I need inspiration these days—maybe you do too? Being a single mom doesn’t necessitate giving up on personal dreams and goals, right?! … I keep telling myself this—like a mantra to get me through the eye of a storm. Yet, weeks go by where I find myself juggling demands from school, illnesses with the boys, a myriad of activities, homework help, cooking, shopping, freelance work, etc. … I know I don’t need to tell any of you about any of this! I am not alone. There are more than 10 million single mothers in America, according to the US Census Bureau’s Mother’s Day 2013 report .
I’d venture to guess that most of us are great moms. (Regardless of what silly politicians may say!) We put our children’s needs first and work diligently to provide safe and nurturing homes for them. But there’s no reason why we can’t also put ourselves, our dreams, and aspirations on our to-do lists, too.
For inspiration, I started researching successful women who pursued their passions—while also raising children solo. From poets and journalists—to athletes and politicians—these single working mothers beat the odds, pushed aside doubts and societal conventions and fought to make their dreams come true. I hope you are inspired by NV’s Inspirational Single Moms List:
Maya Angelou: Ms. Angelou tops my list. Before writing I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings—and certainly before she became the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University, OR read at Clinton’s inauguration, OR inspired Oprah—Angelou held a number of wild jobs to help raise her son Guy, including dancing, acting, writing and waiting tables. She was even rumored to have been a madam at one point. Thankfully, she kept writing, as her her poetry and vision has inspired millions. Angelou received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her book of poetry Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, numerous literary awards, theNational Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama.
Maria Montessori: Most have heard of the popular Montessori schools, but did you know the person who developed that particular method of education, was a single mother? Her determination in a male-dominated field, must have helped Montessori later as a single mother. Montessori had to fight her way into the University of Rome in 1890 to study physics, maths and natural sciences—subjects women in Italy were not allowed to study at the time. (When turned down, she pled her case to the Pope.) Upon her graduation, with another intercession by the Pope, Montessori entered the Faculty of Medicine, and became the first woman to enter and graduate medical school in Italy. Her work as a physician with disabled children, inspired her to ultimately create the Montessori style of teaching . Her drive and ambition is incredibly motivational, especially at a time, and in a country, that shunned women from science and further education.
Isadora Duncan: The inventor of Modern Dance led an adventurous and rather unconventional life for the times. She was born in San Francisco in 1877 (on my birthday, May 27th, coincidentally), and taught dance at a very early age. After a few stints with dance companies in America, she sailed on a cattle boat to England at the age of 21. She worked throughout Europe and even in Russia, creating schools of dance to follow her modern dance style. Duncan interpreted music freely and without restriction, with a fondness for scarfs and Greek-inspired attire. A performance in London, with her dancing barefoot, soon enraptured concerts halls throughout Europe. The revolutionary dancer was a single mother of two.
Madeleine K. Albright: The first female Secretary of State took a circuitous route in her career. For many years Albright focussed on raising her three young daughters and supporting her husband and his career. After her husband left her for a younger woman, Albright, who earned a Ph.D from Columbia University, became foreign policy adviser to vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. By 1988 she was advising presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. In the course of that doomed crusade, she met Bill Clinton and wrote him a letter of recommendation to the Council on Foreign Relations. A few years later, he named her ambassador to the United Nations. And we all know where this position ultimately led her.
Natascha Ragosina: As an undefeated professional boxer, this Russian athlete spent much of her career as the top super middleweight of the world. Not afraid to show her sexiness, or her powerful reach and quickness in the ring, she held all major female super middleweight titles and two heavyweight belts. This single mom embodies strength, power and beauty.
J.K. Rowling: Rowling worked hard—to not only support her infant daughter—but also to write a little book that would become known around the world: Harry Potter. After divorcing her first husband while pregnant, Joanne “Jo” Rowling raised her daughter Jessica solo while on state assistance and writing Harry Potter. Her depression during this period inspired the now famous soul-sucking dementors. Rowling wrote in 2008 that there were “fringe benefits of failure,” explaining that she poured all her energy into finishing her book, as she considered herself officially a failure in everything else in her life. “Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged.” Rowling’s hard work writing in cafes while her baby girl slept, paid off. She is now remarried and has two more children. Oh, and the mother of three has sold more than 400 million copies of her Harry Potter series worldwide. Her latest book, The Casual Vacancy, was published in 2012.
Katie Couric: The now-famous TV journalist and talk show host, lost her husband to colon cancer in 1998—leaving her to raise her two teenage girls on her own. Couric rose to fame as a NBC new reporter, landing a job as the co-anchor of Today, then in 2006 becoming the first solo female anchor of CBS Evening News. Now Couric has her own talk show, Katie. Clearly, she’s done a great job juggling single parenting and her career, while making it seem effortless.
Naomi Judd: Before becoming the elder member of the wildly popular country music duo, Naomi Judd was a young single mother raising two little girls. She worked several jobs to support her family, including being a nurse, secretary, waitress and clerk, before she and her daughter Wynonna formed The Judds. The group would go on to become country music’s most successful mother-daughter duo. Her second daughter, Ashley Judd, became an acclaimed film actress. Along with her daughter, Wynona, Naomi has earned five Grammy Awards, and eight CMA awards. Not too shabby by any account!
Sarah Newcomb McClendon: McClendon worked as a long-time White House reporter and founded her own news service as a single mom during the post-World War II era. What I didn’t realize, is that this woman clearly embodies Texas grit and determination. After enlisting in the War and being assigned a public relations post, her husband left her before he met his death. She, meanwhile, was pregnant. Using her connections in Washington, D.C., McClendon landed a job—the same month as her daughter’s birth. Her moxie was evident her entire life as the savvy reporter became a leading model for women in the press and she was well known for asking bold questions during Presidential press conferences. She died in 2003.
Harriet Strong: Her last name is perfect. I can’t imagine the strength it took to be able to invent a water conservation device and irrigation system during the first World War—after her husband left her and their four daughters for the California Gold Rush. The single mother and scientist was also a well known speaker for women’s independence and suffrage.
Julie Newmar: There are many actresses who are single mothers today. But to be honest, it’s hard to garner inspiration from their lives, when many achieved stardom before having or adopting children and have an entourage of help and money at their disposal. One actress, however, is a bit different. The original Catwoman in the popular “Batman and Robin” TV series, Newmar was an accomplished Broadway success in the 50′s and 60′s. Few realize, however, that she raised her son, John who has down syndrome, alone—taking him with her all around the world. She showed that women can pursue their passions, while finding a way to provide love and security for a child.