When my son turned from a baby to a boy, I didn’t know how to help him become a man. So for ten years, I researched the mothers of great men. They gave me advice from the grave, as my grandmother used to say.
When Flora Disney had no money for paper, she praised Walt’s toilet paper drawings until she had to use them. Pauline Einstein sometimes didn’t understand Albert, who the neighbor kids called Father Bore, but she tutored him and forced him to join her on piano and violin duets for hours each day. Music later helped him make intuitive leaps with his theories. Abiah Franklin’s young son Ebenezer drowned in a tub of boiling fat for her husband’s soap making. Her grief and fear probably forced Benjamin to stay outside and find adventure on Boston’s wharf.
Rose Gershwin laughed when her son, George, pretended to be a cripple on the street so he could get money for the movies. She told him the rich and famous would do him good, and it served him well in the music industry. Allene Hughes loved Howard almost too fiercely, but his forced isolation developed his mechanical abilities. Another hovering mother, Nancy Rockwell, came from a family of male artists. She steered Norman in the same direction.
Mattie Slye taught Roy Rogers harmonies and guitar, and Mittie Roosevelt instilled a love of history in Teddy, as she encouraged his crippled sister, Bamie, to help raise him. Walt Whitman developed his love of words and stories from his mother, Louisa, and Anna Lloyd Wright steered and praised young Frank’s abilities in the building field. In an unusual move for that time frame, Ann Astaire managed Fred and his sister’s dance careers. Orphaned George Carver had a series of black and white substitute mothers who encouraged him to follow his educational path.
All the mothers I studied gave their time and their love, their brain power and their skill set. As I took pages from their life books, I raised my son, and he’s now a fine young man. A mother’s influence shapes a son.
About the Author
Jan Helen McGee is the author of Carriers of Genius: Conversations with the Mothers of Twelve Famous Men. She is a psychic and music educator whose pro bono work with police led her to star in an episode of Psychic Witness. With an MA in humanities, she is a former speech communications professor, video writer, and radio host. You can connect with Jan on her website, Facebook and Twitter.