Influential Mothers in History You Didn’t Know About
Celebrating International Mother’s Day, May 14, 2023
Mothers. We tend to take them for granted. But, where would each and every one of us be without them? Arguably, they are the most influential women in all the world. Gandhi, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Pocahontas, George Washington, Hillary Clinton, Paul McCartney, Beyonce, Nelson Mandela, and the late Queen Elizabeth, all were here by the grace and labors of their mothers. So, I could not be faulted by saying that the mothers of these celebrated leaders and artists are among the most influential women in the world (You might enjoy our blog on Influential Women). More surprisingly, you didn’t know about them! But, back to my previous point, we all have mothers, and even the most unheralded among them deserve our appreciation. Each of us has a mom who deserves to be celebrated. Below are a few memories of influential moms saved here on History Chip.
This first story, written by Elsie Johnson, describes her mom’s inspiring hard work and ‘zest for life’.
By Elsie Johnson
My mother was 33 when they were married December 21, 1920. She was probably considered to be an “old maid”. Mom was the eldest of eight children, and was brought up in a fairly well-to-do farm family. She went to college – or “normal school” as she called it and received her diploma to teach. She got a job teaching at a country school near her home. She paid her brother $1.00 a month to hitch her horse in the morning to transport her to her one room school house in all kinds of weather. (She told of her father hitching a large log to a horse so there would be a path through the snow so they could walk to school when they were children). She was paid $30.00 a month to teach and felt very lucky to have such a good job. All eight classes were held in this one room. She was a successful teacher and did some traveling in the summer. I have a picture of her at Salt Lake City swimming in the Great Salt Lake in a very fashionable swim suit of the day! As we were growing up (4 of us) it was the Depression years. Mom could stretch a dollar better than anyone! She learned to sew making most of our clothes. Being a teacher she always checked our homework. She bought a second-hand piano so we could all take lessons at $0.35 a half hour. My father had a violin. His family was very musical and played the accordion, pump organ and violin. Mom was an active PTA member, community affairs and faithful church goer. Her family was very strict and she was never permitted to play cards or dance. Because of this she wanted us to learn and enjoy these activities saying she missed out on so much fun in her youth. She did a lot of cooking and baking. She always canned 50 quarts of tomato juice a year plus many vegetables from the family garden. She made sauerkraut and let it ferment on our back porch – Oh! The smell! But it tasted good in the winter. She went cherry-picking one year and fell out of the tree. She broke her glasses but just laughed and said those were the most expensive cherries we will ever eat. Thank goodness she didn’t hurt herself. We always had several fruit trees and a few chickens on our half acre and of course the old fashioned “Rain Barrel”. Spring house cleaning was a major operation. Everything, and I do mean everything, was taken out of the house. The lace curtains were washed – starched and put on wooden stretchers. All the walls were cleaned with a pink soft rubber-like material. Mattresses and rugs were all beaten with the regular rug beater. The only time Mom ever hired someone to help was at that time. I think she paid the helper 2 or 3 dollars for a day and this usually went on for 2 or 3 days. Mom liked to travel since Dad worked on the R.R. They could get free passes. We would go to Kansas once a year but we did venture out to Seattle and once to California. We had never seen a mountain or the Ocean. We experienced so many wonderful places and did things like pick oranges from a tree. Thanks to her zest for life we were exposed to so many things that in our Mid-Western upbringing would have never happened.
In this next story, Toni Sturm describes some of the difficulties her mother, Marie Sturm, experienced during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II.
by Toni Sturm
Marie Sturm was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in June 1925. Marie was an only child and lived with her mother who worked for the postal service and her father who was a craftsman. Her father fabricated glass signs and restored wood furniture in a highly skilled fashion of the time - transforming the wood to appear as a different type of wood. After the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, the high schools were closed. During this period, Marie, like many other students, continued her education through private tutoring which allowed her to earn her degree. Marie was required by the Germans to work and she was placed in a munitions factory one and a half hours away from her home. The work hours were very long and the commuting very difficult. The entire experience was extremely difficult for Marie. Marie’s mother had managed to save a large quantity of cooking oil with which she was able to barter an arrangement allowing Marie to work closer to home.
These women didn’t win wars or find their way into the history textbooks, but we know from these stories that they were women who got things done, loved their families and faced life and inspired their children with courage and enthusiasm. How about your mom? We suspect she was no less inspiring than Elsie’s or Toni’s. Share your stories about her, her cooking, her hard work, her laughter. Sharing your memories of your mom will celebrate another great woman here in History Chip’s archive. YOUR stories matter!