25 Famous Women on Their Mothers

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No matter which way you slice it, most mother-daughter relationships are dizzyingly complex — filled with laughter, fighting, and so much love. In celebration of Mother’s Day, the Cut rounded up a list of uplifting, profound, and heartbreaking quotes from women like Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Strayed, and Maya Angelou on their relationships with their mothers. Read on for memories on love, loss, anger, and understanding.

1. Mindy Kaling
“My relationship with my mom is really the single most profound relationship that I’ve ever had in my life ... I said to her, ‘Mom, I’m going to be so lonely without you.’ And she just said, ‘You have to be your own best friend. If you always remember that, you will always have someone there with you.’”
  —
New York Magazine

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

2. Michelle Obama
“She is my salvation and not just because she is there, but because she is there in a positive way. I know that in addition to all the extra love and attention, she is instilling the discipline and the rules. She cheats a little bit as grandmas do, but the baseline in terms of how we as a family believe in instilling character and our values, I know that that’s the same across the board.”
 — Ebony
, September 2008

3. Nora Ephron
“If you came to [my mother] with a tragedy — and God knows children have a lot of tragedies — she really wasn't interested in it at all. She wasn't one of those mothers who went, ‘Oh honey, tell me what happened to you at school. What did the bad girls do to you?’ No. She just would say, ‘Oh well, everything is copy.’ And all she meant was that someday you will make this into a funny story, or a story, and when you do, I will be happy to listen to it, but not until then. I think she basically taught us a very fundamental rule of humor — probably of Jewish humor if you want to put a very fine definition on it, although she would not think so — which is that if you slip on a banana peel, people laugh
at you, but if you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your joke, and you're the hero of the joke. It basically is the greatest lesson I think you can ever give anyone. I always worry I didn't teach it well enough to my own kids, because I was such a good mother. I always said, ‘Oh honey, tell me what happened to you.’ I'm kind of mystified that she didn't, 'cause it really is weird and sort of against human nature practically, but that was just who she was.”
Academy of Achievement

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

4. Ellen DeGeneres
“When my parents divorced, it was my mother and me, by ourselves in an apartment. At that point, we kind of became roommates. I was 13 years old. She'd been married for almost 20 years, and I watched her go through a tough time, trying to date, trying to figure things out. She dated some horrible men whom I had to kick out of the house. So, at 13, I kind of became an adult and was taking care of ... watching her struggle. It made me go,
Oh, you're my mom, but you're just a human being. I saw her in a different role all of a sudden.”
  —
Good Housekeeping, September 2011

5. Cheryl Strayed
“One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life. Say thank you.”
 —
Dear Sugar #64: Tiny Beautiful Things, February 2011

Photo: Handout/Getty Images

6. Hillary Rodham Clinton
“Shortly after we moved to Park Ridge, my mother noticed that I was reluctant to go outside to play. Sometimes I came in crying, complaining that the girl across the street was always pushing me around. Suzy O’Callaghan had older brothers, and she was used to playing rough. I was only four years old, but my mother was afraid that if I gave in to my fears, it would set a pattern for the rest of my life. One day, I came running into the house. She stopped me. ‘Go back out there,’ she ordered, ‘and if Suzy hits you, you have my permission to hit her back. You have to stand up for yourself. There’s no room in this house for cowards.’ She later told me she watched from behind the dining room curtain as I squared my shoulders and marched across the street. I returned a few minutes later, glowing with victory. ‘I can play with the boys now,’ I said. ‘And Suzy will be my friend!’ She was and she still is.”
 —
Living History

7. Maya Angelou
“My mom was a terrible parent of small children but a great parent of young adults. She'd talk to me as if I had some sense ... She taught me so much ... And once, we walked down to the pickle factory at the foot of the hill, where the air was redolent with mustard and vinegar — ‘Baby, you know something?’ my mother said to me. ‘I think you're the greatest woman I've ever met — and I'm not including my mother or Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt in that.’”
O Magazine

Photo: Darren Gerrish/Getty Images

8. Penelope Cruz
“My mother, Encarna, was only 21 when she had me. I learned from her how complicated and wonderful we women can be. She worked in a beauty salon and, between the ages of 5 and 13, I would sit there each day after school. It became like an acting school, because women were sharing their deepest, most intimate secrets. I was hooked on the way these women talked ... so very frank ... and the way my mother dealt with them. I also appreciated different sides to women’s personalities.”
 —
The Sun

9. Patti Davis
“My mother and I have never been mild with one another. Whether we were miles apart and blaming each other or strongly and lovingly bonded together, our emotions burned up the color chart. Nothing was ever gray. We do have a friendship now — not that dissimilar to the one I imagined so long ago. But it’s been hard-won. At some point, I stopped looking back at the journey and just enjoyed where we’ve ended up. Apparently, so did she. One day on the phone she said, ‘I just don’t really think about those years anymore.’”
 —
The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us

10. Diane Keaton
“You know, mom, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had told you how much I love the sound of your laughter. Would that have made you feel proud of yourself? Or what if I just told you how proud I was to be the daughter of a really special former Mrs. Los Angeles? Would that have made a difference? Or if I’d, oh god, told you how quickly I ran home to you the day Dave Garland stuck his finger in my padded bra and made me feel humiliated? Would you have finally understood that you were irreplaceable, mom? Or what if I just told you how much fun it was for me just to sit across from the kitchen counter and watch you make your midafternoon snack of Wheat Thins with longhorns and dill pickles on the side, would you have felt fulfilled?”
 —
The Hollywood Reporter

Photo: Ron Galella/Getty Images

11. Stevie Nicks
“My mother was always totally supportive of me at whatever I wanted to do — even as a young girl. But she was also very strict with me and she was hard on me in a lot of ways because she wanted me to be independent...and she wanted me to not ever have to depend on anyone. And she wanted me to be fearless — so I had to work for everything I got ... My mom would always say to me, ‘You better be the president of your company or the
lead singer of your band or the boss — because you don’t like being told what to do.’ And she was totally right.
Oprah’s Master Class

12. Diane von Furstenberg
“I didn’t used to talk nearly as much about my mother. I took her for granted, as children do their mothers. It was not until she died in 2000 that I fully realized what an incredibly huge influence she had been on me and how much I owe her. Like any child, I hadn’t paid much attention. I’d brush her off, or even pretend not to hear. I bridled, too, at the unsolicited advice she persisted in giving my friends.  Now, of course, I feel I have had the experience and earned the wisdom to hand out my own unsolicited advice, and I press every lesson my mother taught me on my children, grandchildren, and anyone I talk to. I have become her.”
— 
The Woman I Wanted to Be

Photo: Steve Sands/Getty Images

13. Amy Tan
“She wasn't a perfect mother, but a lot of the things she did, she really did do out of love. Maybe they weren't the right things to do, but it really was out of love. Once I realized that and stopped taking it as a personal attack to torture me and make my life miserable, then I could look beyond it. I could even look at it with some humor eventually.”

 
Academy of Achievement, June 1996

14. Gloria Steinem
“Before I was born, [my mother] had what was then called a nervous breakdown. So the truth is, I don't quite know what happened. Decades later, when I was in college, she was in a mental hospital for a couple of years, and she finally got some help. I asked one of the doctors there ... He said the closest he could come was that it was an anxiety neurosis. I asked him if he would say her spirit was broken, and he said yes. It was only then that I began to understand she had given up being a pioneer reporter, given up on her friends, and everything she loved … Like so many women, I was living out the unlived life of my mother -- so I wouldn't be her. But the price I paid was that I distanced myself internally. I wasn't as close to her then as I now, in retrospect, wish I had been.”
 —
Interview

Photo: Barry King/Getty Images

15. Kathy Griffin
"Even at 51, I still turn to her for advice. One thing I’ve done ever since I got my first apartment is whenever I go out with friends or to an event, I stop by my mom’s apartment afterward. It’ll be one in the morning and I’ll be in a ball gown and I can’t resist going to do the postmortem with her. She keeps very late hours like I do, so I’ll knock on the door and she’ll have a glass of wine and we’ll talk and laugh until three in the morning."
 —
Gourmet, May 2012

Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images

16. Jodie Foster
“We had a career together, we traveled everywhere together, she made decisions. She was a mostly negative influence in my life [laughs]. No. She just liked to tell me all the bad things that were going to happen. So there was a lot of — she’d lean over to me and say, ‘By the way, by the time you’re 17, your career will be over. So what do you want to be when you grow up — a doctor, a lawyer, something like that.’... She always said to me, ‘By the time you’re 40, your career will be over,’ too. There was a lot of that ... And she’d always say, ‘You’re on a downward spiral!’ [Laughs.] ... I was nominated for four Academy Awards but only won two. So for the fourth one, she was like, ‘You’re on a downward spiral!’”
Late Night With David Letterman

17. Erica Jong
“My mother used to say, ‘You're a wonderful poet, but when I read your novels, I feel I'm reading my obituary.’ People think I'm outspoken, but she was even more so — and now I know that was a gift … My mother hated Mother's Day, as she hated hypocrisy. Here was this anti-war holiday demoted to treacly sentimentality. It was supposed to be a holiday for peace, not for chocolate truffles. When my sisters and I tried to give her Mother's Day gifts, she never let us forget how false Mother's Day was. Mothers are about giving life, not chocolates.”
 —
The Daily Beast

Photo: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

18. Rashida Jones
“My mother and I are more than best friends; we are partners in crime. After she and my father, Quincy Jones, separated when I was 10 years old, my sister, Kidada, who was 12, went to live with our dad, and I stayed with my mother. Mom is the most unconditionally loving person I will ever know, and she has always supported me on every level. Until last year she worked with me before every audition; she's given me perspective, and she has let me cry when things haven't gone my way—which, when you're an actress, can happen a lot.”
 —
Oprah

19. Mary H.K. Choi
“I work a lot. I’ve never had the weeks between Christmas and New Year’s off, but these days I don’t love money how I used to. My mom though, I’m crazy about. I think about her all the time and can’t stand it. When she rings during a meal I get indigestion if I don’t call her back immediately. There’s a roiling shame spiral wherein I become resentful that she called at all and punish us both by prolonging the wait. I have no idea when my perception of my mother became the calculated crush of my life but it has. I don’t go home for birthdays or holidays, and on the occasions I do visit, I express my affection in strange ways. I wait for her to fall asleep and peer over her body and imagine what it’d be like if she died. I just stand there, hot silent tears coursing down my face. We’re not a demonstrative family, and such maudlin, psycho behavior is fair grounds for riotous derision. I love my mom and it’s a secret. I love her so much it kills me, and you bet I’d sooner die than tell her.”
 —
Aeon, April 2013

20. Goldie Hawn
“The truth is that no matter how old we are, as long as our mothers are alive, we want our mother. And it's a very powerful relationship if it's healthy. I miss my mother today. I think the transition does happen but I don't think we ever lose our positioning because we don't want to lose our mother. It's a very, very interesting walk.”
 —
Associated Press

Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

21. Kate Hudson
“Y
ou know what, I am damn proud of [being my mother’s daughter]! ... I really look at that as a real blessing because the relationship between mother and daughter is very complex and to be able to talk about the importance of the relationship is something that I look forward to. It really informed such a huge part of who I am and the confidence that I have as a woman. It really does come from the closeness that I have with mommy. ”
Associated Press

Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

22. Taylor Swift
“My mom and I have always been really close. She's always been the friend that was always there. There were times when, in middle school and junior high, I didn't have a lot of friends. But my mom was always my friend. Always. And you can never forget those people who are always there for you from the beginning. So my relationship with her has gotten even closer.”
Great American Country Network, 2008

23. Jane Fonda
I can now understand that my mother was all the things that people have described — the icon, the flame, the follow-spot — and also all that I had felt as a child — a victim, a beautiful but damaged butterfly, unable to give me what I needed — to be loved, seen — because she could not give it to herself. As a bright, resilient child, I had sensed, with the animal instinct children have, deep wounds that had been inflicted on her early in her life. I had caught the doomed scent of her fragility, which was probably only intensified by the men she chose. As a child, this scared me, and I moved away from it. Now, as an adult, I can see it as her story, not mine, and begin to move into my own.”
My Life So Far

Photo: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

24. Tracee Ellis Ross
“Well, my mom was very glamorous, but that was her work world. Our home was filled with beautiful things. My mom had beautiful clothes; my mom is elegant; my mom is glamorous. But my mom is also really real, and I grew up with a mother who had babies crawling on her head and spitting up on her when she was wearing gorgeous, expensive things, and it was never an issue.”

New York Times

25. Zadie Smith
“I do have more sympathy for my mother, which I guess recently I have been lacking. We have a pretty fiery relationship, and my mother and her mother have a pretty fiery relationship. Now I have a daughter and I’m almost thirty-five, and I realize it is not so easy to have a kid. Mother was twenty and so young and innocent, married to a man thirty years older.
You start to appreciate what somebody else went through so it makes you more sympathetic, I suppose.”
Brick Mag