Mothers are AMAZING. But we don't need to tell you that. Powerful, dedicated and always looking out for us, mothers are the people who change the world.
To celebrate this Mother's Day, we're looking at some amazing mothers throughout history who paved the way for their children and changed the world to make it a better place for them.
Best known for her Nobel Prize, Curie’s life as a mother is rarely discussed. Mother to two girls, she raised them alone after their father’s death in an accident in 1906. One of Curie’s daughter went on to also win a Nobel Prize for her work in chemistry with her husband, following in her mother’s footsteps into the field of radioactivity. Curie’s daughter, Iréne said that her mother’s aim was to give them a work ethic and flexibility “One must do some work seriously and must be independent and not merely amuse oneself in life—this our mother has told us always, but never that science was the only career worth following.”
Elizabeth Garrett was one of 12 children and the first female physician in Britain. Following a meeting with feminists Emily Davies and Dr Elizabeth Blackwell (first American female physician) Garrett was encouraged to follow her passion and managed to enrol as a nursing student and snuck her way into classes intended for male doctors. Following a series of challenges, she managed to take the Society of Apothecaries examinations qualifying as a doctor. The Society changed their rules to prevent this from happening again. Of her three children, Louisa, Margaret, Alan, only Louisa survived childhood. But she went on to become a pioneering doctor of medicine and feminist activist, following in the path that her mother carved for her.
The abolitionists and women’s rights activist is well known for her famous ‘Am I not a woman’ speech, but her role as a mother is also an area of her life where she showed immense strength. When Sojourner escaped slavery in New York in 1826, her young son, aged only five years old was kept on at her master’s house. When she learned he was to be sold to slave master in Alabama, she knew he would never be freed like her, so took matters into her own hands. Having raised the money for a lawyer, she secured her son’s freedom in a landmark case – a black woman successfully suing a white man in court in the name of her son’s liberty.
Constance Markeviecz famous firecracker, feminist and the first woman elected into the House of Commons was born in 1868 into an Anglo-Irish aristocratic family in County Sligo. She would grow up to become an Irish revolutionary, suffragist, Labour activist and artist. In 1918, two years after taking part in the Easter rising, she was elected into Westminster, the only woman elected of the 17 who had run. She won her seat from her Holloway prison cell in London where she was serving her sentence for her part in The Rising. Her daughter Maeve was named for the legendary, powerful Queen of Connaught and was known in her youth as ‘The Rebel’s Daughter’. She hoped to follow in her mother’s revolutionary footsteps and did so in rejecting the Anglo-Irish Society life expected of her, instead opting to get an education, in Swanley Agricultural College for Women where she eventually graduated with B.Sc. in Horticulture.
Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova
The first and youngest woman in space and to do a solo journey, Valentina was the star of the Russian government’s space programme. She orbited Earth forty-eight times and spent three days in space, the only woman to ever have been on a solo mission to space. Starting out life as a textile factory worker with some experience in sky-diving, her life took a drastic turn when she was selected for the space program and commissioned later as an officer. She married cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev and a year after her space flight, she gave birth to a daughter, Elena, making her the first person born with both a mother and father who had travelled into space.
Not the Frankenstein writer, but her mother! Mary Wollstonecraft was also a writer and wrote the early feminist work ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’, a landmark text for the early feminist movement. Raising two daughters – Mary and Fanny - in an unjust world inspired her to write ‘Thoughts on the Education of Daughters: with Reflections on Female Conduct in the more important Duties of Life’, which pushed for social thinking to change and to realise that women could be reasonable thinkers and play more than social roles as mothers and wives in the making. Her radical thinking was a huge challenge to the thinking of the day and called for equality in all aspects of life. Mary unfortunately died before having a chance to educate her daughters, but her writing talent lived on through her daughter Mary who composed the classic ‘Frankenstein’.
Sonia O Sullivan represented Ireland in international athletics for nineteen years and has won silver and gold medals in the 5000-metre race, breaking plenty of long-standing world records. The Cork native splits her time between Ireland and Australia and has gone on to mentor young athletes, write for the Irish Times and work as an ambassador for The Dublin City Triathlon. Her daughter Sophie is similarly driven and is heading to the University of Washington in Seattle to take part in their track and filed program. At just eighteen, Sophie has represented Ireland in the U18 European Championships and looks primed to become just as major a sports star as her mother!
Do we even need to explain this one? The modern epitome of everything we would want to be, Michelle Obama has worked tirelessly and selflessly to fight on the side of so many causes, combatting the childhood obesity epidemic, supporting veterans, starting up ‘Let Girls Learn’ and raising two strong and intelligent young women, Sasha and Malia Obama, while battling the pressures of the spotlight. An inspiration to many, at the unveiling of her portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, she is quoted saying; “I’m...thinking about all of the young people, particularly girls and girls of colour, who, in years ahead, will come to this place and they will look up and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall of this great American institution. I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls.” What a role model!
The former president of Ireland is again a woman whose name is immediately associated with activism and power. She has worked as a journalist, barrister, politician and lecturer, influencing change wherever she went. An integral part of the Northern Irish peace process and advocate for anti-sectarianism and social equality, she is an outspoken member of the Catholic church and ardent supporter of LGBTQ rights and women priests. Her three children are Emma, who graduated as an engineer and as a dentist and twins, Justin, an accountant with a master's degree and SaraMai, who obtained a master's degree in biochemistry. She publicly supported and spoke with her son Justin ahead of the 2015 marriage equality referendum who opened up about his experiences growing up gay. What a powerhouse of a mother to grow up with!