Mother’s Day was this past weekend and it got me to thinking about all of the amazing women that I have had interactions with in my life. I am very grateful to have an amazing mother and am able to witness the greatness of a mother first hand when I watch my wife interacting with our sons. Watching memorable women is the motivation for today’s blog. Thinking about ‘mothers’ on Mothers Day got me to thinking about all the mothers on TV. Not just the great moms that we see on TV shows like Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch; but there have also been a lot of moms that would rather sit around eating bonbons and watch soap operas than be a good mom. (Yes I’m talking about you Peggy Bundy from Married…with Children.) So in today’s blog, I’m going to give my top 10 picks for the most memorable TV moms. These memorable moms don’t necessarily have to be the ‘best moms’. Some may even be slightly wacky like Lucy Ricardo from I Love Lucy but we definitely remember them.
Note: I am excluding cartoon moms here because…well there are just too many of them to include on a regular list. SO I guess I’ll make a separate list of the most memorable cartoon moms later. 🙂
With that being said, here are the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Most Memorable TV Moms –
Honorable Mention: Roseanne Conner from Roseanne (played by Roseanne Barr) and Jill Taylor from Home Improvement (played by Patricia Richardson)
10. Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) – The mother of three beautiful blonde haired girls and step-mom to three strapping young boys kept a clean house and still managed to be a great influence on her kids. Wait…that was Alice. Whether Carol Brady did the cleaning does not impact her undeniably being one of the most memorable mothers on TV.
9. Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) – I am not ashamed to say that I was/am a fan of the Golden Girls and most of that was because of Sophia. Who wouldn’t love a cute grandma who had an excuse to be as crass, blunt, and uncensored as possible all while telling outlandish stories about her past love life and tall tale exploits? Sophia’s love for her daughter was evident many times but her brazen remarks make her completely unforgettable.
8. Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) – The hard-working, hard-nosed but loving momma from Good Times started off as the housekeeper on Maude. She quit her job to be a housewife and boy were we grateful. Despite the show concentrating more on the ridiculous antics of her oldest son JJ in later seasons, the life lessons taught in that apartment in that poor black neighborhood in inner-city Chicago were applicable to all of us.
7. Peggy Bundy (Katey Sagal) – If there ever was a visible representation for the stereotypical lazy, self-indulgent wife it would be Peggy Bundy. From her bright red bouffant hairdo to her skintight Spandex pants sat on the couch eating bonbons and watched TV. She may have been Married with Children but she didn’t clean, wouldn’t cook, refused to get a job and was constantly insulting her husband Al. She did love her husband and children in her own special way. She wasn’t the best mom or wife but she was memorable none the less.
*Actress Katey Sagal also played another very memorable mother as the deathly devoted mother of Jax Teller, Gemma Teller Morrow, on the TV show Sons of Anarchy.
6. Caroline Ingalls (Karen Grassle) – I can’t imagine how hard it was being a mother in the late 1800s. Especially being a mother raising a family on a small farm ‘in a little house on the prairie’ after traveling by covered wagon across great distances. The character of Carolina Ingalls was based on the real-life mother of the Laura Ingalls Wilder whose family’s exploits were talked about in her Little House on the Prairie books that were adapted to the TV show of the same name.
5. Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) – If you ever try to argue that there was a more kind, loving wife and mother than Edith Bunker from All in the Family, then I will tell you to ‘stifle yourself’. 😉 She was the wife to a verbally sometimes verbally cruel husband and mother to a free-thinking, hippish daughter; but was always the voice of reason to the situations that occurred. She may have been known for her high pitched voice and intensely loyal love to her sometimes bigoted husband, but she stood her ground many times and taught some valuable lessons along the way. She seemed to be an undereducated and flighty demeanor but over the history of the show, she seemed to be the happiest and wisest character of them all.
*Tidbit of info: Edith Bunker’s cousin was Maude (who was played by Bea Arthur who played Dorothy, the daughter of my number 9 choice on the show The Golden Girls) which led to a spinoff, Maude. Maude and her husband’s housekeeper was my number 8 choice Florida Evans which coincidentally had her own spin-off show as described earlier. All in the Family had yet another spinoff when the Bunker’s black neighbors ‘moved it on up’ to the East Side. Yes, that’s right. The Jeffersons started out on All in the Family as the Bunker’s neighbors.
4. June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley) – The perfect archetypal suburbanite mother of two boys in the 1950s was June Cleaver. Wally and his younger brother Theodore aka Beaver (hence the shows name Leave it to Beaver). She is the quintessential perfect parent. The show always ended with some sort of moral lesson that we should learn through the lessons taught to the boys on the show. Despite many people complaining about the hacky and stereotypical aspects (since June’s favorite pastimes are cake decorating and doing needlepoint), June Cleaver is one of the most recognizable ‘moms’ on TV.
3. Kitty Forman (Debra Jo Rupp) – A nurturer, an enabler, and sometimes drunk; Kitty Forman from That 70s Show is the loving mom who tried to smooth out the situations that arise between her browbeating, ill-tempered, ‘put my foot up your a**’ husband Red Forman and her smartmouthed, slacker son Eric. Kitty’s laugh and nervous behavior was not the only thing that we noticed about her. Kitty always put her family first. Despite usually being soft-spoken and the loving voice of reason, on the rare occasion when she does get mad, the profanity is strong enough to make Red turn red and make the show’s censors start to sweat. Kitty is more than memorable, she was close to perfect. In her own way that is.
2. Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones) – Though they’re ‘creepy and their kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky’ the Addams family was DEFINITELY entertaining. The Addamses were a complete satirical inversion of that quintessential 1950s family. They’re oddly wealthy but their macabre and sometimes bizarre lifestyle was just frightening enough to weird us out but funny enough to make us laugh. The show was based on a single-panel cartoon series by Charles Addams. The show featured a creepy uncle, a disembodied hand that ran around the house, and a short diminutive, hirsute creature that only speaks high-pitched gibberish whose floor length hair is the only body part ever visible; but the loving wife and mother Morticia Addams was not only the matriarch of the family but she was and is one of the most memorable TV wives and female TV characters ever.
- Clair Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad) – Along with most of America, I was raised on The Cosby Show. It was funny but taught us lessons on a level that we could understand. Clair Huxtable was usually the straight woman to her husband counterpart Cliff (played by Bill Cosby), she was the disciplinarian of the household and a hardworking Lawyer who showed that you could balance a household and a successful career. Her character showcased one of the first ‘working mothers’ on TV and was/is inspirational to African Americans and women everywhere. From standing up to her daughter’s mother-in-law when she thought she was being disrespected to her confrontation with her chauvinistic son-in-law Elvin; she provided a feminist point-of-view to the TV landscape while being devoted to her kid’s success and them becoming well-rounded, successful people. She is lovingly devoted to her husband despite his silly antics.
TV by Museokeskus Vapriikki – Televisio, ASA-TV 221, 1956, Turku. Tampereen museot. Kuva Timo Lehtinen, Vapriikin kuva-arkisto., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52036703
Featured Image: Jill Taylor attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33490000
Title Card for The Brady Bunch TV show attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34177604
Florida Evans played by Esther Rolle and her brother Wilbert played by Louis Gossett, Jr. accredited to CBS Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17098699
Gil Gerard and Karen Grassle in Little House on the Prairie accredited to NBC – ebay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23533104
Photo of Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont as June and Ward Cleaver accredited to ABC Television – eBay item photo front photo back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18486439
Morticia Addams original accredited to Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13250095
Phylicia Rashad by Kingkongphoto & http://www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA – FELICIA RASHAD, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74872807