Here, in chronological order, are a ten of our favorite classic TV sitcom moms…
- Harriett Nelson (Harriet Nelson), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett (ABC, 1952-66) — In the long-running series,
Harriet, the actress, played a fictionalized version of herself alongside her real-life husband and sons. Together, they depicted the all-American nuclear family of the era, with Harriet as the family’s core.
- Margaret Anderson (Jane Wyatt), Father Knows Best (CBS, 1954-55 and 1958-60; NBC, 1955-58) —When the successful radio show moved to television, Wyatt was cast as the as the kind, practical, and quietly persuasive Margaret. She usually managed to get her kids (and husband) to do what she wanted them to do without letting them realize it.
- June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), Leave it to Beaver (CBS, 1957-58; ABC, 1958-63) —Like many TV moms of the era, this perfectly coiffed housewife cooked and cleaned while wearing a nice dress, heels, and pearls. But June’s warmth and sharp wit always came through, even when Wally, Beaver—and especially
Eddie Haskell—tested her last nerve.
- Donna Stone (Donna Reed), The Donna Reed Show (1958-66, ABC) —Not only was Donna Stone a smart, funny, and caring mother, the entire series was built around the character. That was a tectonic shift for American sitcoms, which had previously focused on the kids or father.
- Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore), The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-66) — From her exasperated “Oh, Rob!” exclamations to her infamous capris, Laura Petrie defied many stereotypical housewife tropes of the 50s and helped usher TV sitcoms into the modern era. This stay-at-home mom was always ready for an impromptu song and dance, too.
- Julia Baker (Diahann Carroll), Julia (NBC, 1968-71) — The series, and character, was groundbreaking in three ways: Julia was a
- Carol Brady (Florence Henderson), The Brady Bunch (ABC, 1969-74)—As the loving mother of TV’s most famous blended family, Carol needed a good sense of humor to corral six kids (and occasionally a dog). Having a live-in housekeeper gave this TV mom more quality time to spend with her family.
- Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones), The Partridge Family — (ABC, 1970-74) This musical matriarch did more than drive the family band’s Mondrian-inspired former school bus to gigs, she was part of the group. Off-stage, she was a warm, loving, single mom not above using a bit of reverse psychology to keep her brood of five in line.
- Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton), All in the Family — (CBS, 1971-79) Far from a dingbat, as her curmudgeonly husband called her, Edith was a sweet soul and peacemaker who seldom made waves. But when she did assert herself, people took heed. She was the heart of the Bunker household.
- Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross), Happy Days — (ABC, 1974-84) A 1950s housewife from Milwaukee, “Mrs. C” made the Cunningham household a haven for family as well as her kids’ friends. She was also the first to see the softer side of The Fonz, and treated him as family.