Mothers Who Changed History

by Bette G. Rinehart

Mothers Who Changed HistoryMothers are the foundation of our families, some the builders of nations, and many, the advocates for change. March is Women's History Month. We've called out a few of these famous mothers to highlight their incredible efforts.

These influential women have made (and are making) sweeping changes in areas such as civil rights, equality, aid to the poor and environmental concerns.

How would our lives be different if these women hadn't wanted a better education system, safety standards, opportunities and freedom for their children and the generations that follow?

We applaud these mothers for their compassionate spirit and driving passion to affect change and test the status-quo.

While the list is large for the mothers who move mountains, this brief list showcases a wide variety to demonstrate how they've made a difference for us in our lives. It doesn't matter how big or small the effort is, it's that it is made at all!

Take a moment to think about who's made a difference in your life!

A Mom Who Gave Us a Safe Place to Live

Erin Brockovich was born June 22, 1960. Erin was a single mom trying to make living. She worked for a legal firm as a file clerk.

While filing, Erin found medical records that would explode into the largest direct action lawsuit in United States history. A large company had been poisoning the small town of Hinkley’s water supply for over 30 years. This poison affected the health of the entire population of Hinkley, CA. The utility company was forced to pay $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley families.

Although she wasn't an attorney, Erin became an environmental crusader dedicated to exposing injustice and lending her voice to those who do not have one.

Her life story is told in the film, "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts. Erin hosted the Lifetime series, "Final Justice With Erin Brockovich," and as resident of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she's currently involved in environmental projects worldwide.

A Mom Who Held Drunk Drivers Accountable

Candy Lightner was born May 30, 1946. Candy was a divorced mother of three selling real estate in California. Within months of a tragic incident, she had become a personality and a crusader with a cause.

Lightner's 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver. The lenient sentence made her angry and didn't provide justice for her daughter. Lightner started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to combat with the pervasive issue of drunk driving. Her focus was going after the most dangerous drivers on the road.

Fueled by passion, Candy replaced the mundane drunk driving statistics with images and stories of real people. Her actions changed the United States' attitude toward drunk driving, affecting public policy and on some levels morality. Candy's passion reaches even farther.

In 2010, Jennifer Smith's mother was driving to do volunteer work when a 20-year-old man ran a red light and hit her car. At the time of the accident, he was talking on a cellphone.

Jennifer Smith looked to the successful MADD campaigns to prevent deaths caused by distracted driving. The result is FocusDriven, a non-profit that supports victims of cellphone by putting a human face on the victims of texting while driving.

A Mom Who Risked Her Life for Freedom

Araminta (Harriet) Tubman was born in early 1822 in slavery. She became an outspoken suffragist and a popular public speaker.

Tubman is best known for helping men, women and children to freedom in the North along the route of the Underground Railroad, and a system of safe houses. Tubman served with the U.S. Army in South Carolina, as a nurse, scout, spy and soldier.

She is less well-known as for her roll as a women's rights advocate. After the war, she welcomed several children into her home and raised them as if they were her own.

Even today, Harriet Tubman's fierce example of personal strength and patience encourages those striving for freedom. She's remembered and honored during Black History Month.

A Mom Who Became a Birth Advocate

Ina Mae Gaskin was born March 8, 1940. She's been called "the most famous midwife in the world." Combining scientific evidence and her own experience, she brought new life to a profession on the brink of extinction in the United States and shared knowledge from around the world.

What was the driving force behind her line of work? "It was the birth of my first child in an Illinois hospital in 1966. To make a long story short, I was made to have a forceps delivery simply because this was my first baby. I knew that was crazy, partly because I had read a lot but also because my dad had been a farmer. Basically, I knew that all mammals can give birth," Ina Mae shared during an phone interview with, December, 2009.

Early in her career, while in the mountains of Guatemala, she learned an effective method for dealing with shoulder dystocia (when baby's shoulders become stuck during birth) from indigenous midwives. The Gaskin maneuver became the first obstetrical procedure to be named for a midwife in this era.

A Mom Who Struggled for Women's Liberty

Julia Ward Howe was born May 27, 1819. She's best known for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and her struggle to liberate women from the traditional confines of the home.

Following the civil war, she planted the first seeds to grow the concept of Mother's Day, not as we know it, but as a remembrance of peace and to have it become a national holiday in the United States.

Julia worked for justice throughout her life. She worked to end slavery, fought for the woman's right to vote, and organized for international peace. Her good works bestowed dignity to women and motherhood.

A Mom Who Went Beyond Giving Back

Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu was born August 27 1910. In 1948, Gonxha, aka "Mother Teresa," began tending to the needs of the poor and dying in Calcutta. Her tireless efforts are well-known, and without her big heart and undying love, thousands of people would not be where they are today. The Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity grew from one woman into a global beacon of care that you see today.

As one of the most influential "mothers" throughout history, Mother Theresa never actually gave birth to her own child. Instead, she acted as a caring "mother" to thousands and received a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.

Mothers who influence our quality of life aren't always listed in the history pages. Every mother makes a difference. Please add the mom who changed your world to our list in the comments.

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