When it comes to Mother’s Day we naturally turn to mothers close to us to express our appreciation and love for them for everything they have done for the children of this world. To think of mothers is to think of nature, nurture, unconditional love, passion and also the sacrifices that come with motherhood. This is a day of celebration for all mothers and their importance which extends further than your own kin.
Therefore, let us not forget the mothers throughout history who have given so selflessly to the better good of this cosmos. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we will take a look at several examples of mothers, starting with Mother Nature herself.
Mother Nature, also known as Mother Earth, is the personification of nature into a motherly figure, capturing the core aspects of motherhood and identifying them in nature. The earliest reference to Mother Nature is in the Mycenaean period as Mother Gaia, the goddess of all life. The fact that Earth and nature are envisioned as a mother reveals the close ties between nature and nurture.
In Greek mythology, Demeter’s (goddess of harvest and agriculture) daughter, Persephone, was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld, to become his wife. Demeter’s grief resulted in no harvest being produced, affecting humankind as a whole. At this point, Zeus intervened to bring Persephone back to her mother. Hades did not let her go that easily; not without eating the fatal pomegranate seeds, (fruit of the underworld) to tie her to the underworld for a part of every year, for eternity. The seasonal patterns are influenced by Demeter’s sorrow and happiness resulting in the creation of the seasons. The winter months reflect Demeter’s grief whilst the summer months represent the period Persephone returns to her mother every year. The myth of Demeter and Persephone is the epitome of unconditional love and the sorrow that comes with motherhood.
When it comes to Catholic and Orthodox Churches, Madonna is the representation of mother Mary, depicted either alone or with her son, Jesus Christ, as the ideal example of a mother figure. Most famed for her immaculate conception which began with the Annunciation, when Angel Gabriel appeared to announce that Mary had been selected as the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary is the symbol of purity and has been venerated throughout Christianity, from its early beginnings, with her importance varying between religious denominations. Across several religions, there are mother figures that appear of similar origins to Mary. In Islam, Mary, known as Maryam, with a chapter of the Quran dedicated to her. She is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran and she is hailed as an example for women to live by in the world. Mary’s motherhood is also marked by tragedy as her son is taken away from her, just like Persephone is taken from Demeter.
During World War II, many families were forcibly separated due to the Nazi regime. The sacrifices that mothers (and fathers) had to make for their children were tremendous and to this day still heartbreaking. Many Jewish families were separated as they went into hiding and often children were placed with host families who took Jewish children into their homes, despite the high stakes if they were discovered.
In Warsaw, Poland, the Jews were crammed into the Jewish Ghetto. Irena Sendler was a nurse who served in occupied Warsaw. She saved more than 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during World War II by smuggling them out of the ghetto, giving them temporary identities and placing them with host families. Irena was a young mother herself and knew it was no easy task to convince Jewish parents in the Ghetto to part with their children on top of finding them suitable homes outside the ghetto. Eventually, the Nazis went after Irena and she was caught and tortured, but she never gave up any information regarding the children she had saved. She was sentenced to execution but her associates bribed the Gestapo, leading to her escape. Her story shows love, courage, compassion and pure human decency.
There are many mothers we can refer to for their humanitarian work. One in particular which has crossed many borders is Diana, Princess of Wales, also known as Princess Diana. She is one of the most adored members of the British Royal family. She was known as a devoted mother who engaged in many charitable efforts, using her status to raise awareness for many issues. Tragedy struck when Diana passed away after a fatal car crash in 1997, sending shock ripples across the world. Her two sons, Harry and William, follow in her footsteps; humble and dedicated to a cause. This has resulted in her sons being as much loved as Diana herself.
Let us dedicate a special focus to the refugee mothers of today and to the families that have been uplifted and displaced, with their migration marked by tragedy, desperation and loss. Refugee mothers are significant for the strength they maintain throughout the tragic loss, desperation and sacrifices. In times like this, we need to remember to be supportive, to spread love and campaign for those in need.
On this day, take a moment to commemorate those mothers who are your role models and prominent female figures in your life, whether this is in mythology, religion, royalty, or everyday life. Above are only a few of the many mothers who deserve the attention and recognition on this special day. Keep in mind that this is a significant day, but only one among other days of the year in which the female figures in your life should be appreciated for the sacrifices they have made, as well as the love and compassion they spread.
Researched & written by Emma Greenwood
MA in Heritage Management