Mother’s Day wisdom: 11 priceless quotes from the world’s wittiest women

We celebrate the art of being a mother with this fantastic collection of wit and wisdom from some of the world's most successful women.

Hillary Clinton

“One night when [Chelsea] was crying, as babies do, I said, ‘You’ve never been a baby before and I’ve never been a mother. We’re just going to have to work together and figure this out.’ But it was the greatest experience of my life.’

Bette Davis

“My mother was an incredible woman but she wasn’t a stage mum at all. She worked very hard to give me the money to go to school and without her belief, it’s possible I might not have pursued this, but she always had the belief that I would do something unusual and she thought that this [acting] was the area for me. I guess she was right.”

Esther Rantzen

“I always enjoyed talking to strangers. When I was 18 months old my mother used to be deeply embarrassed by the fact that I used to wink at strangers from the pram.”

Enid Blyton

“I don’t really know how I get into the hearts of children. I only I know that I love them. I want them to grow up into good, decent grown-ups. I want them to be kind and loving and generous. That sounds, of course, very pious, but it isn’t pious at all. It’s simply and solely what every single mother really in her heart of hearts wants for her own child, and I just happen to want it for all children.”

Anne Robinson

“My mother was very beautiful, very over the top, she ran an excellent business and she was very much the breadwinner. I didn’t know until 1969 that you were supposed to take men seriously.”

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Shirley Bassey

“My mother kept pushing me and said, ‘Go on.’ She said, ‘Have a go at it.’ I didn’t like it, at first… I kept writing home to say that I didn’t like it and she kept writing letters back to say, ‘Stick it out.’ Really it was her that kept me going.”

Grateful to mother - Shirley Bassey

Shirley Bassey 

Margaret Atwood

“[On her mother embracing a wilderness lifestyle when Margaret was a toddler] She  never very much liked being indoors and sweeping the floor and doing things like that. She would much rather be outside, which was probably why it was a successful marriage… it might be other people’s vision of hell to be in the woods surrounded by bears and mosquitoes with two small children under the age of three. But she quite took to it.”

Isabelle Allende

“I saw my son was along, not dating. Very handsome, by the way, and very charming, and I thought, what a waste. And so I went out to find a bride. Mothers in India do that so I said, ‘why not.’… I needed to test her in a very brief time. So I had a trip to the Amazon and decided to take her. I had only seen her once in a restaurant over sushi. And we ended up in the Amazon in a very stressful trip. And she passed all the tests so then I introduced her to my son… and they have been married for eleven very happy years!”

Glenn Close

“I’m much calmer now than I was before I had Annie. She had made me realise the truth of something that I’d heard all my life but never really understood, which is what’s important is the moment. Moment-to-moment living. And that life is right now. It’s not tomorrow, it’s not six months from now.”

Doris Lessing

“It’s much easier to bring up girls than boys… Your daughter is your daughter for all of her life. Your son is your son till he gets a wife. I’ve just seen this happening. It is horrifying.”

Shirley Conran

“Before he left home my eldest son said to me, ‘I think you’ve done a good job of bringing me up.’ I was stunned. I stopped peeling the potatoes or whatever I was doing and said, ‘Why? Tell me quick.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’ve got this terrible lisp, this speech impediment, and I’m very small, almost a dwarf, and I’m practically blind – and you don’t care.'”

These quotations about being a mother – or having a mother – all come from interviews conducted on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme, which have been collected in  ‘Woman’s Hour – Words from wise, witty and wonderful women’, which is published by BBC Books at £9.99.