Honoring 5 hall of fame-worthy mothers

By Joshua Nichols, Staff writer
Published On: May 04 2012 12:12:03 PM HST
Updated On: May 10 2012 08:00:00 PM HST
mom, mother with baby

iStock/NiDerLander

Mothers do so much good for their kids that much of it inevitably -- and unfortunately -- goes unnoticed.

But some famous mom feats rise up to the point where nothing can overshadow them. Such monumental efforts can quickly elevate a mom to the Mother's Hall of Fame level.

If we had our way, such a group would include moms of all kinds, from well-known mothers such as Toni Morrison, Rose Kennedy and, yes, even Angelina Jolie down to the soccer mom struggling with a SUV full of feisty kids headed to practice.

However, with Mother's Day nearly here, we forced ourselves to settle on five iconic mothers who would be among our first choices for moms who famously went above and beyond the call of duty -- in addition to our own dear sweet moms, of course.

Dara Torres and daughter, 2009

Sports category: Dara Torres

It's fitting that Dara Torres titled her 2009 memoir "Age is Just a Number." After all, the Olympic swimmer has made a career of proving that saying true.

At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Torres, then 33, was already the oldest American swimmer. She ended up taking home five medals in what was already her fourth Olympics.

Eight years later, she returned for the Beijing Olympics, becoming, at age 41, the oldest swimmer to ever earn a spot on the U.S. team.

Balancing swimming with being the mother of a 2-year-old, Torres took silver in all three of her 2008 events, including setting a new American record in the women's 50-meter freestyle, just 0.01 of a second behind the winner, Britta Steffen, 17 years Torres' junior.

Apparently she's not done yet, either. She hopes to swim at the 2012 Olympics in London in a bid to add to her 12 medals so far.

Lucille Ball, Desi Jr., Lucie 'Here's Lucy'

Entertainment category: Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball didn't always see eye-to-eye with her two children, Lucie and Desi Arnaz Jr.

Lucie has, on occasion, described her mother's "controlling" nature, and Ball famously objected to Desi Jr.'s relationship with Liza Minnelli. But, then again, sometimes being a good mother involves setting limits.

But, what earns Ball her spot on our list is the way the then-40-year-old TV star broke ground by incorporating her pregnancy with Desi Jr. into "I Love Lucy."

It may seem insignificant today, but in 1952, Ball and Desi Arnaz battled executives who wanted nothing to do with showing a pregnant character on television. Scripts weren't even allowed to use the word pregnant, instead referring to Lucy Ricardo as "expecting."

Ball's real-life pregnancy was so ingrained in the show that she and her character gave birth on the same day. Later, Ball went even further, casting her children to play her character's kids in her third network television sitcom, "Here's Lucy."

Candy Lightner, MADD founder

Activism category: Candy Lightner

How do you deal with the tragic death of a child? That's the question Candy Lightner faced in May 1980 after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was struck and killed by a drunken driver while walking down a suburban California street.

The driver had three prior drunken driving convictions and was out on bail from a hit-and-run arrest two days earlier.

Shocked by the leniency shown convicted drunken drivers, Lightner decided to do something about it. Days after her daughter's death, she set up an office in Cari's still-decorated bedroom and founded Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which eventually became Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

By 1982, MADD had 100 chapters across the United States, a figure that would climb to 330 chapters just two years later.

Before leaving the group in 1985, Lightner fought tirelessly to raise awareness about the dangers of drunken driving and pushed for tough new legislation that has helped reduce drunken driving deaths.

Madam Curie, Marie Curie

Science category: Marie Curie

Nearly everybody knows the name Madame Curie, but do you know exactly what Marie Curie was famous for?

The famous physicist-chemist discovered two elements, came up with the theory of radioactivity (a term she coined) and was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes.

Oh, and she's also the only Nobel Prize winner to give birth to another Nobel winner, Irene Joliot-Curie, who was honored for her work building upon her parents' research. Curie's other daughter, Eve, also went on to become a famous writer and pianist.

Curie was left to raise her 1-year-old and 8-year-old daughters on her own after the sudden 1906 death of her husband. She responded by refusing a government pension and instead took her husband's place as a professor at the University of Paris.

Before all was said and done, Curie would also become the grandmother of scientists too, as Irene's children became noted physicist and biologist themselves.

Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey, septuplet parents

Sheer Endurance category: Bobbi McCaughey

In a world populated by Kate Gosselin, Nadya "Octomom" Suleman and "Balloon Boy," it's almost refreshing when you find parents who aren't ready to exploit their children in search of reality TV fame.

Consider Bobbi McCaughey, the Iowan mother who, in November 1997, gave birth to the world's first set of septuplets to survive infancy. Though McCaughey took some flak at the time for using fertility drugs and ignoring doctors' warnings, she can hardly be accused of using her children as props.

After the fanfare died down, the McCaugheys instead sought privacy for their large family, which includes older sister Mikayla. Apart from the occasional news story, the family rarely grants interviews.

As for being the mother of eight, McCaughey told KCCI-TV in Des Moines in 2010 that it's become easier as they've grown more independent, saying "It is so nice just to say, 'Kids, we're going out for a while. Don't kill each other.'"

That's something any mother can relate to.

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