Literature is littered with some pretty horrendous mothers, but whenever a book captures the true heart of a mother – one who loves fiercely, serves selflessly, and teaches wisely – it strikes a chord and challenges the greatest mother inside of me. My own mother is one such phenomenal woman and, in her honor, here are a few of my most favorite inspiring literary moms (or maternal figures). Sometimes we need tune out the latest parenting guru and get lost in the worlds of these women who have stood the test of time!
One of my all-time favorite books, set in 1912 and beyond, Katie Nolan is Francie and Neeley’s mother who is the epitome of hard-work and perseverance, she is forced to be the family’s bread-winner due to her husband’s alcoholism and does everything in her power to preserve her children’s youthful joy and innocence, while offering them the instruction of diligence and education.
Initially, Marilla is repulsed by the thought of adopting this 11-year old orphan girl; they needed the arms of a young man to help on the farm. But gradually, Marilla falls completely in love with one of literature’s greatest characters, Anne (with an ‘e’), and finds that she indeed does have the maternal love and instinct she thought had long been buried. Anne’s desire for loving parents is only surpassed by Marilla’s unconditional love for Anne.
While Mr. March is off at war, Marmee is left home to run the home and raise their four daughters. Marmee’s diligent work to maintain their home, service to others, and the wise instruction she lovingly and lavishly pours over her daughter make this book a wealth of mothering gold – a fabulous fictional motherhood manual.
Oh, Ma Ingalls! When Pa desires to leave the little house in the big woods, he uproots their family in a quest of adventure, finding new places, and settling far away; Ma holds the family together and lovingly cares for them along the way – making chores a pleasure, and a covered wagon a home!
Okay, okay, Mrs. Bennet may not be the most maternal, nurturing, or hard-working of this rough-up, but she is a fantastic literary character. Austen’s writing of Mrs. Bennet captures the more eccentric mother’s among us, but in her own unique way Mrs. Bennet certainly cared for her girls and wanted to be sure they were provided for beyond their walls.
A Few from honorable mentions from Modern Literature:
Roxanna – Peace Like a River; Vianne Mauriac – The Nightengale; Constantine, Aibileen, and others – The Help; The Boatwright Sisters – The Secret Life of Bees.
Who is your favorite literary mother?