In honor of Black History Month, we’ve put together a list of mothers and women who inspire us — not just this month, but every day.
Audre Lorde, poet (1934-1992)
How the days went
while you were blooming within me
I remember each upon each—
the swelling changed planes of my body
and how you first fluttered, then jumped
and I thought it was my heart.
–from the poem “Now That I am Forever with Child”
Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, co-founder of GrassROOTS Community Foundation and mother of 11-year old philanthropist, Marley Dias
“My parents have taught me the value of reading and self-love through books that have characters that look like me and talk like me. I want to make sure other Black girls around the world can see and love themselves, too, through these books,” Marley said in a statement to the press.
Dias came up with the idea for #1000BlackGirlBooks, an international book drive, over dinner with her mother, Dr. Janice Dias Johnson, one night. When Marley expressed her frustration over the lack of diversity in literature, her mother asked her what she was going to do about it.
“And I told her I was going to start a book drive where Black girls are the main characters in the book and not background or minor characters,” Dias told Philly Voice in a recent interview.
Toni Morrison, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author
“…I never felt more free in my life until I had children. They were just the opposite of a burden. But for black women, enslaved, to have a child that you were responsible for that was really yours, that was really freedom. Cause they took those children; you didn’t have children; you may have produced them but they weren’t yours. They could be sold [and] were sold. To be a mother was the unbelievable freedom.”
Shonda Rhimes, Director and author
“All the greeting cards are about sacrifice. ‘Mother, you gave up so much for me. You worked so hard for me. You sacrificed so much. You were so wonderful and giving and selfless.’
Where is the greeting card that says, ‘Mother, you taught me how to be a powerful woman,’ ‘Mother, you taught me how to earn a living,’ ‘Mother, you taught me how to speak up for myself and not back down?’ Those are the greeting cards that should be out there. Those are the qualities that we would want for our daughters to have. I don’t want my daughters to grow up and think, ‘I should shrink and be in the background. I should be selfless. I should be sacrificing. I should be silent.’ That’s not what I think a mother is.”
–Shonda Rhimes, mother of three daughters, on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, 2016
Maya Rudolph, actress
“I have a friend who had two babies at home! In bed! Her name is Maya Rudolph! She is a…baby champion and she pushed her cuties out ‘Little House on the Prairie’ style!”
April Ryan, journalist and author
“Parenthood is sacred. Women have been given a gift of something special. We offer the birth of generations and the emotional nurturing of those we guide. And it is usually left to the mother to teach her children about the ways of the world. That means no subject can be left to chance. Everything must be discussed, because it can be a matter of life or death.”
Kelly Rowland, musician and author
“…You want to make sure that you instill in them values and morals and their self-worth, and that to me is so important. And I don’t want him to get it from the rest of the world. He needs to get it from home so that when he goes into the world he has a great sense of self respect and identity and he knows who he is and he has respect for others as well.”
Valerie Jarret, former advisor to President Obama
“From day one, I always said, ‘If my daughter calls me during my work hours, no matter what, I was to be interrupted so I could take the call.'”
Jodie Patterson, mother of five, founder of two beauty companies, and activist
“Sometimes your children will be on a path that you have no reference point for, yet still you need to rise to occasion and join them on that path. You end up doing things that you never envisioned and you tap into things you thought were unrelatable.”
Mia Love, the first African-American Republican Congresswoman
“Like other mothers, Mia has the ability to keep track of a lot of moving parts and involve our children in this process, such as taking them to a dinner event or a town hall meeting. It engages our children. Ultimately, our objective is to raise our children well.” ––Jason Love, husband
Mignon Moore, Professor and author
“I want my kids to see through our example that they have a responsibility to participate in a community. I want them to be part of a larger movement, to be part of a family, and not to think that the world is only about their dreams.”
Jeanette Epps, NASA Astronaut
“The NASA mission has always inspired me because I have a great desire to help further our understanding of the world we live in and the universe. I pursued a career in science and technology in an effort to contribute. I also have a desire to encourage young students to pursue careers in science and help contribute because I believe everyone can help and has a part to play!”
Katherine Johnson, physicist and mathematician
“I knew my mother worked at NASA. Growing up we knew she was smart. But she was Mom.” — Katherine Moore, Johnson’s daughter
Michelle Obama, lawyer and former First Lady of the United States
“I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.”
Beyonce Knowles, musician / performer
“I just want to make sure that she can have a healthy, safe, normal life … in the back of my mind, she’s my priority. And life is completely different now. So I’m – I feel really, really just lucky that I can still do what I love, and now have a way bigger meaning. And that’s to be her mother.”
What amazing women would you add?