Three stories of what it is to be a mother

Dorothy Canfield Fisher said, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” This Mother’s Day, listen to three stories from our archives about the rich, complicated, one-of-a-kind bond that exists between mothers and their children.


Alfreda Duster, daughter of Ida B. Wells Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Ida B. Wells is a giant in American history. An African-American woman who was born a slave in Mississippi in 1862, she went on to become a journalist, editor, feminist and early leader in the civil rights movement. Her work has been honored in journalistic awards, a museum, a society for investigative reporting by journalists of color, and even a postage stamp. In 1971 her daughter, Alfreda Duster, spoke about the side of her only a daughter would know. Listen.


Flickr | CC BY 2.0

A mother meets her adopted daughter
— KALW Crosscurrents

Meeting their child for the first time is transformative for any parent. It’s the moment in which their identity changes and they come to understand that their heart will now run around in someone else’s body. In this episode of StoryCorps, a mother talks to her daughter, Kate, about going to China to pick her up for the very first time. Listen.




William Saroyan talks to English teachers — Pacifica Radio Archives

In this humorous talk from 1965, author William Saroyan addresses the nature of familial connections, including how Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln described their mothers. Saroyan wryly comments, “If we could control the kind of human beings the human family begets, as the bible puts it, the surprises the family has so far witnessed in its young would end. There would be no more surprises.” Listen.