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Top 10 mothers, thanks to whom the world changed

Updated on June 8, 2016

1. Mother of the Prince who conquered the world

Olympia can be credited not only for being mother of Alexander the Great, but also as an important figure that has left an impact on Hellenic history. She reigned during her son’s glory, and continued to influence Greece after his death.

Olympia’s personality was viewed as controversial throughout history. By chroniclers of the times she was considered spiteful and vengeful. Yet, such negativity might have been caused by her behavior that was non-conventional for the women of her time. In spite of her royal status, she had no rights at all. Her role, as of other Greek women was to give birth and take care of children. Contrary to the expectations, Olympia was strong-willed and influential. Young Alexander harbored a deep love for her. He listened to her advices, and let her get involved in politics. The more he drifted apart from his father, the closer he became to Olympia. Oppose to his father, Olympia was devoted to her son to the extent of jealousy. She manifested it toward every person, whom Alexander tried to be close with. One of such persons was his close friend, Hephaestion. Olympia feared that someone, besides her might behold same authority over her son. Alexander’s mother treated her son with an obsessive affection. She would wipe off anyone who’s come in the way of her precious son. Alexander could focus conquering the world, as his mother took care, that his throne is in safety.

After Alexander’s death, Olympia remained physically unprotected. She was accused and executed for the crimes she committed. History remembers Olympia as a powerful politician, who has changed the vision of the Greeks on the Hellenic women.

2. The Keeper of the Empire

The king of the Franks and the establisher of Holy Roman Empire, Karl I the Great (Charlemagne) owed everything to his parents, and especially to his mother, Bertrada of Laon. Naturally intelligent, Bertrada had a mind of strategist. Long before Charlemagne came to throne, together with her husband, King Pepin, she was strengthening the positions of the family in the kingdom.

Charlemagne’s mother played a key role during his father’s reign, and continued to do so, when her eldest son took over the power. After the death of King Pepin, the kingdom was split between Charlemagne and his younger brother Carloman. From that moment on, all the responsibility fell on Bertrada’s shoulders. Her main concern was to keep the kingdom, and protect it from schisms.

Bertrada predicted, that rivalry could arise between brothers, thus she did all the best to prevent it. Some historians said that Bertrada favorite her eldest son over her younger one. And the fact that she lived beside Charlemagne proves this assumption. Yet, a more reasonable cause was that she didn’t want the brothers to get in civil wars and lose the territories, she and her husband have acquired. The relationship between Bertrada and her son are described as being excellent. Only one was their relations strained, when she insisted him to marry the Lombard princess. Of course it was a marriage of convenience to keep lands from splitting. Bertrada’s contribution to the creation of Holy Roman Empire is undoubted.

Charlemagne followed her guidance and thanks to that no land was lost.

3. Mother of a powerful Mongolian

Mother of the first Mongolian Emperor, Genghis Khan has changed the image of the woman in the mind of Mongolians. Hoelun turned against the old orders in nomadic society. Her strong will, faith and strategic talent helped Genghis Khan begin his political career, that later made him the Emperor, who unified all the Mongolian tribes.

The first time Hoelun displayed strength of character was when she became widowed and had to take care of her children. Genghis Khan’s father hadn’t become a khan at the time when he died, meaning that his relatives had to take the situation into their own hands.

When Hoelun protested against it, they took the wealth and people, leaving Hoelun and her children broke.

Hoelun didn’t get down. She began to work hard, never letting a gloom thought cross her mind. She was sure, that one day her eldest son, Genghis khan will bring back the power and status to his family. Hoelun directed and advised her son through her whole life. He admired her for her bravery and political farsightedness.

As it was mentioned, she was the one who set his political career. When the time came for Genghis’s khan to marry his betrothed wife, the family of the girl gave Hoelun a sable fur coat as a present. Being a skillful politician, Hoelun advised her son to offer the fur to the Kerait ruler, Toghrul in exchange of his protection. Toghrul was so moved by such an expensive gift, that he promised Genghis-khan to help him regain his status. Tumors about Genghis-khan being the chosen one to unify all the Mongolians spread in the society. Hoelun, in her turn contributed to those rumors to be spread. Genghis khan began to fulfill his destiny, set by his mother. He unified all the Mongolians. It is worth to mention that behind this glorious victory stood his mother.

4. Devotement, Love and Thriftiness

The French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was known not only for his military glories but also for his relationships with women. Yet there was one woman in Napoleon’s life toward whom his love never changed. Since childhood till his death in exile, he worshiped and admired her. He recalled, that she bravely faced all the hardships.

Letizia Bonaparte was all that a woman was supposed to be according to the canons of the time. She was devoted to her husband (Charles Bonaparte) and dedicated to her children. She respected her husband and taught her children to do the same. Napoleon remembered his mother’s teaching and followed her edifications.

The initiator of fraternity, equality and freedom tasted the spirit of war when he was still in his mother’ womb. During her pregnancy, his father was involved in a guerrilla campaign, so Letizia insisted on accompanying him.

When the campaign was over, Napoleon’s mother took all the responsibility of the household upon herself. The family barely made ends meets, because of Napoleon’s father habit to waste money on gambling. Once, Napoleon complained about not receiving pocket money. She threatened her son to the extent to disown him if he would ever reproach his father about it.

Years of hardships left Letizia with a habit to hoard money (a quality, proved to be useful). When Napoleon became the emperor, Letizia considered that all the family should benefit from his success. As a result, all his siblings received titles and fortunes. Letizia was given the name "Madam, the Mother of His Majesty the Emperor".

Though she had money on her own, she let her children and patrons spend money on her, while hoarding her own. It seems like the past habit has never left her. Despite Napoleon's success, she was aware that it all might come to end.

Before the properties of Bonapartes were confiscated, Letizia managed to liquidate her French property. With that money, Napoleon managed to live a decent life with a personal cooker and a priest while in his exile.

5. The angelic mother of Abraham Lincoln

The savior of the slaves, and the protector of the Union, Abraham Lincoln said that he owed everything to his mother: "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

In fact, Abe Lincoln had two mothers that nurtured him. Both are said to have influenced him on his path to White House. His biological mother, Nancy Lincoln taught him about honesty and compassion, stirred his curiosity. Young Abe was devastated by her sudden death when he was 9 years old.

Another woman who was able to fill the hollowness in Abe’s heart was his step- mother, Sarah Bush Johnston. Abe called her his “angelic mother”. Once she stepped in Lincoln’s house, she brought to light in their home, as she was quick to turn the things around.

Sarah continued to encourage Abe’s aspiration toward studying. Although she was illiterate, she supported him by providing books. As a true mother, she saw abilities in him and let him realize his intellectual potential. She gave him love and caring as like he was her very own child by blood. And the affection was mutual.

She did everything that would make Lincoln call himself a “self-made man”. Lincoln said about her that she “had been his best friend in this world and that no son could love a mother more than he loved her.”

Though his step-mother encouraged him in his career, she was against him running for the presidency, because of the fear that he might be killed. And her intuition was right. When she was informed about his death, she was said to begin to cry, wailing that she knew they would kill him.

When Sarah Bush Johnston died she was buried in the dress her step-son gave to her.

6. Son of Clara Poelzl

The leader of third Reich under whose rule millions of Jews were killed, harbored a deep love for his mother. Clara Poelz, Adolf’s Hitler mother was a peasant girl with a strong personality. Hitler loved her to the edge of bigotry. And the more he detested his father and his behavior, the more he worshipped his mother. Clara protected him from his father, who would often humiliate and bully his son. Hitler’s mother was an idol for him, and he couldn’t take her image out of his mind until his last day. He tried to be the opposite of what his father was and live up to his mother’s expectations.

Strong-willed and determined, Clara always told Adolf that he must escape from his surroundings and tower above everybody. She wanted to see him successful and prosperous. He must be everything of that, so his mother could be proud of him. Adolf was her everything. She entrusted him all her hopes and expectations. And Hitler never let her down.

Unfortunately, his mother did not survive to see her son becoming the first man in Germany. Adolf Hitler lived to fulfill his great mission, that his mother has destined him. On the other hand, maybe it is a blessing she didn't live to see her son's disastrous fall, and the great damage he did to the whole world.

7. Mother of the Great Soul

The leader of India independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi received his first life lesson from his mother. For the future spiritual leader of India, his mother was the symbol of love and sacrifice. Putlibai Gandhi was devoted to her children. Even though she was illiterate, she was able to instill love for religion and common sense in her children. Gandhi saw his mother fasting and taking vows for frequent and long periods of time. This left a huge impact on him, as he abstained and fasted when he grew up a lot.

Composed and self-disciplined, Gandhi admired Putlibai’s strong will. Despite the fact, that she was from a wealthy family, she stayed indifferent toward luxurious objects. From her he adopted and ascetic style of life, that made him lead a humble life.

Putlibai trusted her children with her whole heart. She had no doubt in Gandhi when sending him off to study in England, action that was considered a sin. For the sake of his mother he would later practice ahimsa – promise to always speak the truth.

Once, when his mother was fasting, she promised not to eat anything until she hears the cuckoo voice. Young Gandhi felt so sorry for his mother, that out of kindness he decided to emulate the bird so his mother could eat. After he did it, the real cuckoo began to sing. Gandhi’s mother was disappointed to the point of saying she will disown him if he would ever lie to her again.

The love his mother had for him and his siblings overfilled him. She gave him the most important – faith. Thanks to all those virtues he learned from his mother, all his activist campaigns were peaceful and non-violent. Thanks to his mother affection and teaching, Gandhi was able to become the “The Great Soul” of India.

8. Mother of the Chinese communist revolutionist

Mao Zedong who has established the pillar of communism in China had a close nurturing relationship with his mother, Wen Qimei. She was extremely faithful. She became even more religious when Mao was born, as she was afraid he wouldn’t survive.

When he grew up, Mao Zedong would often accompany her to the temple and sing hymns to appease Gods. During his childhood years, he could enjoy his mother’s full attention. He took after his mother in terms of looks, and even their gestures and mannerism were alike, revealing romanticism. Later Mao would describe her as being benevolent, generous and a devout Buddhist.

Although his mother was illiterate, she would cultivate the love for learning in her son. Mao Zedung had access to books since an early age. The closeness of Zedong with his mother was induced by his father’s attempt to hinder Zedong attempt to receive a proper education, as he didn’t like the influence that the books had on his son. Indeed, the ideas, that young Mao Zedong derived from books were different from so-called “Chinese Way”, that consisted of using the indirect ways in order to gain what you want. Although his mother lost her influence over him, she never lost his love.

When his mother got ill, Mao Zedong made a pilgrimage to a South Hengshan temple. His mother’s death was a huge blow for him. After her death, he dedicated an elegy, called “An Elegy To My Mother”.

9. Mother of the son who had a dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. is known to have made a major change in the life of Afro-Americans. His speech is still the best display of humanity and love for mankind. Yet, if it wasn’t for this one person, Martin Luther King Jr. might have never begun to question the status of African- Americans in society.

The leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement was influenced by his mother. It was her, who instilled the idea of self-respect in him and his siblings. If it wasn’t for Alberta William King, King Jr. won’t be involved in a civil movement, fighting for the rights of the black people. She instilled him a sense of self-respect for who he was. She taught him, that he should feel he was somebody, and thanks to her he considered himself as a worthy personality, equal to other people. Thanks to his mother's approach, he could inspire thousands of people.

King’s mother was deeply religious, and he would attend church since small. Kindness and forgiveness were the fundamentals of the ideology that Alberta William King instilled in her children. This fact can explain the peaceful character of his movements.

His mother has never stopped to repeat that the attitude towards Afro-Americans is just a social condition and not something naturally right. With her whole behavior, she opposed this system, and King Jr. followed her example. As he never doubted Christian teachings, he never doubted the ideas his mother imbued into him. He maintained a very close relationship with his mother, calling Alberta his source of strength.

Unfortunately, his mother didn’t only share his dream, but also his fate. Same as her son, she was slain by a bullet.

10. Mother of the spiritual teacher of the Universe

We know Dalai Lama XIV as the Buddhist spiritual teacher. Tibetans are grateful to him for his attempt to establish autonomous Tibetan state within the Republic of China. In all his teachings, Dalai Lama XIV always mentions compassion and sympathy towards people and the world around. He said that his warmth-heartedness comes from his mother. Dalai Lama pointed to the importance of the affection that mothers display toward children in childhood. Thanks to his mother, he was able to acquire inner peace. On his opinion, children who feel loved by their mothers are more in harmony with themselves. Diki Tsering, the mother of Dalai Lama, felt the inequality of being a girl in Tibetan society. She must have influenced Dalai Lama, thus when he grew up, in his speeches he constantly addresses the role of the woman in the society. He strongly believes that it is not the religion, but his mother, who dropped the seed of kindness in his heart. In all his speeches Dalai Lama says that compassion and love are the key qualities that will save the world and keep it spinning. Diki Tsering was considered “Mother of Compassion”, and for her son, she was the display of the most sympathetic person. He always mentions that women are the one who feel compassion and love deeper. Therefore, he urges them to be more active in the matters of the modern world.


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    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great short histories of some wonderful mothers. Their roles were key in our world history and will continue to be. Excellent Hub, Stacie.


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