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19 Badass Literary Moms Who Need To Be Celebrated

Don't mess with moms.

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1. Molly Weasley (Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling)

Warner Bros.

Molly may be mother to Ron, Ginny, and co., but her nurturing knows no bounds, taking both Harry and Hermione in as family. But she's not just loving and attentive (though she very much is) — she also puts her life on the line to protect her kids.

2. Catelyn Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin)

HBO / Via

If you mess with the Stark kids, you've got a violent and vengeful Catelyn on your heels. This woman goes through hell to protect her family, and it's a pretty thankless job, but there's no way she couldn't do it. She's ice cold and lives for that sweet, sweet revenge.

3. Charley Bordelon (Queen Sugar, Natalie Baszile)

Single mother Charley Bordelon has the odds stacked against her when she moves from L.A. with her teenage daughter to take over the sugarcane farm in Louisiana left to her by her late father. No one expects her to succeed — she has to learn how to actually farm the land, while fighting for her place in a traditionally white man's business — but she's got sheer determination and strength on her side.

4. Marilla Cuthbert (Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery)

Sullivan Entertainment

Marilla is a severe and straightforward woman, but that's just because she knows how to get shit done. It doesn't mean she doesn't love Anne — whom she welcomes into her home and family — and it doesn't mean she's all business. She's had her fun, too.


5. Hypatía Belicia Cabral (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz)

The protective, tough, and strict mother of Oscar and Lola is described as a "hardnosed no-nonsense femme-matador," which is insanely badass. And though her relationship with her daughter is certainly fraught, it's impossible not to admire her, having survived a traumatic and violent upbringing — she was orphaned at age 1 — in the Dominican Republic.

6. Jennifer Honey (Matilda, Roald Dahl)

TriStar Pictures

Miss Honey starts Matilda as Matilda's patient and caring teacher, but ends the book as her adoptive mother. She's a source of consistent love and support, easing some of Matilda's intense emotional burden, and she urges the young girl to never stop dreaming or learning.

7. Frannie Lancaster (The Fault in Our Stars, John Green)

Fox 2000 Pictures

Frannie has to deal with the unthinkable — a dying child — but throughout her own intense suffering, she's constantly checking on Hazel, putting on a face of strength, and quietly preparing herself for what will come next. She's also a genuinely fun, understanding, and often optimistic woman, encouraging her daughter to make the most of the time she has, and (eventually) allowing her the freedom to do it.

8. Hattie Shepherd (The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, Ayana Mathis)

We learn about Hattie through her nine children, and the image they present isn't always the kindest. She's incapable of expressing the physical affection and tenderness they're looking for, but it's only because she's lived through unimaginable hardship — she knows she has to raise her children to be as strong as she's been.


9. Dr. Kate Murry (A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle)

Kate Murry is just so cool. Any nerdy girl who grew up reading the Wrinkle in Time trilogy either wanted the smart, brilliant, and mysterious microbiologist as their own mom, or just wanted to grow up to be her. It's no surprise that her kids are brave and smart enough to save their missing father.

10. Bernadette Fox (Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple)

Maybe it seems weird to include a mom who, for all intents and purposes, abandons her family, but!!! Bernadette is a great example of something we too rarely see — a mother who puts herself first. She's a human being — with dreams, interests, and troubles all separate from her family — and she pursues those knowing she'll be better (for herself and for her family) when she returns.

11. Natalie Prior (Divergent, Veronica Roth)

Summit Entertainment

Natalie is courageous and independent in the dystopian world of Divergent. She's supportive of her children even when they go against her wishes, and she constantly makes certain they know how much she loves them. She also risks her own life to save her daughter's.

12. Marmee (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)

Columbia Pictures

Marmee (or Margaret March) is the core of her family, managing the household by herself while her husband is away, helping war efforts, and teaching her daughters — by example — how to grow into smart, strong, and kind women.


13. Bobbi Lambrecht (Wild, Cheryl Strayed)

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Wild is the only nonfiction book included on this list, but it's because Bobbi is so clearly realized as the driving force of the story and journey. The single mother — whose death is ultimately what sets Strayed hiking up the Pacific Crest Trail — embodies the kind of compassion, limitless curiosity, positivity, and drive that lingers with you long after finishing the last page.

14. Katie Nolan (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith)

Twentieth Century Fox

Katie doesn't get to be the favorite parent, because she's too busy ensuring her poor Brooklyn family's survival. But even though she plays second fiddle to her creative and romantic husband, it's Katie's selfless hard work, love, and determination that allows her children to flourish and succeed in their own lives, a fact young Francie eventually comes to understand.

15. Aurora Greenway (Terms of Endearment, Larry McMurtry)

Paramount Pictures

Aurora Greenway is a trip. She's eccentric, sexy, hilarious, and self-centered, and she loves her daughter, Emma, fiercely. This love is never clearer than when she sits by Emma's hospital bed during her last days, and ultimately (and selflessly) takes her grandchildren into her home to raise them in Houston.

16. Boy Novak (Boy, Snow, Bird; Helen Oyeyemi)

There's a temptation to read Boy's resentment toward her stepdaughter Snow as evidence of a lack of maternal instincts, but to do so would limit the depth and humanity of her character. She's a mother — sometimes cold, sometimes loving, and, like all people, always complicated.


17. Ma (Room, Emma Donoghue)

Jack and Ma have spent the entirety of Jack's young life in captivity, but as far as Jack knows, the room in which they live is the entire world. It's because of the strength and ingenuity of Ma, who keeps his imagination alive and running — creating games for them to play while she plots their unlikely escape.

18. Suyuan Woo (The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan)

Hollywood Pictures

We're naming Suyuan Woo because she's the founder of the Joy Luck Club, but really any of the mothers in this book (and club) — An-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-Ying St. Clair — should be included. The women have come to America to give their daughters what they imagine will be better lives, knowing their daughters will never truly understand what they've sacrificed. They navigate issues of cultural identity and ambition, while cultivating different kinds of strength and power, and pass everything they learn down to their children.

19. Irene Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole)

Irene Reilly needs to get a shout-out for putting up with her bully of a son. She's got a bit of a drinking problem, and, yes, she does end up getting Ignatius committed to an insane asylum, but she's had to put up with a LOT, and, man, are we rooting for her when she finally stands up for herself.