Jun15

Top 100 Most Inspiring Single Moms

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by Elli on June 15, 2011

Here at VAW Prevention we like to focus on what moms can do to make their homes safe and secure.

But we also like to create a spark of motivation and encouragement for mothers. Moms are, after all, half the reason we’re all here today. So we built a portrait of a mother from 1,000 photos, and now we want to top that with this list of the top 100 most inspiring single moms.

From scientists and scholars, to actresses and authors, if you’re a mom, you’re sure to find an inspiring story here. If you’re not a mom, send this list on to your mom so she can feel inspired too.

  1. Linda Mooneyham – As a teenage mom, Linda had to raise her son Lance Armstrong alone. She must have done something right, as Lance has lived to combat cancer, inspire millions, and become the winner of the Tour de France repeatedly.
  2. Janese Swanson – Software Inventor creator of the international sensation “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”, Swanson holds five postgraduate degrees and founded Girl Tech.
  3. Martha Fineman – Martha is a renowned law and society scholar focusing in feminist legal theory. She’s also Director of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project and author of The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other 20th Century Tragedies.
  4. Elizabeth Blackwell – America’s first woman doctor. Graduated first in her class in the 1840′s, Blackwell adopted an orphan and raised her as her own daughter. She later opened her own hospital run by an all-female staff.
  5. Margaret Sanger – Margaret opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. and founded what would eventually become Planned Parenthood.
  6. Martha Coston – Widowed with four children, she invented a system of maritime signal flares, selling them to shippers, yacht clubs and navies, eventually selling the patent to the U.S. which helped win battles and saved lives.
  7. Yolanda Griffeth – Olympic gold medalist for basketball, Griffeth became a sensation in her Chicago high school, later at school in Iowa and eventually for the US Olympic Women’s Basketball Team in 2000.
  8. Padma Lakshmi – When she made the conscious choice to raise her baby on her own, Padma Lakshmi acted against the traditions of her East Indian heritage. Despite this, mom and baby appear to be thriving.
  9. Annie Leibovitz – Shortly after giving birth at age 52, renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz became a single mother at age 52 when her lover of 16 years, Susan Sontag, died. Leibovitz later had twin girls via a surrogate.
  10. Pattie Mallette – After becoming pregnant at age 18, Pattie Mallette worked a string of low-paying office jobs and raised her young son in low-income housing. Now that her son, Justin Bieber, is an international star and heartthrob, she’s probably upgraded her digs.
  11. Bette Nesmith Graham – You may not known Bette, but she’s the single mom responsible for inventing liquid paper. She also happens to be the mother of Michael Nesmith, a famous musician who played in the band “The Monkees.”
  12. Sarah Ferguson – Former member of the British Royal Family, Sarah has worked surprisingly hard (for Royalty, anyway) all her life to be an inspiration to British charities as well as to raise up her family of three.
  13. Christine Coppa – Christine is both a single mom and professional writer slash blogger. Her work and success story has inspired other moms and bloggers all over the world.
  14. Beverly DeJulio – Star of the PBS television series, Handy Ma’am. A single mother of 4 DeJulio taught television viewers that just about anyone has the ability to handle home-based challenges. “If you can use a hand mixer,” she said, “you can use a power drill.”
  15. Katie Couric – Katie lost her husband to colon cancer and then had to raise her two teenage girls on her own, but she’s done an incredible job as single mom and a hard working woman ever.
  16. Jerry Hall – After a long-term relationship with singer Mick Jagger, Jerry takes care of their four children all on her own, while also working as a model and actress.
  17. Kim Delaney – Kim is best known for her role as Detective Diane Russell on TV’s N.Y.P.D. Blue, but what many fans don’t know is that she’s also a full time mom!
  18. Kate Moss – After struggling with drug use for years, and under the pressure of modeling agencies and media, Kate has been raising her daughter Lila since 2002 with a unique and fairly inspiring type of priority and dedication.
  19. Sandra Bullock - Her husband left her and what did this actress do? Stayed strong and finished up the adoption process for her new baby on her own.
  20. Camryn Manheim – Camryn is an actress, full-time activist, and inspirational single mom who has not only built an astounding career for herself, but manages to do so while taking care of her son Milo Jacob.
  21. Pauline Trigere – fled from the Nazis in 1942, she designed and made dresses to support her boys, eventually becoming a well known designer who dressed the likes of Bette Davis, Josephine Backer and Hattie Carnegie.
  22. Michelle Williams – When her fiancée (Heath Ledger) passed away, Michelle was left to care for their daughter on her own. She’s doing an incredible job of it every day.
  23. Andrea Engber – If there has ever been a woman who showed men that women can do business just as hard (if not better), Andrea is the single mom who did it.
  24. Virginia Cassidy Clinton – Losing her husbands to automobile crashes and diabetes, Virginia stayed strong and took care of her family — including former President Bill Clinton — as best she could. Talk about a struggle.
  25. Sarah Bernhardt – Known as the first lady of theater, Bernhardt gave birth to her son Maurice at the age of 18 and went on to appear on stages around the world, even after her leg was completely amputated.
  26. Barbara Walters – Well known broadcast journalist and television host, Walters is a model of balancing work and personal life and maintaining a professional demeanor in spite of personal circumstances.
  27. Natascha Ragosina – As an undefeated professional boxer (as of this writing she’s the top super middleweight of the world), Natascha has what it takes to show that even single moms are strong and powerful.
  28. Renée Fleming – world renowned soprano, mother of 2 daughters who sang Amazing Grace at the memorial service held at Ground Zero for the victims and families of the World Trade Center attacks.
  29. Karen Anders – Apart from being a single mom, Karen is also a remarkably talented American writer who has received numerous awards for her work.
  30. Maria Montessori – no doubt you have heard of Montessouri schools, but did you know the person who developed that particular method of education was a single mother too?
  31. Chris Affleck – Mother of Ben Affleck, a schoolteacher who raised her two boys alone to keep them from their fathers terrible drinking problem, teaching them empathy, consideration and humility. She was also Ben’s date to the Academy Awards where he won an award for the film “Good Will Hunting.”
  32. Isadora Duncan – the inventor of Modern Dance, single mother of choice to 2 children, she revolutionized dance and never gave in to pressures and lack of appreciation.
  33. Margaret Smith – Margaret is a six-time Emmy Award winning comedian, as well as a full-time single Mom. So she does a lot more than just make us laugh and write/produce the Ellen DeGeneres Show, she works hard to ensure her small family is happy too.
  34. Rachel Lavein Fawcett – Rachel was the single mother of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of America (if you didn’t already know).
  35. Erykah Badu – Not only does she raise three kids from three different fathers on her own, Erykkah Badu homeschools them as well.
  36. Kate Winslet – Oscar winning actress, mother of two told Vogue magazine after her divorce from director Sam Mendes that being single is “empowering.”
  37. J.K. Rowling – The single mom who worked hard to not only support her small family, but also to write a book that would become known around the world: Harry Potter.
  38. Coretta Scott King – After her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, Coretta carried on her husband’s legacy and helped change the world.
  39. Kate Hudson – Since divorcing Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson in 2006, Kate Hudson has raised their son, Ryder, solo. Mom and son enjoy a close relationship that isn’t likely to change when Hudson gives birth to her second child, fathered by new fiancé, Matthew Bellamy of Muse.
  40. Sonia Greene – Sonia is best known for her brief, two-year marriage to the writer H. P. Lovecraft, but she was also a spectacular demonstration of what a good single mother could be.
  41. Rosie O’Donnell – Rosie gave up her career as an actress and stand-up comedian for a shot at daytime talk show fame, mostly so she could spend more time with her adopted children.
  42. Sarah McClendon – Sarah worked as a long-time White House reporter and founded her own news service as a single mom during the post-World War II era. Sarah became known as a leading model for women in the press because of the work she did.
  43. Dr. Leah Klungness – Leah is a single mother who is dedicated to helping other single parents around the world. She’s the author of the best-selling book “The Complete Single Mother.”
  44. Eva Cox – As an inspirational Australian writer and sociologist, Eva put herself through school as a single mom during the 1970s, then later went on to inspire millions of people with her writing and activism.
  45. Julie Newmat – The original Catwoman in the popular “Batman and Robin” TV series, Newmat was an accomplished Broadway success in the 50′s and 60′s who raised her son John who has down syndrome alone, taking him with her all around the world making sure his life was, “as complete as possible.”
  46. Lauren London – This actress star from 90210 is also a spokes person as well as a daily mom who actively puts her child before her career.
  47. Kate Gosselin – Even though her husband left her on national television, Kate faced the future of caring for her eight children head-on.
  48. Christina Millian – Despite suffering public embarrassment when it came out that her baby-daddy was a cheater. Christina Millian didn’t pause to complain. She simply continued raising her daughter.
  49. Madonna – Say what you will about her, Madonna has proven repeatedly to be a remarkably inspiring single Mom, raising her kids with both a lot of discipline and encouragement.
  50. Naomi Judd – Before becoming the elder member of the wildly popular country music duo, Naomi Judd was a single mom living on welfare and trying to get ahead. Along with her daughter, Wynona, Naomi has earned five Grammy Awards, and eight CMA awards.
  51. Joan Elliott Pickart - Joan is most widely known by her pen name “Robin Elliott.” She’s responsible for writing over 100 romance novels, helping to found the Professional Wwriters of Prescott group, and she’s also known for being one hell of an inspirational single mom.
  52. Barbara Lee – As a US Representative, Barbara is a hero amongst many people in the anti-war movement. As a single mom, Barbara is a hero to everyone.
  53. Sarah McLachlan – Other than being a Grammy winner, Sarah is also a single mom who cares for two daughters all on her own every day.
  54. Teri Hatcher – Teri has been caring for her daughter ever since she divorced her husband in 2003. Not only is she a remarkable single mom, Teri is also a fantastic actress.
  55. Stanley Ann Dunham – Mother to the 44th U.S. President – the first African American President, to be exact – Dunham had to work hard to encourage and inspire her son, Barack Obama.
  56. Kim Basinger – Kim went from divorced Mom to single Bond girl, it doesn’t get much better than that if we do say so ourselves.
  57. Denise Richards – Denise was able to fight for custody of her children from her former husband Charlie Sheen, and it’s a good thing she did too, with Charlie’s latest media coverage.
  58. Erin Brockovich – Erin was inspiring enough of a single mother that they made a movie about her, but what really sets Erin apart from other single moms is her ability to fight for what’s right and still do anything it takes to ensure her family is happy.
  59. Janine Turner – Inspirational actress and author of some of the greatest books for single mothers.
  60. Harriet Strong – invented a water conservation device and irrigation system during the first World War after her husband left her and their 4 daughters for the California Gold Rush. Strong was also a well known speaker for women’s independence and suffrage.
  61. Britney Spears – After all Britney went through as a young pop star, she still fought hard for custody of her children and works every day to be the best single mother she can be.
  62. Nadya Suleman – While she is known by many simply as “Octomom” Nadya will forever be an inspiration as a single mother taking care of octuplets.
  63. Liv Tyler – Another single mommy actress, Liv helps to inspire single moms around the globe by not only being a leading actress but also by being an inspirational mom.
  64. Lorelai Gilmore – Sure, she may be a fictional character from the TV show “Gilmore Girls” but she’s one of the best single moms we’ve ever seen on television.
  65. Sheryl Crow – Seriously, how could Sheryl not be on a list like this? She’s a world-known musician AND a full-time single mom.
  66. Niki Taylor – A model best known for her title of one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,” Niki survived heartbreak after heartbreak and raised her children in a way that the whole family in a way where they could eventually come out on top.
  67. Laurel Burch – Laurel was an artist and businesswoman who used to hammer out junkyard metal into jewelry to support her two children. Her hammering eventually panned out into a full-blown business.
  68. Debbie Phelps – A middle school principal and mother of three, Debbie Phelps encouraged her son, Michael, to join the local swim team to give him an outlet for his energy. The rest is, quite literally, history.
  69. Carmela Menashe – Carmela is so much more than your regular single mom, she also happens to be considered one of the most prominent journalists in Israel.
  70. Dorothy Nyswander – As a single mom, Dorothy taught in high school while pursuing a doctorate degree, then later went on to be known as the “Mother of Health education.”
  71. June Storey – After a somewhat successful career as an actress (often playing the role of heroine in western movies), June went to school to become a nurse while also playing the real-life role of single mom.
  72. Sofia Veraga – No trophy wife in real life, Sofia Veraga is a single mother who launched a successful acting career and moved herself and her young son to the United States all by herself.
  73. Mama Moon – Susan Gayle’s mother was an immigrant, illiterate, fighter of cancer, and single mom. Her story is told in the book “Mama Moon” and is a remarkable source of inspiration.
  74. Latoya Jones – This author gained notoriety when she told her thinly veiled tale to the world. “Stripped and Scorned,” hr book about a single mother who faced and overcame challenges, has inspired countless others.
  75. Elle Macpherson – Best known for her record six cover appearances on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Elle is also a remarkable mom who loves taking care of and inspiring her family.
  76. Halle Berry – After splitting with her long time baby daddy Gabriel Aubrey, Berry has taken time off of movie making to make sure that the custody of daughter Nahla was worked out. Talk about sacrifice.
  77. Maya Angelou – Before she became the Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University, and long before reciting her poem at Clinton’s inauguration, Angelou held a number of wild jobs to help raise her son Guy, including dancing, acting, writing, waiting tables and even being a madam.
  78. Lisa Marie Presley – As the only daughter of Elvis Presley, and former wife to Michael Jackson, Lisa Marie has a lot to live up for, but she does it all for her children every day.
  79. Belva Lockwood – A widowed single mother who officially became the first woman to run for U.S. President.
  80. Diane Keaton – Along with her successful acting career, which spans decades, Diane Keaton is raising two adopted children on her own, while maintaining that motherhood “is the most humbling experience.”
  81. Murphy Brown – our second fictional mom, she helped bring the issue of single parenting into the forefront of the media by entering into a sort of debate with Dan Quayle, who was down on single motherhood.
  82. Kirstie Alley – Divorced since 1997, Kristie has been inspiring not only Hollywood, but moms around the world with her ability to be both in the spotlight of many media publications and also a major source of inspiration for her small family.
  83. Sylvia L’Namira – Sylvia is an empowering single mom and author of several inspirational books on everything from culture to being the best single parent you can be.
  84. Abigail Adams – Wife of the second U.S. President, John Adams, and inspiration to millions of Moms in the United States.
  85. Minnie Driver – While the world may not know who the father of Minnie’s son Henry is, we do know that she’s doing everything she can between acting gigs to ensure he grows up safe and happy. Which is all many of us can really ask for.
  86. Meg Ryan – World famous actress Meg Ryan not only spends her days and nights working with top directors and producers, she also takes the time to care for her son Jack and adopted daughter Daisy.
  87. Bridget Moynahan – The actress and model struggled with media reports and a brief frenzy surrounding her relationship with NFL quarterback Tom Brady, but she came out on top. Bridget is a classy and hard working single mom we are glad to include on the list.
  88. Mia Farrow – Divorced from Woody Allen, Mia continues to love and support her growing family of more than 13 (she’s also a survivor of polio).
  89. Ruth Sidel – while not a single mother herself, Ruth Sidel’s important work, Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream gives voice single mothers from diverse races, ethnicities, religions and social classes, position single motherhood not as a deviant lifestyle, but as the highest embodiment of the highest American values.
  90. Reese Witherspoon – Oscar Winning actress and supporter of “Save the Children” and the “Children’s Defense fund,” Witherspoon told people magazine that at the end of the day she considers herself a “single mom making it through the day.”
  91. Cora Millay – Mother of the one of the most influential American lyrical poets of the early 21st century, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Cora worked as a wigmaker and an overnight nurse to provide her three daughters with books and the love of music, poetry and independence. Edna thanked her mother in the poem, The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.
  92. Mary Kay Ash – Mary Kay divorced her first husband and lost her second husband to death, but she still managed to create and run one of the largest cosmetics businesses in the world with help from her son.
  93. Kim Porter – Kim had an opportunity that many, many single moms don’t get: to be with one of the world’s most successful rap, r&b, and clothing professionals (P Diddy). After their relationship fell through, Kim focuses most of her time on taking care of their child.
  94. Jennifer Mattern – Jennifer has been inspiring single moms around the world with her blog Single Mom at Work. It’s thanks to her hard work that Jennifer undeniably deserves a spot on this list.
  95. Tory Burch – Despite holding the reigns of an international fashion house, designer Tory Burch’s priority is raising her three sons. Says Burch, “everything else comes after that.”
  96. Mary Louise Parker – Left at seven months pregnant, Mary Louise Parker rose to the challenge of single motherhood, happily raising her son, starring in a hit TV series, and even adding an adopted daughter to her brood.
  97. Rachel Hunter – After being married to singer Rod Stewart for a very long time, the couple eventually called it quits in 2006 and Rachel has been playing inspirational Mom ever since.
  98. Jodie Foster – Apart from being an actress, film director and producer, Jodie has proven that she has what it takes to be an inspirational single mom for her two sons.
  99. Jill Scott – As an incredibly talented soul and R&B singer Jill has inspired women everywhere. But she’s so much more than a singer and actress, Jill also happens to be a single mom who raises her tiny family all on her own.
  100. Someone you know? – Have someone you know who is an inspirational single mom? Are YOU an inspirational single mom that deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments so you can be added to the list.