This Sunday, May 13 is Mother’s Day, and we here at Ohio Memory want to be the first to wish you all a happy one! First designated as a U.S. holiday in 1914, Mother’s Day is held on the second Sunday in May to recognize and celebrate mothers, motherhood and the importance of the maternal role in society. In honor of this important holiday, we’re showcasing some of the mothers who can be found in the Ohio Memory Digital Collection!
The above photograph, from the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County Collection on Ohio Memory, shows an interesting effort by an Ohio library to support the critical work of mothers in the community. The library was one of the first in the nation to have a room devoted to helping women with issues of child-rearing, housekeeping, and other daily life concerns. After a visit to the library in October 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt herself praised the library’s work in creating the mother’s room and wrote, “I wish there were such a room in every library.”
Seen here are Eddie Rickenbacker, Ohio’s “Ace of Aces” fighter pilot, and his mother, Elizabeth Rickenbacher, after Eddie’s return from service in France in 1919. Elizabeth (née Basler) was a Swiss immigrant who came to America around 1880 to join her brother on his north Columbus dairy farm. Little did she know that her son, one of seven children, would go on to earn the Distinguished Service Cross, the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the French Croix de Guerre for his exploits in World War I shooting down enemy aircraft. In the research room at OHS, you can even read a letter from Elizabeth to Eddie’s wife Adelaide in which she discusses being the mother of one of Ohio’s most famous native sons.
Thomas Edison, one of history’s most important inventors, was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. His mother, Nancy Elliot Edison, seen in the portrait at left, was born in 1810 as the daughter of a Revolutionary War hero. A former schoolteacher, Nancy devoted significant efforts to home-schooling her youngest son, whom she pulled from formal schooling after only three months when his teacher described him as slow and “addled.”
Although she died when he was only 24 years old, Thomas was later quoted as saying “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.” That’s quite the praise coming from a man whose genius changed the way we live our lives every day!
This photograph shows another proud mother, Viola Armstrong, greeting her son Neil at the airport in Lima, Ohio, shortly after his successful moon landing mission in 1969. During the homecoming celebration held for Neil in his hometown of Wapakoneta on September 6, 1969, more than 80,000 supporters showed up to greet the returning hero, and Bob Hope served as marshal for the event. Other guests included “Tonight Show” sidekick Ed McMahon, and Dr. Albert Sabin, inventor of the polio vaccine.
In addition to these famous moms, you can also visit Ohio Memory to see
- Matilda Dunbar, mother of poet Paul Laurence
- Mary Agnes “Mame” Thurber, described by son James as “one of the finest comic talents I think I have ever known,” along the rest of the Thurber clan
- A portrait of Hannah Simpson Grant, mother of Ulysses S.
- Service flags made by mothers with sons serving overseas
And much more. We hope you’ll take some time this Mother’s Day to visit Ohio Memory as you celebrate the mothers in your life!
Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!