Look Who’s #1 on the Top 10 Worst Mothers in American History List

It's not Joan Crawford, darling. It's someone busy blogging.

So, if you click on the “10 of the Worst Moms in America” list at Listverse, you’ll read about folks like Ma Barker, whose sons “terrorized the Midwest and beyond during the early ’30s.” Barker was gunned down in a shootout, after which J. Edgar Hoover declared her “the most vicious, dangerous, and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.” (He also may have made that up so no one would question why his FBI agents killed a gangster’s elderly mom.)

Nonetheless, she’s #7 on the list.

Calamity Jane is on the list for, among other rabble-rousing exploits, raising money to send her daughter to a convent school and then using the cash for a drunken revel. (Are revels ever undrunken?)

Calamity Jane

Joan Crawford made the list not for her amazing film career, but for “Mommie Dearest,” the book her daughter Christina wrote about her in 1978 that then became a movie. Not a flattering one.

But then there are some odd names on this list, including Eleanor Roosevelt (#4), who — for all her amazing achievements — was said to have felt ill at ease as a mom. Perhaps this was because her mother-in-law lived in the townhouse attached to hers and popped in whenever she liked, often to tell the kids, basically, “Your mom sucks.” (Fun Fact: The house later became part of Hunter College.)

Eleanor Roosevelt

George Washington’s mom is on the list for screwing him out of his inheritance and later embarrassing him by applying for the Early American equivalent of welfare.

There are a couple of cold-blooded killers on the list, too. And Judy Garland’s mom, for being pushy, self-pitying, and plying her progeny with pills. But then, there at the end of the list, #1 without a bullet is…


“America’s Worst Mom” is a nickname I got for letting my 9-year-old ride the subway alone. You can read all about it on the strange ListVerse list. The main thing I’ll say is that the reporting is remarkably accurate — right down to the fact I invented the annual holiday “Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day” (coming up May 21), wrote Free-Range Kids, and did go on to co-found Let Grow — but especially that, “Perhaps the term ‘America’s Worst Mom’ is a bit extreme.”

Perhaps it is! Perhaps all of us who aren’t selling, killing or beating our kids with wire hangers are doing the best we can. Perhaps this is a day to celebrate the moms who feel awkward, who fall short, who may not raise the best-behaved kids.

Mother’s Day is for all the moms who aren’t perfect — because that is all of us moms. And so I propose a toast: To us!

And to some of the ladies on the list, too!