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The Ten Worst Moms in History

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Teresa Strasser: At seven months pregnant, coming up with this kind of list makes me feel better about my own mom potential. Thank you for lowering the bar, worst moms in history.

10 Worst Moms in History

Joanna Kramer

This mother, played by Meryl Streep in the 1979 film, "Kramer vs. Kramer," represented all that was wrong with '70s moms. Meryl — icy, selfish, and beleaguered — bails on her family, only to return a year and a half later to take back her son and screw up the life he's finally put together with his pops, played by Dustin Hoffman. She wins little Billy back, but in the end, decides to ditch the kid for a second time. It was so harrowing, Billy got an Oscar nod. With her chunky leather boots, neck scarves, and patrician cheekbones, Joanna brought glamour to abandonment.

Mrs. Wolf Spider

A bad mother might not make her children lunch, but a worse mother might actually make her children lunch. What I mean is, a mama wolf spider is generally harmless, unless you happen to be her baby wolf spider. Once born, the babies congregate on their mother's stomach, ready to be fed. In some cases, however, they wind up being the mother's next meal instead. It's one thing if your mother just never "got" you, or resented you, or read your diary, or spent all of her time with your alcoholic stepfather, but it's another thing if she decided you were more delicious than adorable.

Marilu Henner

I feel a bit harsh putting this beloved actress on the list of worst moms. I mean, all she did was write the parenting book, "I Refuse to Raise a Brat," and plaster her two sons, Nicholas and Joseph, on the cover. Personally, I would hate to have my mother's literary career and overall cred depend on my ability to keep my sh*t together at the grocery store, at recess, at day care, and everywhere prying eyes were looking for signs that I was, in fact, a brat. Marilu also penned "Healthy Kids." Now these boys can't be chubby or bratty. Then again, as Marilu writes, "Children must learn that they can't always get their way."


This one is a gimme. Or more of a takey, as in, takey your own kids' lives. You gotta go mythological for a mother this venal. In Euripides' famous play based on the Greek myth, Jason leaves his wife, Medea, for a princess. Medea, in turn, butchers their two sons with a knife. Granted, it sucks to be left for a princess, but killing your kids for revenge means you will always make this list. And when someone like Susan Smith kills her kids, your name is going to come up until the end of time.

Naomi Judd

It's not her fault, but no matter how old she gets, Naomi Judd is hotter than her daughters. I file Naomi with Demi Moore under "painfully pretty moms," who can't help but cast a big, beautiful shadow over their daughters. And as we all know from Bette Midler, shadows are cold. Both of the Judd daughters are hugely successful, which should preclude Naomi from making this list. On the other hand, for all their talent, they always seem pretty bummed out.

Terrie Petrie

You may remember her from Dr. Baden's HBO documentary series, "Autopsy." This befuddled mom wrote to Dr. Baden for help. First, her eight-day-old daughter died of SIDS, and later, her three-month-old twins also died of SIDS. Only, they didn't, according to Dr. Baden. After a long investigation, the forensic pathologist concluded that Terrie, who was sleeping with her twins after going out for a few cocktails, managed to roll over on both children and smother them. Terrie was disappointed when she got the "cause of death" news, because she was kind of crossing her fingers for "genetic abnormality."

Kate Gosselin

Forget the usual stuff people hate about Kate, none of that lands her on this list. For me, it's the eight little plates of hummus and sliced apples, the matching outfits, the annoying attention to maternal detail. Kate just overmoms it. While most of the worst moms in history got there by under-momming it, Kate represents all of the women who make the rest of the moms feel inadequate and often raise entitled jerks. Overmoms grimly interview a slew of pediatricians, make their own organic baby food, and generally tackle motherhood with all of the unfettered joy of a prison chaplain.

Dr. Ruth

America desperately needed Dr. Ruth. And Dr. Ruth is a hero. I just don't know if I want my mom bluntly addressing G-spots, multiple orgasms, masturbation, premature ejaculation, proper condom usage, menstruation, or the dangers of rough anal sex. In a word: eeeewwww. I love that Dr. Ruth exists, but to be the child of the woman whose name is synonymous with “frank sex talk” must be kind of rough, not as rough as the anal sex she says can be risky, but rough.


Creepy? Check. Attention seeking? Check. Dishonest, humiliating, and superbly insouciant about her children's well being? Check, check, and check. Octomom gets bonus bad-mom points for attracting the likes of fuchsia-lipped Gloria Allred, who scares children as much as she scares opposing counsel.

Joan Crawford

"No more wire hangers" is as famous an awful mom line as there is. Whether or not "Mommie Dearest" is totally factual, or just the way Joan's daughter, Christina, recalls her childhood, doesn't matter now, because Joan is the subject of a kitsch classic and is inextricably linked to the campiest maternal fit captured on film. The eyebrows, the image-obsession, the succession of boyfriends Christina had to call "uncle," and the daughter-annihilating, scenery-chewing meltdowns forever cement Joan in the collective consciousness as one of history's worst mothers.

Who did I miss? Real or fictional?

next: Your Kid Can Be Miley Cyrus' "Roadie for the Day"
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Gigohead  August 6, 2009, 11:14 AM

Teresa’s list seems silly. She cites movie characters such as in the case of Kramer vs. Kramer.

There are a lot of bad mothers you missed including

The Taconic Mom who was drunk and high and killed her nieces and daughter plus three men she crashed into.

Casey Anthony

The mother who ate her baby’s brain in Texas -

Paula Yates who killed all her kids

Man..I can go on and on….

Anonymous August 6, 2009, 12:06 PM

Where’s Candy Spelling?

Jill August 6, 2009, 4:48 PM

I agree with Gigohead, all the way. This was a very dumb list.

Gigohead  August 6, 2009, 5:14 PM

I have to change something. It was Andrea Yates who murdered all her kids. I know have to add Melissa Scott Jenkins, whose son now mysteriously shows up dead after she reports him missing and has bashed the head of her own infant.

Trina August 7, 2009, 5:42 PM

Getting a little tired of Momlogic articles. This list was ridiculous.

pissedoffatjudgment October 29, 2009, 4:07 PM

Ok, i actually know Terrie Petrie very well indeed. It is so easy for human nature to make assumption and judge people. Don’t you realise people that she lost 3 babies. The fact that she went out that night is only a sad coincidence to the events. She now has a new baby who is now 2 years old and happens to have the same problems as the other 3. What they never discussed was the health condition of her dead children before they died. her new boy now has the same symptoms and she has been fighting every day of his life to keep him alive. After 3 dead babies, the doctors finally took her seriously and realised that they all had, as well as the new boy, a genetic disease. They don’t know how to treat it and can only hope her son will live to an adult age. She is a woman with a big heart and trust me when i say that, she is my ex-husband new wife!!! So I wish people would just leave her alone and realise that she has been thru hell. Losing a child is not easy, losing three, can’t even imagine. But being acused of their death…wow..I can’t even comprehend that! I always tought i was the best mother in the world, but after meeting herm i realise that she is better mother than anyone could ever be. Does anyone knows that she adopted 3 older children out of the goodness of her heart because they had a bad home envoronment?? Would a baby killer do that?? As good a mom I am, I would’t!! So stop judging people, take your anger somewhere else and look at your own lives for once..

elseone December 10, 2010, 3:54 PM

I don;t care if you know Terry Petrie or not, she KILLED 3 KIDS. Dr. Baden is the most renowned forensic dr. in the US, if not the world. She had been drinking and passed out on her kids (or she smothered them to death on purpose.). The dr. looked for a death gene, there was none, the kids died in different houses, etc. She got drunk, rolled over and killed them. The Dr. was nice enough to give her the benefit of the doubt and not call her a murderer, but you CAN’T avoid the facts. As for “knowing someone”, every time a serial killer gets busted, someone says “I would have never known, he was a great guy, yada yada”. You don’t know what happened, you weren;t there, that’s why we have to rely on science. Also, remember, SHE CALLED THE DR.. People are making it look like the Dr. Hunted her down. One last point, child abuser adopt kids all the time. They want the attention. Then they get tired of them and want sympathy, so they start poisoning them or hurting them to get that sympathy, it’s called Munchhausen by Proxy. Look it up.

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