issue: “Every education begins with Mama. We have to rethink what we
teach our sons. That’s the most important thing.”
Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997). The People’s Princess used her maternal instincts and royal status to work with charities that supported children’s hospitals and to raise awareness and combat landmines, which were a significant problem in the ’90s. Tragically dying in 1997, she left behind two sons – Prince William, 15, and Prince Henry, 12. Prince William has become a royal patron of the charity Child Bereavement UK. Speaking of Mother’s Day, he said: “I, too, have felt and still feel the emptiness on such a day as Mother’s Day.” Diana’s legacy remains one of humanitarianism.
Katherine Wilson “Kate” Sheppard (1847-1934) was the most prominent and famous member of New Zealand’s women’s suffrage movement. Following the death of her father, the well-educated Kate left Liverpool, England, in1869, with her siblings and mother, and settled in Christchurch. She married Walter Allen Sheppard three years later, and their only child, Douglas, was born on 8 December 1880. Appearing on our ten-dollar note, Kate is the guiding mother to all women. The considerable impact she had as a suffragette ensured New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world to award women the right to vote in 1893.