Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a member today »

Mary Cassatt, “Mother about to Wash her Sleepy Child” (1880), oil on canvas; 101 x 65 cm. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (Image via Web Gallery of Art)

Happy Mother’s Day.

I no more thought of style or literary excellence than the mother who rushes into the street and cries for help to save her children from a burning house, thinks of the teachings of the rhetorician or the elocutionist.

—Harriet Beecher Stowe

But can you imagine how some of them were envying you your freedom to work, to think, to travel, to enter a room as yourself, not as some child’s mother or some man’s wife?… we have no familiar, ready-made name for a woman who defines herself, by choice, neither in relation to children nor to men, who is self-identified, who has chosen herself.

—Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

The United States is just now the oldest country in the world, there always is an oldest country and she is it, it is she who is the mother of the twentieth century civilization. She began to feel herself as it just after the Civil War. And so it is a country the right age to have been born in and the wrong age to live in.

—Gertrude Stein

The battle in which you are locked today is the mother of all battles… Our rendezvous with victory is very near, God willing.

—Saddam Hussein, speech before Operation Desert Storm (1991)

Put yourself in Hamlet’s shoes. Suppose you were a prince, and you came back from college to discover that your uncle had murdered your father and married your mother, and you fell in love with a beautiful girl and mistakenly murdered her father, and then she went crazy and drowned herself. What would you do? Go back for a masters?

—Art Buchwald

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.

—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

My mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mother’s breast.

—William Blake, “Infant Sorrow”

Mother, you had me
But I never had you
I wanted you
But you didn’t want me
I, I just got to tell you

—John Lennon, “Mother”

My great-grandfather used to say to his wife, my great-grandmother, who in turn told her daughter, my grandmother, who repeated it to her daughter, my mother, who used to remind her daughter, my own sister, that to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know the right moment to stop.

—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mother died today. Or perhaps it was yesterday. I don’t know.

—Albert Camus, The Stranger

The reason I’m in this business, I assume all performers are — it’s Look at me, Ma! It’s acceptance, you know — Look at me, Ma, look at me, Ma, look at me, Ma. And if your mother watches, you’ll show off till you’re exhausted; but if your mother goes, Ptshew!

—Lenny Bruce

Support Hyperallergic

As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever. 

Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.

Become a Member

Weekend Editors

Hyperallergic's Weekend editors are Natalie Haddad, Thomas Micchelli, Albert Mobilio, and John Yau.