“The love between a mother and her daughter is special. A mother takes her daughter under her wing and teaches her how to be a woman. In order to do this, you have to ask yourself what it means to be a woman of today. How do you balance care for others with your own quest for meaning and joy in life and how do you pass on these lessons to your daughter?” – Laura Ramirez
Being born to a strong mother, much less a famous one, can not be an easy task for a child to take on. Being the daughter of a great woman is perhaps even more daunting a task considering the undeniable comparisons between the two females. The hope of any mother for a daughter must be that her offspring is healthy, happy and can find her own path. The women listed below are a varied bunch yet all share a common thread. The strength of the mother was passed to their daughter. The impact of these women, whether they are historical figures who changed the world, famous women we have welcomed into our lives or fictional families we have grown to love, their power as iconic mothers and daughters has been placed firmly in our collective minds.
“She’s family, if you can’t count on family, who the hell can you count on?” – Sophia Petrillo
Sophia Petrillo and Dorothy Zbornak are characters portrayed by Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur on the American sitcom “The Golden Girls” (1985-1992). The relationship between Sophia and her daughter Dorothy is one of great admiration, aggravation but ultimately love. Albeit fictional, their story arc reflects a mother/daughter pairing throughout a lifetime and their relationship is universal. Episodes reflect their history, from Sophia raising her three children, helping Dorothy through her difficult marriage, Sophia moving in with Dorothy after suffering a stroke and their existence together at the end of their lives. The wisecracking Estelle Getty was the perfect foil to the deadpan of Bea Arthur. This clip displays their typical banter: sarcastic remarks, aggravated teasing and of course, motherly advice.
“No one understands my ills… who does not know the heart of a mother.” – Marie Antoinette
As the only female to ever rule in the Habsburg monarchy and her daughter, the Queen of France, Empress Maria Theresa and Marie Antoinette made quite the mark on the history of Europe. A devoted but stern mother of 16, Maria Theresa kept up correspondence with her children throughout her life. Marie Antoinette wrote back and forth to her mother regarding Maria Theresa’s concerns about her daughter’s lack of offspring, as well as her manners and child-like behaviors. Marie Antoinette writes in letters to her mother “how the affection her mother expresses for her has gone to her heart. Every letter which she has received has filled her eyes with tears of regret at being separated from so tender and loving a mother, and, happy as she is in France, she would give the world to see her family again, if it were but for a moment.” Maria Theresa was supportive in her concerns with her daughter’s success in court. Considering that their letters to each other give us insight into their relationship, I found this clip from the movie Marie Antoinette telling of the expectations of courtly life and the advice from one royal to another.
“What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?” – Louisa May Alcott
Few stories in literature have captured the mother/daughter dynamic as the tale of the March girls of Little Women. Not only do we see each daughter as a distinct female archetype, we also see how their mother interacts with each daughter, particularly Jo. Marmee gives advice and helps each of her daughters find their peace in life: Meg, the motherly one, Jo, the strong one, Beth, the fragile one and Amy, the vain one. Marmee sees in Jo the potential for a life that is bigger than their home. This clip displays Marmee helping the fiery Jo calm her temper and find forgiveness in her heart. In the novel, Marmee’s quote quite perfectly displays her role as mother – watching her daughter on the verge of growing up. “Oh, Jo. Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life? You’re ready to go out and – and find a good use for your talent. Tho’ I don’t know what I shall do without my Jo. Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it.”
“My mother was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. There are moments when I remember her beauty, unadorned, unposed, not in some artificial place like a set or a photo call but rather captured outdoors in nature, where she took my breath away. When those moments surface, I miss her the most.” – Jamie Lee Curtis
Known forever to movie audiences as the mother/daughter Scream Queens, Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis experienced their own take on the Hollywood starlet role. Forever immortalized as Marion Crane in Psycho, Leigh’s infamous shower scene set a new standard for horror movies. 18 years later, Jamie Lee Curtis would star as Laurie Strode in Halloween, would again redefine the horror genre. Janet and Jamie Lee had to learn to adapt to the Hollywood standards of their respective eras. Known for her perfectionism and slim figure, Janet returned to her 20-inch waist weeks after the births of her daughters. She never was able to shake the stigma of aging in the youth obsessed Hollywood. Jamie Lee, once nicknamed ‘The Body,’ redefined beauty when in 2002 she appeared in More magazine without makeup or retouching. Their relationship, as Jamie Lee said, was “special, but not always easy” and the same can be said for their relationship with the public. This clip shows the on-screen pairing of mother and daughter doing what they do best – performing in a horror movie. Side note: Janet’s car was the original one she drove in Psycho.
“That 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.” – Irène Joliot-Curie
The Curie family has the distinction of having the most Nobel laureates of any family, making Marie Curie and her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie a uniquely qualified mother and daughter pair. Marie Curie’s pioneering research on radioactivity lead to her ground breaking feat as the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Marie also had the distinction of being one of only two people awarded a Nobel Prize in different fields and in 1935, the first mother to see her daughter win the Nobel. Curie was central to her daughters lives as their father, Pierre, died in 1906 when the girls were nine and two. Marie taught her daughters Polish and made certain her heritage was their heritage also. Marie’s other daughter Ève would gain attention for penning a popular biography on her mother, Madame Curie, which was the bases for the 1943 movie. This clip displays Greer Garson and Margaret O’Brien as the mother and daughter.
“Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don’t even remember leaving open.” – Rose Wilder Lane
The author of the Little House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder couldn’t have written the books without the support and resilience from her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Her childhood was spent homesteading on farm land in present day Kansas, an experienced that would shape her writing. While the Wilder family sustained a living through farming, Laura published her first writings in 1911. Daughter Rose began her writing career on the staff of the San Francisco Bulletin in 1915. The Great Depression would lead to the collapse of the farm and lead to Lane and Wilder to push for the publication of Little House in the Big Woods, in 1931. This launched the Little House series which has never gone out of print since its launch. Rose’s own literary voice was heard through journalism and free lance writing until her focus become founding the American Libertarian movement. The clip is the first episode of Little House of the Prairie.
“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland (to her daughter, Liza Minnelli)
Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli are entertainment icons who achieved legendary status over their tumultuous lives. Judy Garland is a golden age of American cinema icon whose career spanned most of her life. The star of The Wizard of Oz and A Star is Born, Judy Garland talent is timeless. However, the talent didn’t stop with Judy as Fred Astaire once noted, “If Hollywood breeding could be compared to royalty, Liza would be our Crown Princess.” Daughter Liza began her movie career at age three in her mother’s movie, In the Good Old Summertime. Both mother and daughter received public adulation and critical praise; both winning Academy, Grammy and Tony Awards. Liza (who also won an Emmy) was the seventh person ever to receive the honor. Liza, who affectionately called her Momma, had this to say on performing with her mother, “I was suddenly on stage with Judy Garland. My mother was no where in sight… I had to learn how to hold my own. And that was with the best there ever was and that’s my mother.” Here are Liza and Judy performing together in 1963.
After nine months, Anna gave birth and she said to the midwife, “What is it?” The midwife said, “A girl.” Anna said, “My soul exalts this day.” And she put her baby to bed. – The Infancy Gospel of James and Thomas 5:5-8
While there are few other mothers more known to the world than Mary, the mother of Jesus, it is as a daughter where Mary’s upbringing and early life were formed. Accounts of St. Anne and Mary appear in New Testament apocrypha, noting the the birth and upbringing of Mary. Anne (or Anna as she is also known) was elderly and childless when she miraculously gave birth to Mary. The verses show how her parents adored her and how joyous her entry into their lives was. St. Anne’s influence in world religions ranges. St. Anne is revered as a wise and spiritual woman in Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church traditions as well as Islam. It is said that Martin Luther first entered into religious life after receiving visions from St. Anne. As a mother, St. Anne’s role in teaching her daughter is critical in Mary’s own life as a mother.
“Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” – Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft was the author of the famous feminist social study A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and her daughter, Mary Shelley, was the author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. These two remarkable women were revolutionary in their contributions to women’s history and literature. Their life together was cut short by Wollstonecraft’s death after the birth of her daughter, Mary Shelly. William Godwin made certain that he raised their daughter with a strong inclination towards progressive education and with Wollstonecraft’s influence present. Mary Shelley married Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816, the same year she conceived the idea for Frankenstein. Mary’s work is among the first science fiction works and was immediate popular among the masses. Originally published anonymously, Frankenstein was a triumph for female authors. She never forgot where she came from and upon her death, Mary Shelley had asked to be buried with her mother. This clip is of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Goodwin in Vindication.
“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.” – Queen Elizabeth (to the Ambassador of the Duke of Wurtemberg)
While many royal mother and daughter pairs could have a spot on this list, it is the impact these two women had on the course of history that lead them to the top of this list. Anne Boleyn’s marriage would alter the religious line of a nation and the reign of Elizabeth I established a new era in global history. Boleyn was noted for her intelligence and vitality, and in 1526, the King began to pursue her. Regardless of your opinion of Anne or her marriage, it was her tenacious manner and determination that plotted her course to become Queen. By the 1533 marriage of King Henry VIII and his second wife rewrote English history and lead to the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth I. While her mother would be known as “Anne of a Thousand Days,” her daughter Elizabeth would reign for 44 years. Queen Elizabeth I stands as a hallmark of female rulers and her defiant nature stands as a testament to her strength. Her reign is notable for her being a ruler not just a woman and that is perhaps her strongest distinction. In this scene from Elizabeth, Cate Blanchett stars as the young princess Elizabeth defending her life amidst the religious revolution created by her parents marriage.