Extraordinary Moms, Then and Now

By KATHY MEGYERI

Each of us treasure our own special mothers who gave us life and so much more,
but there are some mothers who nurtured not only their own children, but the world’s.
On this Mother’s Day, 2018, we take a look at some of these remarkable ladies.

Ann Maria Jarvis is the First Mother of
Mother’s Day. She bore between 11 and 13
children, but only four survived to adulthood. In 1858, she began Mother’s Day Work Clubs to combat childhood diseases and improve sanitation. She also nursed soldiers on both sides of the Civil War as a symbol of neutrality. After the war, Jarvis organized a “Mother’s Friendship Day” to help curtail post-war hostilities. Following her death, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, made it her mission to get Mother’s Day recognized as a holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the
proclamation and made it official.

Irena Sendler, a mother of three,
smuggled almost 2,500 Jewish children out
of Warsaw’s ghetto during World War II,
provided them with false identity papers, and
sheltered them with adoptive Polish families
or in care facilities. As a social worker, Sendler
gained access to the Warsaw ghetto to check
for typhus, a disease that the Germans feared
would spread beyond the ghetto. Under the
guise of inspecting sanitary conditions, she
                                                        smuggled out babies and small children,
                                                        hiding them in packages and suitcases. She
                                                        once said, “Every child saved with my help is
                                                        the justification of my existence on this Earth,
                                                       and not a title to glory.”

Lou Xiaoying has been praised in
China for saving more than 30 abandoned
babies found in the trash. In 1972, she was
making a meager living by recycling rubbish
when she discovered the first child lying in
garbage. She kept and raised some of the
children she found over the years; others
were passed on to relatives and friends.
Many of the babies abandoned on the streets
by poor parents were the victims of China’s
one child policy. She said, “I realized if we
had strength enough to collect garbage, how
could we not recycle something as important
as human lives?”

Julia Ward Howe wrote the first Mother’s
Day proclamation in 1870 asking women
everywhere to join for world peace, a pacifist
reaction to the carnage of the Civil and the
Franco-Prussian wars. Married to the founder
of the Perkins School for the Blind, she bore
six children. She was an abolitionist, feminist,
poet and women’s suffrage activist but is best
known for writing the Battle Hymn of the
Republic.

Kathy Headlee Miner is the mother of 7
children, 2 stepchildren and founder of Mothers
Without Borders. The nonprofit organization
focuses on work in Africa where they care for
orphaned and vulnerable children, provide safe
shelter, food and clean water. Adult caregivers
are offered literacy and business skills training.
Miner has also organized and implemented
community development projects in Romania,
Mexico, India, Indonesia and Bolivia.

Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against
Drunk Driving (MADD) in 1980 after a drunk
driver killed her 13-year-old daughter, Cari.
Before that, drunk drivers injured her two other
children in separate accidents; her son suffered
permanent brain damage. She rallied mothers
across the country to help lobby for legislation
that would prevent drunk driving deaths and
                                                             injuries and curb underage drinking.

Theresa Kachindamoto, the paramount
chief to over 900,000 Malawian people and
mother of five boys, has greatly improved
the lives of Malawi’s youth. Malawi is one
of the poorest countries in the world with an
HIV infection rate of 10 percent. A United
Nations study found that more than half of the
country’s women are married before the age of
18, and girls as young as 7 were sent to sexual
initiation camps. In just three years, the chief
annulled over 850 child marriages, encouraged
girls to go to school, and made the community
healthier in the process.

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