You know what’s interesting? Watching how television shows evolve over the years — both in terms of storylines and characters. Topics that were once taboo are now openly discussed in more current series, and characters we thought we’d never see as protagonists are front and center — including the TV mom.
In early sitcoms and TV shows, the TV mom was always a supporting character, portrayed as a dutiful, flawless, smiling, loving housewife who basically lived in the kitchen. And then The Donna Reed Show happened. For the first time ever, we were watching a mother who was not only the main character, but she also had a voice! She had emotions! She had a job! And since then, we’ve probably seen every type of mother from all backgrounds: the “lazy” mother, the “neurotic” mother, the “hippie” mother and so on. At the core of them all, though, they were all just doing their best for their kids, for their family and for themselves.
Here are 24 unforgettable, iconic TV moms and the actors who played them.
A version of this article was originally published in May 2015.