Moms. Depending on who you talk to, there are quite a few folks out there who lucked out by being born to “the best mom ever.” But who were really the best moms? The women documented as going above and beyond in the name of motherhood? For Mother’s Day, we decided to scrounge through history books, newspapers and more to put together a list of the best moms we could find.
Is this list completely subjective? You betcha. Is each entry accurate and factual? As best we can tell. Will this list make you want to call your mom and wish her a happy Mother’s Day? That’s the idea.
The daughter of an ancient Mediterranean king, Olympias was the fourth wife of Macedonia’s king Phillip II and gave birth to their son Alexander III in 356 B.C. After Philip died, Olympia plotted and schemed, even going so far as to have Alexander’s half-siblings killed, to ensure her son inherited the throne. She also told Alexander that his real father was the Greek god Zeus. Both of which helped fuel his attempt to conquer the known world, which he pretty much did and is now known as “Alexander the Great.”
Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis
The mother behind the celebration of Mother’s Day, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis was a public health and social activist based in what is now West Virginia during the mid-19th century. Of the approximately dozen children that she gave birth to, only four survived to adulthood. That loss led to Jarvis forming clubs and organizations dedicating to promoting public health and teaching mothers how prevent disease and infant mortality. During the Civil War, Jarvis and her volunteers worked to heal and care for soldiers from both sides. After the war, she worked to console still divided Americas and advocated for a national holiday to honor mothers. The latter was a cause her daughter Ann Marie Jarvis took up and campaigned for, eventually leading to President Woodrow Wilson signing a law in 1914 declaring the second Sunday in May as a Mother’s Day.
The first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win two, Marie Curie was a groundbreaking physicist and chemist who conducted some the first ever research of radioactivity. She was also, after the death of her husband in 1906, a single mother. While Curie was one of the leading scientists in the world, she was also teaching her daughters to be strong women and ensuring they stayed connected to their Polish roots. Her eldest, Irène would go on to be a scientist as well and also earn a Nobel Prize, while her youngest Ève would become a journalist and activist, who wrote a bestselling biography of her mother.
Florence 'Rusty' Tullis
Florence Tullis (nicknamed Rusty) probably didn’t strike most people as exactly having “motherly” qualities. A red-haired biker babe who’d once worked as a go-go dancer and fought substance abuse issues for most of her life; Tullis was a single mom to two sons. Her youngest, Roy “Rocky” Dennis, was born in 1961 and was eventually diagnosed with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a rare disorder that causes growing calcium deposits in the skull, leading to facial deformity and eventually death. Despite doctors predictions the Rocky would die by the age of 7, Tullis insisted that he be treated like any normal kid and raised him as such. Before he died at 16, Rocky Dennis was an honor student with a knack for making friends and a positive outlook on life. His story, and Tullis’ unique take on parenthood, was depicted in the award-winning 1985 film Mask, in which Cher played Tullis.
In 1978, Lois Gibbs discovered that her son's elementary school was built over a former toxic waste dump. After some digging, the young mom soon realized that her entire Niagra Falls, NY neighborhood of Love Canal had in fact been the dumpsite for over 20 tons of toxic waste. Gibbs eventual activism made Love Canal a national story, got the families evacuated from the neighborhood, and led to dramatic changes in how similar environmental incidents are handled.
Florida mom Monique Zimmerman-Stein and her children both suffer from a rare genetic disorder known as Sticklers Syndrome, which can cause blindness. Despite having medical insurance, the family still had to deal with mounting medical bills for her treatment and treatment of her children. So in 2009 Zimmerman-Stein elected to forego her treatment to so that her children could keep their sight, essentially trading her vision for theirs. She’s since become an activist and writer, advocating for the blind and healthcare reform.
Oklahoma mom Stacie Crimm only actually ever met her daughter Dottie once. The 41-year-old Crimm was pregnant with her only child when she diagnosed with head and neck cancer and chose to forego chemotherapy to ensure that the baby would survive. Crimm gave birth to her child prematurely in the summer of 2011. Dottie survived and Crimm managed to hold her daughter a month later, three days before dying from a brain tumor.
For forty years, Lou Xioaying’s work saving abandoned babies in the Chinese province of Zhejiang went unnoticed. Lou, who was poor and uneducated, made her living going through trash and selling anything valuable she found. In 1972, she found a baby girl abandoned in the trash and took the child in and raised her. Lou would go on to reportedly find more then 30 more babies in the trash, all of which she either adopted or passed on to family members to raise. Her work only came to light a few years ago, while she was in the hospital suffering from kidney failure at the age of 88. At the time, she was raising her youngest child, a 7-year-old boy she’d found abandoned when she was 82.
Think we missed a great mother from history or the news? Let us know in the comments section below…and be sure to provide a link backing up your claim.