The love that a grandmother has for her grandchildren is pure and unconditional. She delights in spoiling them, and always has their best interests at heart. As well, grandmothers hold a special place in the hearts of their grandchildren, an imprint that can be replaced by no one else.
After her passing in 2008, Barack Obama described his grandmother as “the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances.” Obama has praised his grandmother countless times over the years and has voiced his gratitude for her constant encouragement and inspiration.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, let us reflect on several notable grandmothers who have inspired their families, and the world.
When Hillary Clinton welcomed her first grandchild, Charlotte, in September 2014, she couldn’t hide her “grandmother glow.” During a speech at a national convention, Clinton reflected on her experience as a new grandmother and how the birth of baby Charlotte had fueled her campaign for female empowerment and gender equality: “I think my granddaughter has just as much God-given potential as a boy who was born in that hospital on the same day.”
Clinton has since experienced the arrival of her second grandchild, a boy named Aiden, and plans to honor and continue the legacy of an inspirational grandmother that was modeled by her own mother: “I want to be for my grandchild what my mother was for her grandchildren…. She was challenging, she was emotionally supportive, but she also was clear in setting expectations.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been named as one of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women, Glamour’s Woman of the Year (2012) and Time’s 100 Most Influential People (2015). Ginsburg is a proud mother of two children and four grandchildren. Beyond her professional accomplishments and her pop culture status, Ginsburg is known simply as “Bubbe” to her grandchildren, and she told USA Today that becoming a mother allowed her to see the big picture. “Having Jane gave me a better sense of what life is,” she says.
At the time of her death in 2014, Joan Rivers was known as one of the greatest trailblazers for female comedians, but was less known for her most important role: mother to her beloved daughter Melissa and grandmother to Cooper.
Rivers’ love for her grandson Cooper was unconditional and rooted in their shared sense of humor. She recalled “Cooper has a great sense of humor. I don’t know if it’s mine but that was how we first connected…. When he was very young, he got the jokes and he was able to do jokes back with me. And I always thought it was amazing that he was a year, a year-and-a-half, and he and I had jokes already together. He calls me Nana New Face.”
Queen Elizabeth II
As the head of the British Commonwealth for the past 65 years, Queen Elizabeth has had to juggle the role of being head of state with that of being a matriarch. Her grandson, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, describes her in an inspiring light: “She’s been a very strong female influence. She’s been incredibly supportive and I’ve really appreciated her guidance.”
Princess Kate describes the tender relationships that her majesty has with her great-grandchildren. “She always leaves little gifts in the room when we go to stay with her. I think that just shows her love for her family.”
Known for her poetry and activism, one of Maya Angelou’s most important accomplishments was being there for her son, Guy Johnson, through his times of need. In a candid interview with the Los Angeles Times, Angelou shared her son’s recovery from a broken neck and their family’s emotional search for her grandson, who was kidnapped and eventually reunited with Guy four years later. Angelou, who was critical in finding her grandson, recalled that moment:
“I said, ‘You know, I’ve come for my grandson. And I’m not leaving without him. So get him. Bring me my grandson.’…They opened a door in another room and this person who looks exactly like my son came running in–‘Grandma! Grandma!’ And then Angelou called her son, who had been waiting at home three days for this call–“I said, ‘Guy Johnson, I have my hands on him.”
So, as Mother’s Day approaches, let us honor inspirational grandmothers everywhere, who have achieved the greatest accomplishment of all…the love of family.
Do you have or know an inspirational grandmother? We’d love to hear your stories and memories in the comments below.
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- Goldenberg, Suzanne. Grandmother who was childhood role model dies on eve of poll. The Guardian. November 4, 2008. Available online: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/04/barack-obama-grandmother-madelyn-dunham
- CBS News. Hillary Clinton has “grandmother glow” after Charlotte’s birth. CBS News. October 3, 2014. Available online: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/hillary-clinton-has-grandmother-glow-after-charlottes-birth/
- Carlson, Adam. Grandmother-in-Chief? How Becoming a Grandma Changed Hillary Clinton. People Magazine. April 12, 2015. Available online: http://people.com/celebrity/hillary-clinton-on-being-a-grandmother/
- Collins, Gail. The Unsinkable R.B.G. The New York Times. February 20, 2015. Available online: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/opinion/sunday/gail-collins-ruth-bader-ginsburg-has-no-interest-in-retiring.html?_r=0
- Plazza, Jo. Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers Talk Motherhood, Gay Marriage. Huffington Post. May 10, 2012. Available online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/joan-rivers-melissa-rivers-motherhood-gay-marriage_n_1507258.html?ref=celebrity
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- Perry, Simon. Prince William Shares How Queen Elizabeth Helped Him After Losing Princess Diana: ‘She’s Been a Very Strong Female Influence. People Magazine. April 20, 2016. Available online: http://people.com/royals/prince-william-shares-how-queen-elizabeth-helped-him-after-losing-princess-diana/
- Beyette, Beverly. Angelou’s 4-Year Search for Grandson: Kidnaping Spurs Emotional Odyssey. Los Angeles Times. June 12, 1986. Available online: http://articles.latimes.com/1986-06-12/news/vw-10461_1_maya-angelou/3
- Stevenson, Sarah. 22 Inspirational Women Over 60. A Place for Mom. May 12, 2015. Available online: https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/3-12-15-inspirational-women-over-60/
- Larsen, Dana. Best Pieces of Life Advice from Mom. A Place for Mom. May 3, 2016. Available online: https://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/5-03-16-best-pieces-of-life-advice-from-mom/
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