50 Literary Quotes About Mothers

by - Friday, May 03, 2013

The value of mothers has produced thousands of quotes, ranging from ancient proverbs to words uttered by those in positions of power. An avid reader, I turned my attentions to quotes found in literature to find a plethora of inspiring and heartfelt quotes concerning mothers and motherhood.

Here are fifty of my favourites, ranging from classic tomes to contemporary novels to celebrate the virtues of our mothers.

1. "All mothers are mothers of great people, and it is not their fault that life later disappoints them."
― Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago

2. "My mother once told me, when you have to make a decision, imagine the person you want to become someday. Ask yourself, what would that person do?"
― Barry Deutsch, Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite

3. "A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed."
― Erin Kelly, The Burning Air

4. “...A mother is the one who fills your heart in the first place. She teaches you the nature of happiness: what is the right amount, what is too much, and the kind that makes you want more of what is bad for you. A mother helps her baby flex her first feelings of pleasure. She teaches her when to later exercise restraint, or to take squealing joy in recognizing the fluttering leaves of the gingko tree, to sense a quieter but more profound satisfaction in chancing upon an everlasting pine. A mother enables you to realize that there are different levels of beauty and therein lie the sources of pleasure, some of which are popular and ordinary, and thus of brief value, and others of which are difficult and rare, and hence worth pursuing."
― Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning

5. "Think for a minute, darling: in fairy tales it's always the children who have the fine adventures. The mothers have to stay at home and wait for the children to fly in the window."
― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller's Wife

6. "There's no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids."
― Steven King, Dolores Clairborne

7. "My mother... she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her."
― Jodi Picoult

8. "It is the custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtinesses and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on."
― J. M. Barrie, The Adventures of Peter Pan

9. "God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.”
― David C. Gross, Dictionary of 1000 Jewish Proverbs

10. "Gilbert put his arm about them. 'Oh, you mothers!' he said. 'You mothers! God knew what He was about when He made you."
— L. M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams

11. "This is what we do, my mother's life said. We find ourselves in the sacrifices we make."
— Cammie McGovern, Neighborhood Watch

12. “I think this power of living in our children is one of the sweetest things in the world…”
― Louisa May Alcott, Jo's Boys

13. “The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

14. “Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work. She wore a loose Mother Hubbard of gray cloth in which there had once been colored flowers, but the color was washed out now, so that the small flowered pattern was only a little lighter gray than the background. The dress came down to her ankles, and he strong, broad, bare feet moved quickly and deftly over the floor. Her thin, steel-gray hair was gathered in a sparse wispy knot at the back of her head. Strong, freckled arms were bare to the elbow, and her hands were chubby and delicate, like those of a plump little girl. She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

15. "I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars"
— E.M. Forster, Howard's End

16. "And all my mother came into mine eyes
And gave me up to tears."
— William Shakespeare, Henry V

17. "Because I feel that in the heavens above
The angels, whispering one to another,
Can find among their burning tears of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore, by that dear name I have long called you,
You who are more than mother unto me.”
— Edgar Allen Poe, To My Mother

18. "Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground."
— Zora Neale Hurston, A Biography of the Spirit

19. "If I was damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’mine."
— Rudyard Kipling, Mother O'Mine

20. "Mothers are all slightly insane."
— J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

21. "Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not."
— James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

22. "A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."
— Washington Irving

23. "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his."
— Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

24. "Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all."
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

25. "When a child is born the mother also is born again."
— Gilbert Parker, Parables of a Province

26. "The praise that comes of love does not make us vain, but humble rather. Knowing what we are, the pride that shines in our mother's eyes as she looks at us is about the most pathetic thing a man has to face, but he would be a devil altogether if it did not burn some of the sin out of him."
— J.M. Barrie, The Little Minister

27. "The children in this country are the one center and focus of all our thoughts. Every step of our advance is always considered in its effect on them--on the race. You see, we are MOTHERS," she repeated, as if in that she had said it all."
— Charlotte Gilman, Herland

28. "Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues -- faith and hope."
— Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

29. "But she named the infant "Pearl," as being of great price--purchased with all she had--her mother's only treasure!"
— Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

30. "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children."
— William Makepiece Thackaray, Vanity Fair

31. "She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises."
— Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

32. “Children are knives, my mother once said. They don’t mean to, but they cut. And yet we cling to them, don’t we, we clasp them until the blood flows.”
― Joanne Harris, The Girl with No Shadow

33. “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children..”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

34. “By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

35. “The best place to cry is on a mother's arms.”
― Jodi Picoult, House Rules

36. “No one is ever quite ready; everyone is always caught off guard. Parenthood chooses you. And you open your eyes, look at what you've got, say "Oh, my gosh," and recognize that of all the balls there ever were, this is the one you should not drop. It's not a question of choice.”
― Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In

37. “He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

38. “My mother said the cure for thinking too much about yourself was helping somebody who was worse off than you.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

39. “To my father, who told me the stories that matter. To my mother, who taught me to remember them.”
― Marita Golden, Migrations of the Heart

40. “You were my home, Mother. I had no home but you”
― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

41. “But deciding not to have children is a very, very hard decision for a woman to make: the atmosphere is worryingly inconducive to saying, "I choose not to," or "it all sounds a bit vile, tbh." We call these women "selfish" The inference of the word "childless" is negative: one of lack, and loss. We think of nonmothers as rangy lone wolves--rattling around, as dangerous as teenage boys or men. We make women feel that their narrative has ground to a halt in their thirities if they don't "finish things" properly and have children.”
― Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

42. “Mothers do not have love affairs. Before their children they have dreams, and after their children they have delusions. If the father is involved somewhere, they have fantasies.”
― Bauvard, The Prince Of Plungers

43. “A mother's love is everything, Jared. It is what brings a child into this world. It is what molds their entire being. When a mother sees her child in danger, she is literally capable of anything. Mother have lifted cars off of their children, and destroyed entire dynasties. A mother's love is the strongest energy known to man. You must that love, and it's power.”
― Jamie McGuire, Eden

44. "Mothers were much too sharp. They were like dogs. Buster always sensed when anything was out of the ordinary, and so did mothers. Mothers and dogs both had a kind of second sight that made them see into people's minds and know when anything unusual was going on.”
― Enid Blyton, The Mystery of the Hidden House

45. “She taught me what's important, and what isn't. And I've never forgotten. And that's what mothers do, I say.”
― Steven Herrick, A Place Like This

46. “Girls like guys to be a challenge. It gives them some mold to fit in how they act. Like a mom. What would a mom do if she couldn't fuss over you and make you clean your room? And what would you do without her fussing and making you do it? Everyone needs a mom. And a mom knowns this. And it gives her a sense of purpose. You get it?”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

47. “The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.”
― Kate Chopin, The Awakening

48. “Motherhood doesn't have a nationality”
― Melinda Cross, One Hour of Magic

49. “Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is...and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
― Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

50. "But behind all your stories is your mother's story, for hers is where yours begins."
— Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Which quote is your favourite?

Which of these quotes made you smile the most? Perhaps I missed an important quote from your favourite book? Please feel free to join the conversation by leaving your comments below.

Photo credit: Dennis' Photography, via Flickr

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