Iconic single moms

MAYA ANGELOU

Regarded as one of the most influential and elegant poets of her time, Maya Angelou (1928-2014) became a single mom at the youthful age of 16.

It has been known that much of her early poetry is about the struggles and joys of motherhood in raising her son Guy Johnson.

Maya Angelou Obit.

Although Maya was married and divorced twice, she spent most of her adult life being a single mom and early in her life working many jobs to support her son. One such job was working as a prostitute, and madam for lesbians, as she described in her second autobiography, Gather Together in My Name. She also danced professionally in many nightclubs throughout SF, and was a fry cook.

At a time when teenage pregnancy was shunned, her mother Vivian Baxter helped her daughter in raising her son as a single mom. Maya Angelou talked to Oprah about her support from her mom. “I only had sex one time and my mother asked me ‘do you love him and does he love you?’ I answered no’”. And she encouraged Maya to raise the child on her own with her support.

As Maya got older, she became more acclaimed for her writing and poetry. She was an actor, writer, director and producer of many plays and public television programs. She really gained international recognition in the 1990’s making appearances all around the world, lecturing and reading her poems. She is most famous for her “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” poem for which won many literary awards.

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Here’s an excerpt of one about motherhood.

Mother, A Cradle to Hold Me:

It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.

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JOY MANGANO

I always love rag to riches stories but this one is especially great because Joy Mangano was a single mom when this transition happened. Perhaps when you are a single mom and faced with financial adversity, you kick into survival mode and start thinking outside of the box on how you are going to support your kids.

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At least that’s what I think Joy went through when she invented the first Self-ringing Mop. Now a days, we might not think that was such a unique invention, but back in the early 90’s, it tapped into what many homemakers needed and wanted.

Joy Mangano grew up on Long Island and married Tony Mirane. They had three children but the marriage broke down and Joy was soon struggling working three different jobs to support her children.

After growing frustrated with ordinary mops, Mangano developed her first invention, the Miracle Mop, a self-wringing plastic mop with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet (90 meters) of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet.

She believed so much in what she was doing that she poured all her money into it. She was right, it became a huge success and she went on to create other inventions such as the Huggable Hangers, Performance Platforms and Shades Readers to name a few.

Her story made it to Hollywood in a real “dreams come true” aspect. She was played by Jennifer Lawrence who once admitted, she didn’t know how to use a mop before she began playing this role.

Today Joy Mangano is a successful entrepreneur and President of Ingenious Designs where she continues to think of products that will help everyday moms. Joy says:

“Your destination might not end up being exactly what you envisioned to start with, but if you stick it out and work through the challenges, what you end up with will be far better than you could have ever imagined”.
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MARIE CURIE

Marie Curie (1867-1934) born in Warsaw Poland, was the first woman to win the Nobel prize on the work she and her husband did with radioactivity.  Actually she won is twice, the second for Chemistry.  She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.

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Besides her main achievement in the theory of radioactivity, she also discovered two elements, polonium and radium.  She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw and helped in the development of X-rays.

Eve and Irene didn’t see their mother too much growing up (source Fox) as Eve was a mere 7 years old when her mom won the Nobel Prize.  Marie Curie raised her two young daughters after her husband dies in 1906.  Despite not seeing them much, she must have done a good job because her eldest daughter Irene also went on to win the Nobel Prize.  And Eve may not have won the Nobel Prize but did go on to become a renowned concert pianist and wrote a biography about her mother that was a best seller in 1943.

Eve discusses in her book how her mother dedicated herself to the pursuit of science leaving much of the child rearing to various governesses.  Eve confessed that she had suffered from a lack of attention from her mother but it seems that later on in their teens when Marie Curie became ill, her daughters were there by their mother’s side to help.  It resulted in a strong bond among them.

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Eve also discusses how her mother was an exemplary role model for her and her sister.  Her daughter Irene said her mother instilled hard work and flexibility in her children: “that one must do some work seriously and must be independent and not merely amuse oneself in life”.

Just when I feel guilty about working, I realize that women have been doing this long before me, minus discovering important elements and such:)

 

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MADONNA

I am and have always been a big fan of Madonna’s. I haven’t always agreed with some of the things she has said or done in her life but I’m sure if she knew me, she would say the same thing:)

Madonna just adopted 2 twin orphaned sisters from Malawi, Esther and Stella who are 4 ½ years old. Malawi is where her two other adopted children David and Mercy are from. Madonna has a long history with the country of Malawi, she has donated and worked towards efforts against poverty in the country and in 2016, she founded the philanthropic group “Raising Malawi” that will build Malawi’s first pediatric and intensive care unit.

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Madonna hasn’t always been a single mom but her current status is that and while I’m sure she has loads of help, taking on 6 children is no small task even for a mega pop icon. The star has confirmed that she does rely on many for support but also has stated publicly that she does much of the raising of her kids herself. Recently on Ellen, her son Rocco was asked how is Madonna as a mother. Rocco responded “She’s a good mother, she’s very strict but in a good way.” Here are some interesting parenting tips that she shared with Huffington Post, which may be why she is able to handle much of the child-rearing:

  1.  NO iPhones for kids. Her daughter Laurdes just got her first iPhone last year at the age of 16 and Madonna is now questioning if it was too early.
  2.  All kids are required to do daily chores and keep their rooms neat and tidy.
  3.  No TV, magazines, milk or ice cream is allowed. In a Newsweekinterview, she talked about her “disciplinarian” child-rearing techniques such as these.
  4.  Her kids can only do what she says not what she does. Madonna was not happy when her daughter was caught smoking and stressed that when she had a cigarette in her mouth it was only used as a prop!

Apparently the superstar was asked some tough questions by Judge Fiona Mwale when going through the adoption process of the twins. Questions about her age (the star is now 58 and in most cases considered too old to adopt), her health, her celebrity status and of course her motivation for wanting to adopt again.

The pop icon, insisted she is against foul language when bringing up children, takes religion seriously and has carried out extensive research on twins before adopting them. Seems the Madonna we see on stage and in the media is not the Madonna parent and that is probably a good thing.

Many would say if they had the resources and wealth that Madonna has, they would adopt too, and maybe that is true. But anyone who has gone through the process of adoption will tell you, status and wealth are certainly a plus but it’s your heart, passion and commitment that makes you want to adopt. I don’t know Madonna personally but I think her adopted children are extremely lucky and will have a very fortunate and opportunistic life.

Congratulations Madonna.

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ERIN BROCKOVICH

To me Erin Brockovich is a true heroine of single mothers. She showed us all how important it is for a woman to have a life, to have a purpose and meaning, to pursue passions and dreams because by doing all that, your kids will learn a very valuable less – if mommy is happy and successful, the kids will all turn out great and learn to pursue their dreams and passions.

"Last Call At The Oasis" Premiere - 2011 Toronto International Film Festival

Born in Lawrence Kansas, Erin Brockovich entered a beauty pageant at the ripe age of 21 and won Miss Pacific Coast. With only a degree in Associated Applied Arts, she moved to California in 1982 where she married her first husband Shawn Brown and had two kids, Matthew and Elizabeth. She divorced in 1987 and re-married Steven Brockovich whom she had her third child with, Katie only to be divorced again.

By 1983 Erin found herself a single mom with three kids struggling to find a job in the beginning of the digital age with little experience and opportunity. We all know the story, she relentlessly pursued a job as a legal clerk for the law firm Ed Masry and despite her lack of law education, she was instrumental in building a case against PG&E of California which was found guilty of contaminating the waters in the town of Hinckley with hexavalent chromium.   Erin Brockovich and Edward Masry were part of the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history as PG&E paid over $300 million dollar to residents that were effected by the contamination. Pretty darn impressive for a former beauty pageant.

If you’re a working parent, you feel tremendous guilt working and leaving your kids with a nanny or day care so you can pursue your work dreams or just make ends meat. But how does working affect your kids? My mom had to work when I was a child and it taught me important work ethics and the value of a hard earned dollar. In Betty Friedman’s “The Feminine Mystique”, Ms. Friedman talks about all the mothers during the 1950’s that were discouraged from working and were just housewives and moms. Betty Friedman interviewed many of these woman and found them experiencing severe depression, disappointment and despair about their life.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Erin Brockovich as bringing PG&E into a long battled lawsuit meant time away from her kids. We saw this painfully documented in the movie when Julia Roberts tears up as she learns she missed her youngest daughters first word.   We all know time is so precious when kids are young. But having your kids also see their mom be a true pioneer, bring justice to the world and overcome deceits, help families who suffered, can be the most rewarding gift to your children.

Today Erin Brockovich still pursues injustices when it comes to environmental issues. Her latest battles are ensuring governments that there is regulation on tap water being free of any toxins.

Being a single mom is full of challenges but as Erin once said, “Life is full of challenges. How you handle these challenges is what builds character. Never be afraid to be who you are.”

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