You Should Meet My Mother

In honor of Mother’s Day, Barbara Walters, Mary Matalin, Tory Burch, Liz Smith, Maria Shriver, and others celebrate the women who made them the women they are.

Maria Shriver thinks her mother would have made a great chief of staff. Mika Brzezinski’s mom could skin a deer. Tory Burch thought hers was the chicest woman in the world. And Liz Smith’s mama once watched a porn film with her son. To celebrate Mother’s Day, The Daily Beast asked some successful daughters about the women who made them the women they are.

Alexandra Pelosi Documentary Filmmaker, Journalist, and Writer

My mom was a real homemaker—she made Halloween costumes and baked cookies and drove carpool. But when we were at school, she went to the California Democratic Party to volunteer. MORE>>

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Barbara Walters Co-host, The View, Author of Audition

We think we are so different from our mothers and then when we have our own daughters, we find that we really are not so different after all. MORE >>

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Kirsten GillibrandUnited States Senator for New York

I love celebrating Mother’s Day. Since I was a kid, it was a special day to tell my mother and grandmother how much I love them. Now that I’m a Mom, it is a special day to spend with my children. MORE >>

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Tory BurchFashion Designer

My mother, Reva, is my biggest inspiration. I grew up on a farm with three brothers and was a total tomboy. I was much more interested in riding horses and climbing trees than in fashion. MORE >>

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Molly SimsModel and Actress

My mom is the most positive person I know. She has the innate ability to twist a bad situation into a good one. MORE>>

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Liz SmithJournalist and Gossip Columnist

My mother was sweet, kind and gentle, a regular Hallmark greeting card kind of mom. She had been a quintessential Mississippi belle. MORE >>

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Maria ShriverFirst Lady of California

I was raised by a woman who, I think, felt that had she been born at a different time, her life might have been different. MORE >>

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Mika BrzezinskiCo-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe

The "liberal elite" upbringing that Joe Scarborough jabs me about on our show starts and ends with my mother. Her tough Eastern European roots and her career as a sculptor working with two-ton pieces of wood and a chainsaw kind of breaks that image. MORE >>

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Lynn SherrFormer ABC News Correspondent

On Mother’s Day I smell lilacs, because every May when the holiday rolled around, our family drove out to the Pennsylvania countryside where the lilacs had just burst into bloom, and where we would gather up as many of the splendid blooms as would fit into the metal buckets we’d brought along, wrapping them into moist newspaper cones for the hour-long drive home to Philadelphia. MORE >>

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Dorothy Bush Koch Author, My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush

There are so many things I admire about my mother. First of all, she is a great historian. She chronicled her over 64 remarkable years with my dad, and the life of our whole family, every day in big, brown scrapbooks that now occupy many shelves at the George H. W. Bush Library. MORE >>

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Mary MatalinFormer Assistant to President George W. Bush, Author of Letters to My Daughters

When my mother died, way too young and unexpectedly, my father told me her singular joy was her kids. Ironically, when you are loved like that, it remains undetected until it disappears. MORE >>

Barbara Walters, co-host, The View, author of Audition, which has just been published in paperback

We think we are so different from our mothers and then when we have our own daughters, we find that we really are not so different after all. When I tell my daughter not walk in her bare feet when she goes into the kitchen because she will get a cold—even though I know she won’t—I can hear my mother admonishing me. When I control myself and don’t tell my daughter that I hate the color of her hair, I remember my mother’s tight expression when she didn’t like my hair. “I know you hate my hair,” I would say. “Well, not exactly, darling,” she would answer. But since you mention it, maybe not quite as long.” And when I hug my daughter too hard as she is about to leave me to fly back to her own home, I can feel my mother hugging me when I had to leave her. Whenever I talk to my daughter on the phone, just before we hang up, she says, “I love you, Mom.” Always and ever to my mother, even though she has been gone so many years, “I love you, Mom.”

Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senator for New York

I love celebrating Mother’s Day. Since I was a kid, it was a special day to tell my mother and grandmother how much I love them. Now that I’m a Mom, it is a special day to spend with my children.

The day usually starts with a special breakfast—once even in bed! I always get beautiful cards. The best ones, of course, are home made. This year, Theo will surely want to ride his bike in the park, and little Henry—who is walking at 11 months—will be eager to try to chase his big brother.

In our busy lives, these special days are so important. But this year, with the difficult economy posing challenges for all families, our mothers need more than just attention on Mother’s Day. They need a legislative agenda that enables them to thrive—creating economic opportunities for women, protecting the health and safety of mothers and children, and supporting the work women do to build strong, successful families.

First, because of bad Bush policies, single moms and dads who receive child support will be forced to pay a financial penalty to pay the overhead for receiving child support.

This is the wrong approach. We should not be balancing the budget on the backs of single mothers. That's why the first legislation I authored in the Senate was to eliminate the tax levied against single moms and dads on their child support checks. This measure would immediately put extra money in the pockets of at least 170,000 New York families.

Second, all parents deserve to know that the products they use for their children are safe. When I read a recent report about trace amounts of probable human carcinogens and irritants being found in baby shampoos, lotions, and other products, like many parents, I immediately began to worry. I have some of these same products in my bathroom at home, and I've used them on my children their entire lives. No mother should have to worry if the baby shampoo she uses on her children is safe.

That is why I've authored the Safe Baby Products Act, which will require the FDA to investigate the safety of these products, publicly report the findings, and establish manufacturing practices that will reduce or eliminating any harmful chemicals.

Third, every minute of every day, a woman somewhere in the world dies in childbirth or from complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth. Every year, a million children are left motherless because of maternal mortality. You might be tempted to believe that maternal mortality exists almost exclusively in developing nations. But on the contrary, the measured U.S. maternal mortality ratio is one of the highest among industrialized nations and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that the actual level of maternal deaths in the U.S. is 1.3 to 3 times higher than the reported rate.

As a Mom and a lawmaker, I believe it is outrageous that so many of these deaths could easily have been prevented. In the coming weeks, I will be introducing new legislation with my friend and colleague Congresswoman Lois Capps, to invest in prevention and emergency care to protect the health and safety of millions of new mothers here at home and around the world.

Lastly, I'm hopeful that in the face of the worst economy of our lives, Congress moves immediately to ensure equal economic opportunity for women by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The average woman makes just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. The disparity is even greater for women of color, with African-American women making just 62 cents and Hispanic women making just 53 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Women and families deserve more. When mothers earn their fair share, young children have greater access to quality health care, educational opportunities, and safe communities. By ending the wage gap, we will help ensure that every child can achieve his or her God-given potential.

Mothers around the country and around the world deserve all the special attention this weekend, but they also deserve action in Washington on a legislative agenda that will help them succeed.

Tory Burch, fashion designer

My mother, Reva, is my biggest inspiration. I grew up on a farm with three brothers and was a total tomboy. I was much more interested in riding horses and climbing trees than in fashion. My mother often says they were always getting me out of a tree.

While my mother and I shared a love of sports, the fashion part definitely came later for me. I remember watching my mother get ready for an evening out when I was little and thinking she was the most glamorous and chic woman I had ever seen.

I still feel the same way when I look at her today. Over the years she has taught me a lot about style and even more about motherhood. She always taught us to approach everything with a positive attitude and to treat everyone with kindness and patience.

Keeping the values she instilled in us in mind has definitely helped me in my career and affected how I am raising my children. She always put us first and talked about the importance of family. My mother has always been my muse and good luck charm, so it’s only natural that our best selling shoe, the Reva ballerina, is named after her. She never thought she would become famous for a shoe!

Liz Smith, journalist and gossip columnist

My mother was sweet, kind and gentle, a regular Hallmark greeting card kind of mom. She had been a quintessential Mississippi belle. Then she landed in Texas where she married my roughneck cotton-buyer father and was seldom allowed to look back at her departed gentility.

But she yearned for it and wanted to raise a little lady of her own to sandwich between my two fabulous, swashbuckling brothers. What she got was me, which was a cultural disappointment. I didn’t want to be a little lady but to follow in the footsteps of my mad, bad, dangerous-to-know brothers who I thought led interesting lives.

Years pass and I am long gone in New York and she is still living in Austin, Texas where my younger brother, the ‘professional alcoholic and womanizer’, Bobby, lived with her (when he was sober, that is.)

He told me this story. One night he was lying on the living room couch about to watch an X-rated movie and she came in the room. He said, “Mother, you won’t want to watch this with me. It’s kind of dirty and pornographic and I don’t want you to be offended.” She smoothed her apron and said, “Oh, I’ll just sit down for a while and watch with you.”

The movie started and ran for about 20 minutes. Then he heard her chair creak and she got up and said, “All right, Bobby, I’m going to bed. But, you know, I just don’t think they ought to allow people to say ‘fuck’ on television.”

Maria Shriver, First Lady of California, author of Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out Into The Real World, and And One More Thing Before You Go…

I was raised by a woman who, I think, felt that had she been born at a different time, her life might have been different. She told me she would have [run for office], but she grew up in a family that was very male-dominated. And I have four brothers, a lot of male cousins, and my mother was very adamant that I be treated like the boys, do everything the boys could do, and see myself on an equal playing field to the boys. I think it made a huge difference to have a mother like that.

I’ve also come to the realization that I am not her. My mother, with all of her determination and feminism always was a proponent and champion of motherhood. And she started Special Olympics in homage to mothers who couldn’t find programs for their children, and she saw that in her own mother. And she went to bat for all those mothers cause she was a mother. And she always felt, how you raise your children is very much the measure of who you are.

We mother differently but I admire her tremendously. I’m best friends with my brothers, and if I can do that with my children that will be for me anyway a job well done.

She created tremendous difference in the role she played. I don’t think she could have been a greater architect of change had she been in politics. She did what’s right for her, and she did what was right for the world. But at the end of the day, when it all kind of boils down to what’s going on in your own home, she has done a great job. And I tell her that every time I talk to her, every time I see her, and I think you can never tell a mother enough that she did a good job. Because I think no matter who the mother is, you always worry about that. And I always try to tell her that as a mother she did a good job.

I wish I’d become First Lady ten or fifteen years ago, because my parents would have so enjoyed it, and they would have had so many suggestions. And they would have been here and pushing me in all different directions. Mother came to both of Arnold’s inaugurations, but the last year and a half have been incredibly challenging for her. Had she been fifteen years younger, she would have been fully immersed in what I’m doing out here. And it would have been such a great joy for her.

She gave me life. I don’t have this, “ Oh, my mother, grr.” Maybe because I’m an only girl, who knows? But I think she loved—loves—politics, and I think she would have loved to have been by my side. She would have been an incredible chief of staff to me.

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe

The "liberal elite" upbringing that Joe Scarborough jabs me about on our show starts and ends with my mother. Her tough Eastern European roots and her career as a sculptor working with two-ton pieces of wood and a chainsaw kind of breaks that image. We are also a family of hunters and my mom guts all the family kills. My mother always seemed proudly disconnected from the world of "Washington Wives." She spends her days in a filthy workman’s suit in her studio, sweating working, uninterested in an active social life.

She once allowed me to bring home the most popular girls in school for a play date. I was about 11 and was putting on quite an attempt at friendship with Miss Popular. At one point, she asked if she could use the bathroom. “It’s over by the kitchen,” I told her. A few beats later, the most shrill, bloodcurdling scream erupted out of the bathroom.

Then it hit me. Ugh. My mom had left a dead deer in there to stay cool in the tub until she had time to drag it in the kitchen and gut it. My friend left, very pale, and never came back. I am saving the time she served road kill to Pamela Harriman for my book. All I can say is she taught me that everyone is different and must be accepted for who they are. My mom is bizarre and unique.

Embarrassing is a word I used for her as a child. Awesome is the one that comes to mind now. She is still working in her studio right now, gearing up for a huge sculpture show in the fall in Europe. Its called "Family Trees," and expression of life love and us—but mostly and expression of her fully realized and very full life.

Lynn Sherr is a former ABC News correspondent and the author of Peter Jennings: A Reporter's Life, and Outside the Box: My Unscripted Life of Love, Loss and Television News.

On Mother’s Day I smell lilacs, because every May when the holiday rolled around, our family drove out to the Pennsylvania countryside where the lilacs had just burst into bloom, and where we would gather up as many of the splendid blooms as would fit into the metal buckets we’d brought along, wrapping them into moist newspaper cones for the hour-long drive home to Philadelphia. Their pastel color and soft fragrance, full of the promise of summer, were all part of my mother’s mystique as well; she was gentle and loving and sunny about the future, and I like to think I inherited some of that.

She also taught me how to be practical.

My father had been raised an Orthodox Jew, and when he married my mother insisted that she keep a Kosher home, complete with two sets of china and silverware—for “meat” and “milk” meals. Mother, whose Judaism tended to a far less observant style, agreed—gritting her teeth for 43 years and complaining every step of the way. She hated doing it, but that was part of the deal with the man she adored. And that’s how I grew up.

Then, in 1978, my father died after a brutal bout with cancer, and we all went into deep mourning. On the day of the funeral, my sister and I, along with our husbands, Ted and Larry, went downstairs to the dining room to set up for the shiva, the traditional Jewish period of mourning which would require mountains of food and drink for family and friends. As Larry opened the cupboard, he stared at the redundant sets of plates and cups, and turned to my mother for instructions. “Shirley,” he said, “which dishes do you want me to use?” My mother thought for a nanosecond. Maybe less. “Use them all,” she said defiantly. At 75, Shirley Sherr had her own life to live.

Mary Matalin, former assistant to President George W. Bush, author of Letters to My Daughters

When my mother died, way too young and unexpectedly, my father told me her singular joy was her kids. Ironically, when you are loved like that, it remains undetected until it disappears. These many years later, I celebrate Mother’s Day almost every day recalling her unique life.

My mother lived in a time and place where aspiration beyond housewifery and motherhood was neither expected nor admired. She did not resent her circumstance, she reveled in it. Though she was denied any education beyond rudimentary, her energy, imagination and curiosity led her to random courses of self-education from painting to history. I can still see her standing for endless hours at the ironing board steaming and reading simultaneously (and smoking).

When we three kids were old enough, she finally went to beauty school. I was her guinea pig. Grade school memories are replete with cosmetic fiascos that caused even the teachers to join my classmates’ ridicule. Perms gone crazed; haircuts akimbo. She once turned her own hair clown orange and claimed it would start a trend. She was often consigned to wigs to bridge her various experiments. Once her wig flew off into a puddle. She shook it out and created the “wet look” 30 years ahead of its time. She was determined and undaunted.

I would often ditch school and hang with her at her beauty school, where she became a teacher and owner, her management skills being greater than her creative ones. She put me to work and by age 11, I knew how to balance books, keep inventory, create promotions, deal with customers in distress (perpetual bad hair day mode); I learned the power and comfort of a loyal girl group and the joys of girl gossip. And I became a hairdresser, a skill that supported me through college and, to this day, pulls many a friend out of hair hell.

Though she insisted I get a higher formal education, nothing beat what I learned apprenticing with my mother. And oh yeah, no one loves you more than your mama.

Dorothy Bush Koch Author, My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush

There are so many things I admire about my mother.

First of all, she is a great historian. She chronicled her over 64 remarkable years with my dad, and the life of our whole family , every day in big, brown scrapbooks that now occupy many shelves at the George H. W. Bush Library. When the library curators discovered the early editions of these gems, they asked if she would please not use Elmer's glue going forward, but, instead, to please use special archivist materials. Her response was, "I've been using Elmer's glue for all these years, I'm not about to stop now."

There isn't a whole lot my mom can't do. She needle pointed a rug that takes up an entire room. She's written three books. She raised five children. She suffered the loss of a child, and came out of it by making a difference in cancer research. She is the mother of the 43rd president of the United States, and was a first lady herself. She was even elected Biker Babe of the Year.

With all these accomplishments under her belt, she's more likely to tell you about her new dog Bibi, than anything else. And she masterfully weaves Bibi into any conversation. The discussion could be about healthcare, and she might say, "That's definitely a problem, and when Bibi goes to the vet..." Bibi is a Maltipoo, and was supposed to be five or six pounds, but is now a ten pounder. Even though she eats shoes that belong to a former president of the United States, my mom loves her.

What my mom won't tell you is that this year she celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. To date, the foundation has awarded over $30 million to over 700 family literacy programs in 49 states. Because of her, thousands of people can read, write and comprehend, and participate fully in society. Mom has brought the importance of literacy to the front lines, and this will be her lasting legacy.

Molly Sims Model and actress

My mom is the most positive person I know. She has the innate ability to twist a bad situation into a good one.

Her little sayings have stuck with me my entire life: "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade"; "No matter what, when one door closes, another will open"; "Sometimes you have to kick it and keep kicking it, but eventually it will crack"; and most importantly, "You get more out of life by giving rather than taking." As simple as they may be, they have helped me through some tough times.

Alexandra Pelosi Documentary filmmaker, journalist, and writer

My mom was a real homemaker—she made Halloween costumes and baked cookies and drove carpool. But when we were at school, she went to the California Democratic Party to volunteer.

She would drop us off at school and go downtown and volunteer, but when we got home, she was always there with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. She wasn't getting paid--she was volunteering. She has always been very organized. As George Bush once told me, "I hear she runs a really tight house, but I have to hand it to her, she never broke your spirit." The kids in my family are all free spirits.