“It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.” —Dorothy on The Golden Girls
Mother — an iconic character if there ever was one. TV, especially in its “Golden Age” (the late 1940s through the late 1950s), glorified moms and perpetuated the image of what it meant to be the matriarch of the all-American family.
TV moms in the twentieth century were often well kept and put together, while being dedicated to their homes, dutiful to their children, and loyal to their husbands. They were sometimes funny — even sarcastic — and often wise in their own ways.
Let’s take a fun trip down memory lane to take a look back at five moms as television presented them to us so long ago!
June Cleaver of Leave It to Beaver
The Leave it to Beaver television series ran between 1957 and 1963. June Cleaver, played by actress Barbara Billingsley, was famously the mother of Leave it to Beaver’s main title character, Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, as well as older son, Wally. Together with husband Ward, the couple epitomized the ideal suburban parents of the 1950s. In keeping with her utmost motherly image, June’s life revolves around family-related social events, cooking for her family in a kitchen that never seemed to get dirty, and passing time via traditionally feminine hobbies, such as needlepoint and arranging flowers.
Margaret Anderson of Father Knows Best
Father Knows Best first began in 1949 as a radio program and moved to television in 1954. While the title of this series focuses on the father of this family, there’s no doubt that mother Margaret Anderson also offers her own voice of reason to husband Jim’s fatherly advice. Margaret is mother to three children: Betty, James (more often referred to by his nickname of “Bud”), and Kathy. Played by actress Jane Wyatt, Margaret is the quincentennial homemaker, although she managed to pull off her household chores while wearing dresses, pearls, and high-heel pumps — and an apron, of course.
Donna Stone of The Donna Reed Show
The Donna Reed Show aired from September 1958 to March 1966. On the show, title namesake Donna Reed (an actress also famous for her role in the beloved Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life) plays housewife Donna Stone. Mother to teenagers Mary and Jeff, and wife to Alex, Donna is the idealized homemaker — dedicated to her home and family, but with the energy to still find time for community events and activities. The Donna Reed Show was unique during this era in that its plots revolved around the matriarch of a family, rather than the patriarch.
Harriet Nelson of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet