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7 Of The Best And 8 Of The Worst Mothers In History

We're going to examine maternal acts of great heroism and cultural reform against horrible behavior and murderous intent that most people are unaware of. It’s fair to say that each woman enters motherhood with a set of beliefs or expectations about what it means to be a good mother. Women develop these beliefs from the pressure of communities and society as a whole, the experiences with their own parents, and through the expectations of friends, family, and media.

These outside influences can have so much power and influence over them that when they finally do become mothers themselves, it is difficult, nearly impossible to listen to their own ideas of what this “Motherhood” role really is on a day-to-day basis.

Adoration for mothers is known in every age and culture around the planet. If there's one constant throughout the entirety of history, it's the close relationship between mothers and their children. Though different historical periods and circumstances lead to different actions, mothers will always love, protect, and fight for (and perhaps die for) their willful offspring.

And there's women who aren't so much maternal and are actually some pretty scary characters that had children. And boy do we pity those children!

Everyone thinks their mother is the greatest mother in the whole of creation, for the most part. But only history and time can tell whether a mother is the best, or the worst of the bunch. So what makes a great mom and a bad mom? Let's look at some mothers throughout history and see how they stack up in this contest of maternal titans.

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15 Best - Angelina Jolie-Pitt

Angelina played the role as a single mom for a few years and then in 2005, on the film set of "Mr & Misses Smith" in 2005, rumors that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt started their relationship. Although Angelina's relationship with Brad has just begun, Angelina adopted Zahara as a single parent, but has hinted in the past that she and Brad decided to do it together.

In January 2006, Brad officially adopted Angelina's two children, Maddox and Zahara and their surnames were changed to Jolie-Pitt. Already nicknamed the 'rainbow family', Brad and Angelina announced that they were expecting their first biological child together soon after Brad's adoption of Maddox and Zahara was finalized.

Angelina gave birth to a daughter they named Shiloh Nouvel on May 27, 2006, in Swakopmund, Namibia. The arrival of the first Jolie-Pitt biological child caused an excited flurry with fans. The first pictures of Shiloh were allegedly sold for four million dollars to American magazine, People, and $3.5 million to the UK's magazine. The picture fees were donated to an undisclosed charity of Brad and Angelina's choice.

Jolie has been a special envoy in addition to being the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations and has received both Global Humanitarian and Citizen of the World awards. Jolie also holds the record for the largest donation to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has ever received from a private individual, one million dollars.

Adding once again to their brood of four, Angelina announced her pregnancy during the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Despite never officially breaking the news, Angelina strutted her way down the red carpet, showing off her burgeoning baby bump, meaning confirmation wasn't necessary!

The couple did confirm later on that they were expecting twins and they arrived into the world on July twelfth, 2008, at the Lenval hospital in Nice, France. The boy and girl twins were named Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline (in honor of Angelina's mom Marcheline Bertrand who died in 2007).She is truly a mother of note and compassion.

14 Worst - Zerelda Elizabeth Cole James Simms Samuel

Zerelda Cole James Samuel was the mother of the outlaw Jesse James. She was born Zerelda Elizabeth Cole on January 29, 1825, in Woodford County, Kentucky, to parents James and Sarah Cole. Her father was killed in a horse accident when she was two.

In 1839 fourteen-year-old Zerelda entered a Catholic school for girls. She met Robert James, a college student, and they were married on December 20, 1841. In 1842 Zerelda and Robert moved to Clay County, Missouri, to live with her mother and stepfather. After the birth of her first child, Zerelda moved to the farm where she would live the rest of her life.

Zerelda bore four children with Robert James: Frank, Robert, and Jr., who died shortly after birth, then she bore Jesse, and Susan James. After suffering the death of her husband Robert, Zerelda married Benjamin Simms briefly, then a doctor named Reuben Samuel in 1855.

She had several children with Dr. Samuel. Zerelda Cole James Samuel was a Confederate sympathizer who fiercely defended her son Jesse’s guerrilla activities. In 1875 she was maimed when Pinkerton agents threw a firebomb into her farmhouse in the hope of catching Jesse. After Jesse’s death, Zerelda had him buried on her property.

She lived the rest of her life in the shadow of her son’s controversial legacy. She passed away on February 10, 1911.

13 Best - Lou Xiaoying

Lou Xiaoying, born in 1924 and suffering from kidney failure, found and raised more than 30 abandoned Chinese babies from the streets of Jinhua, in the eastern Zhejiang province where she managed to make a living by recycling garbage.

She and her late husband, Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, kept four of the children and passed the others onto friends and family to start new lives. Lou found her youngest son Zhang Qilin, who is now age eleven, in a trash can when she was 82. She named him after the Chinese word for rare and precious.

The whole thing started when she found the first baby in 1972 when she was out collecting trash. This is when she realized she had a real love of caring for children.

In her eyes, they are all precious human lives. She says she does understand how people could leave such a vulnerable baby on the streets. This truly makes her one of the most amazing mothers of recorded history.

12 Worst - Emperor Wu Zetian

Best politician and worst mother ever, is Wu Zetian, first and only female Emperor of China, poisoning her infant daughter to achieve the throne. To be perfectly accurate the poison was used to knock off her other family members.

Her young daughter, she strangled, in order to frame her rival for the murder in order to take the throne. The amazing thing is it worked. Her rivals were, the old queen and the old queen’s mother, were executed, and, as the histories say, they supposedly haunted her from that point forward.

When it comes to the horrors perpetrated by her secret police, that’s a murkier situation. Copies of the personally pinned torture manual, created by Wu Zetian apparently survive, although I couldn’t confirm its validity. Modern historians tend to eye the claims with extreme suspicion. To the extent that the secret police did exist, it’s unsure how involved she was with their day-to-day operations. Some historians claim her bureaucratic purge was purely in self-interest, others say it was for the good of the people. The truth is likely a mix of the two.

At the foot of Wu’s undisturbed grave rests a large slate. Unlike the slate of her husband, which lists his many accomplishments, hers is blank. As tradition goes, her successor was to decide what to make of her. Nobody could find the words. She was a one of a kind personage.

11 Best - Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born around 1797 as an enslaved girl named Isabella on an estate in Ulster County, New York. She was sold repeatedly to three owners in her childhood, the last being John Dumont and his wife. All also located in Ulster County. The wife in particu­lar treated her extremely cruelly.

As a young woman, Truth had been forced to marry an older slave, Thomas. Truth had five children. Truth found out that her son Peter (born in circa 1822) had been sent to a slaveholder called Solomon Gedney, who then sold him to a planter in Alabama. But it was illegal to sell a slave out of the state of New York.

It was about twenty years later that Sojourner Truth, who had taken this name in her subsequent career as a preacher, abolition­ist, and campaigner, was telling the story of her earlier years to a friend named Olive Gilbert. Olive Gilbert wrote down the experiences as dictated, with some comments, and they were pub­lished in 1850.

Truth reached the moment when she had gone in search of Peter and had sought out her previous owners, the Dumonts. Her aim was to find the man who had illegally sold her son. Sojourner Truth’s fight for her son’s return was complicated and further testified to the force of wills that she had developed.

With further legal help paid for by her supporters, she eventually forced the return of her young son by suing the man who had sold him illegally. The case was brought in the autumn of 1827, she recalled, and Peter was returned to her the following year. Her powerful words did come true: “I’ll have my child again.”

10 Worst - June Shannon (Mamma June)

June Shannon, 'Momma June' (born on August 10, 1979) is the mother of Alana ‘Honey Boo Boo’ Thompson. She had become something of a notorious star in her own right. June was farting her way to fame on the Thompson family’s reality show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a TLC spinoff of the network’s other positively pretty program, Toddlers & Tiaras.

June’s favorite pastimes include extreme couponing (she claims to be the ‘Coupon Queen'), playing in mud pits, picking up roadkill, so that she can feed her large family, as well as frequenting auctions to purchase soon-to-expire and/or damaged foodstuffs (some of which have fallen off the backs of trucks during transport).

After she rose to fame and/or infamy, the skeletons came to light, it was revealed that, on January 3, 2008, June Shannon was arrested in Henry County, Georgia, for various charges, including contempt of court and theft.

Shannon has also been the defendant in a number of child support cases, and she and ‘Sugar Bear’ received an unannounced visit from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services in March 2012, at which time, they were investigated on suspicions of child abuse, such as serving roadkill to the children for dinner. This is a questionable mother, to say the least.

9 Best - Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler was born as Irena Krzyżanowska on 15 February 1910 in Warsaw to Dr. Stanisław Krzyżanowski, a physician, and his wife, Janina. Her father died in February 1917 from typhus contracted while treating patients whom his colleagues refused to treat in fear of contracting the disease.

Among these afflicted souls were many Jews. After his death, Jewish community leaders offered her mother help in paying for Sendler’s education. Sendler studied Polish literature at Warsaw University. She opposed the ghetto-bench system that existed at some prewar Polish universities and a result of her public protest, she was suspended from the University of Warsaw for three years.

This courageous woman was one of the most dedicated and active workers in aiding Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Her courage enabled not only the survival of 2,500 Jewish children, but also the futures of the countless generations of their descendants. This makes Irena Sendler a mother to more children than any other woman in modern memory.

8 Worst - Arizona Donnie Barker

Ma Barker was born on October 8, 1873, in Ash Grove, Missouri. She had four sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, and Fred. All of who along with Alvin Karpis formed the Barker-Karpis Gang in 1931. That year, Fred and Alvin shot a sheriff to death. The murder started a pattern of thoughtless killing by the gang. Ma Barker became a wanted woman.

On January 16, 1935, Ma and Fred were shot and killed by FBI agents in Oklawaha, Florida.

In another shootout between the Barkers and the authorities, which occurred on the morning of January 16th, 1935, when the FBI raided the house in Oklawaha, Florida, where "Ma" and Fred were staying. Heavily armed FBI agents surrounded the house and ordered the pair to surrender.

With no reply, the agents threw tear gas canisters at the windows. Fred fired a machine gun and a shootout began that left the house riddled with bullets. Fred and Ma fought for their lives, shooting back with everything they had.

Finally, after four hours, the federal agents began to run out of ammunition and the scene became deathly quiet. "Ma" and Fred Barker were found together, dead in an upstairs bedroom. A stash of weapons and thousands of dollars were recovered at the house. "Ma" Kelly may have kept her family together, but she was horrific at giving them guidance.

7 Best - Alberta King

Alberta Williams King, the mother of Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta in 1903. Six years after her beloved son and civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Alberta Williams King was still serving God with her gift. On the morning of June thirtieth, 1974, MLK’s mother was shot and killed while playing the organ for morning worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. She was seventy years old.

At his arraignment, Chenault of Dayton, Ohio said he was "on a mission” when he arrived in Atlanta. In his warped thinking, Black ministers were a threat to black people and had to be annihilated. He viewed Christians as his enemy. The deranged gunman that killed Mrs. King told police he had intended to kill Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. But Chenault fired at Mrs. King instead because she was close to him.

The King family lived on Auburn Avenue, back then known as “Sweet Auburn,” or the “Black Wall Street.” It was home to some of the America’s largest and most successful Black businesses and Black churches before the civil rights movement was sparked. Alberta King was a woman of staunch faith and true sight that imparted wisdom and love to here husband and children. She died a martyr to nonviolence and the wisdom of her convictions.

6 Worst - Nadya Suleman

Nadya Denise Suleman (aka. Octomom) was born on 11th July 1975 in Fullerton, California, USA. She is the daughter of Edward Suleman and Angela Suleman. She went to Nogales High School and attended Mt. San Antonio College, California State University in Fullerton.

She informed the news media in 2008 that she had six embryos left from her last I.V.F (In Vitro Fertilization) treatments and so she had the embryos transferred into her uterus at one time while the rule says two or three at the most. Defending her act she reasons that she did so to protect the frozen embryos.

Her medical supervisor, Dr. Kamrava, had his medical license revoked on July 1, 2011, after it was found by California Medical Board investigation that he transferred twelve embryos, which is still considered to be an “extreme” departure from the set standard of care.

Suleman married Marco Gutierrez in 1996. The couple separated in 2000 and Marco filed for divorce in November 2006. The divorce was finalized in January 2008. Her husband said the reason for their divorce was not being able to have children despite fervent effort. Suleman wanted to try I.V.F treatments while her husband didn’t like the idea of “test tube babies”.

5 Best - Erin Brockovich

Consumer advocate and environmental activist Erin Brockovich was born in Kansas in 1960. After earning her degree, Erin moved with a friend to Newport Beach, California. After working briefly as a management trainee at Kmart, in 1981 she quit and entered and won the Miss Pacific Coast beauty pageant.

She also met her first husband, Shawn Brown, around this time, whom she married in April 1982. The young couple moved around the country for the next few years, during which time Erin gave birth to two children, Matthew and Katie. However, their marriage eventually fell apart, and they were divorced in 1987.

After her divorce, Brockovich was involved in a severe car accident that necessitated her having neck surgery. Feeling a great swell of sympathy for her, in 1992 attorney Ed Masry offered her a clerical job at the firm. She has been involved in numerous successful lawsuits against environmental polluters as well as ongoing lawsuits involving automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.

While working as a file clerk at a Los Angeles law firm in 1992, Brockovich uncovered documents that ultimately led to more than 600 residents in Hinkley, California, filing a successful lawsuit against utility giant PG&E. The $333,000,000 settlement they received is the largest of its kind in the history of the United States of America.

She is the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting and in partnership with Google curates a crowd-sourced map intended to track possible environmental health hazards around the world. She is truly a woman of distinction and a person who never let setbacks stop her from changing the world for the better.

4 Worst - Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony was born in Ohio on March 19, 1986. She had demonstrated strange behavior after the suspicious disappearance of her daughter, Caylee Anthony. As her story progressed, it included a tumultuous family life, an array of deceptive and criminal acts, many people believed she was unquestionably guilty.

The jury felt differently, due to what they considered circumstantial evidence. Anthony was acquitted of the murder charge, but she found herself loathed by the general public. On July 5, the jury found Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse.

Many in the public and the media were outraged at the acquittal, drawing parallels to the trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995. The aftermath of the trial brought about a slew of bills in several states for "Caylee's Law," which would make it a felony for a parent or legal guardian not to report a missing child.

In 2012, Florida governor Rick Scott signed a Caylee's Law bill. In retrospect, according to Mason, Anthony herself has lived a life of seclusion in her Florida home, wary of venturing into public due to festering reactions to the case. Having filed for bankruptcy, she is estranged from her parents and keeps in contact with her former legal team.

3 Best - Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Princeton University, graduating cum laude in 1985 and went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School in 1988. Following her graduation from Harvard, she worked at a Chicago law firm, where she met her husband, future U.S. president Barack Obama.

The couple married on October 3, 1992. As the First Lady, she has focused her attention on current social issues, such as poverty, healthy living and education. In 1991, Michelle decided to leave corporate law and pursue a career in public service, working as an assistant to Mayor Richard Daley and then as the assistant commissioner of planning and development for the City of Chicago.

In 1993, she became executive director of the Chicago office of Public Allies, a nonprofit leadership-training program that helped young adults develop skills for future careers in the public sector.

Michelle Obama remains committed to her health-and-wellness causes. In 2012, she announced a new fitness program for kids as part of her Let's Move initiative. Along with the U.S. Olympic team and other sports organizations, she has worked to get young people to try out a new sport or activity.

This year, one point seven million young people will be participating in Olympic and Paralympic sports in their communities—many of them for the very first time. It is so important because sometimes all it takes is that first lesson, or clinic, or class to get a child excited about a new sport.

The first lady of the United States of America is a woman of distinction in both her ability to care and her willingness to sacrifice for all of her countrymen as well as her children.

2 Worst - Mary Ann Cotton

In 1871, 40-year-old Mary Ann Cotton and her husband, 39-year-old Frederick moved into a home in County Durham, with his two stepsons and her 7-month-old baby. Two months later Frederick died of gastric fever and one of Mary's long time lovers, Joseph Natrass moved into her home.

In less than the space of a month Belle's baby, Natrass and Frederick's son all died in the house. On the 12 July 1872 the other son of Frederick died, all the deaths caused suspicion and a neighbor went to the police.

A post-mortem was carried out on her stepson and it revealed him to have been poisoned with arsenic. The bodies of the other dead were exhumed and they showed that arsenic was the cause of death. Mary was arrested and charged with the murder of her stepson. She went to trial in March 1873, claiming that they were accidentally killed by arsenic contained in wallpaper. However, the prosecution had evidence that she had purchased arsenic.

Mary Ann Cotton was found guilty and sentenced to death. Cotton was suspected of the murders of 14 people, in her older life twenty-one people close to her died. Her motives were greed and gain; as she would marry, kill and collect the insurance money, then find a new man and repeat it again. She was hanged in Durham prison on March 24, 1873.

1 Best - Mary Ball Washington

Mary Ball Washington (circa 1707 – 1789) is primarily known as the mother of George Washington. Limited information about Mary and her personal life has survived, although the historical record shows that she shared a complex and oftentimes strained relationship with her son.

Mary has garnered a type of “Epic-Myth” over time, venerated as “The Mother of Washington”. George Washington, her firstborn son, was born on February 22, 1732, and they grew to have a contentious relationship, best described as complex. They would often go months without correspondence with one another.

While there is a legend that Mrs. Washington was said to be openly opposed to her son's revolutionary politics and, according to French officers based in Virginia during the war, she was a Loyalist sympathizer, there is no credible source to support that legend.

The facts are that other than her son George who was Commander in Chief of the Continental forces (Army and Navy), Mary's other three son's (Samuel, John Augustine, and Charles) all served in the Virginia Militia, and her daughter Betty's husband, Fielding Lewis, made cannon and rifles for use by the American Revolutionary forces, going bankrupt in the process.

She was a patriot and was laid to rest under "Prayer Rock", later renamed "Mediation Rock".

Sources: Biography.comHistory.com  Nytimes.com

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