Mother grave marker.
Remembering Mom in the cemetery.

Mom-uments: America's Tributes to Mothers

The reverence and respect felt for moms -- even animal moms -- is pretty much universal. Motherhood is sacred; the site of America's first Mothers' Day is blessed with a chapel. Statues and monuments to mothers pay tribute whenever a community is overpowered by feelings of material pride, duty, or guilt.

And yet -- while the love is certainly there, a glance at the list of America's mom-uments also shows a mix of celebratory sorrow, steely resolve, and murderous rage.

Say anything bad about our mom and we'll kill you. Or mom will.

Throughout history, moms have toiled anonymously. When they were ennobled in a statue or monument, it was usually for something super-duper-momlike. Fair or not, love and caring were expected in a mother, so the mom extra-credit qualities most often celebrated involved grim determination and uncomplaining endurance. Tight-lipped matriarchs predominate, often staring toward the horizon.

Hannah Duston with hatchet - Revenge Mom.
Hannah Duston with hatchet - Revenge Mom.

Whistler's Mother probably helped establish the dour mom-model, an image so venerated that it has its own statue. The happiest moms in our statuary always seem to be abstract or symbolic. The Mother of the Rubber Trees smiles beatifically, the Mother of Miami beams with the satisfaction of accomplishment. But when it comes to real, biological moms, the twelve dour Madonnas of the Trail -- identical pioneer matrons -- drag their children westward to likely death along the old National Road.

The Mother of All Mothers Map

Note: Mythical or allegorical moms, such as Mother Nature, the Mother Road, and the Mother of God, are numerous enough for their own maps. This roundup sticks with the tributes that are more traditional and often depict women with littler crunchers in their arms or at their feet -- because they are, well, moms.


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