Mother’s Day: A Tribute in Classic Illustrations

An old Jewish proverb says that God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers. And mothers do have certain godlike qualities. Not only do they give us life, but they are our counselors, confidantes, protectors, disciplinarians, and teachers. But for all their love and sacrifice, moms seldom get the recognition they deserve. In this gallery, the Post commemorates the fun — and just as frequently the frustration — that motherhood entails.

Never a Dull Moment

Telling Mom about Her Date
George Hughes
January 24, 1953

First date. An awkward and exhilarating rite of passage in a teen’s — and mother’s — life. Time stands still for the starry-eyed daughter (above) who can’t wait till dawn to riff about her big night out. Time also seems to come to a halt in the run-up to the big Gold and Green Dance (below). Can a boy survive his mom’s ministrations?

Readying for First Date
George Hughes
October 16, 1948


Separation Anxiety
Stevan Dohanos
September 3, 1955



The doctor will see you now. A waiting room full of distractions keeps anxiety in check for some young patients and their moms, but clearly not for all.

Behind the Scenes

Mother’s Little Helpers
John Falter
April 18, 1953

Cooking up something sweet. A special surprise lurks behind the kitchen door courtesy of a culinary crew only a mom could love.


Morning Coffee Break
Amos Sewell
September 12, 1959

Morning glory. With the brood now safely off to school, this mom finally gets to kick back for some well-deserved “me time.”

It’s the Thought That Counts

Shopping for Mother’s Day
Constantin Alajálov
May 10, 1947

What to buy? 1940s-era stereotypes about the limits of a mother’s desires seem to have narrowed a daughter’s options.


Happy Mother’s Day
Richard Sargent
May 11, 1957

Good news, bad news. Wet, muddy, and full of enthusiasm, a boy and his dog announce a “special delivery”.

Beyond the Canvas: Muddy Mother’s Day

"Happy Mother's Day," by Richard Sargent. <br />May 11, 1957. © SEPS 2014
“Happy Mother’s Day,” by Richard Sargent.
May 11, 1957. © SEPS 2014

As illustrator Richard “Dick” Sargent once said, when it comes to children, “expect the unexpected.” On his May 11, 1957 cover for The Saturday Evening Postc, “Happy Mother’s Day,” we see a jubilant young man enter the family home with gifts for his mother: a Mother’s Day card, a muddy-pawed pooch, and a muddied front hall.

The perspective of the cover illustration is tilted off-center to give us the impression of being taller than the subject, the same view as an adult looking down on a child. The boy’s broad smile and call up the stairs tell the viewer he’s entirely ignorant of his heinous mud-tracking crime. In his excitement to impress his mother with a gift, he’s forgotten to take off his galoshes.

This funny, relatable situational comedy has happened to American families a million times over. Children are filled with impulse, an innocence of excitement that gets in the way of all other thoughts. Even for those of us who have never had children, we have all been children and can understand this moment. Bursting to share our joy or discoveries, we forget (despite a million admonitions) to take off our shoes once inside, tracking mud and other undesirables through Mom’s clean house. It’s adorable irony that this boy’s excitement over giving his mother a homemade card, which he likely hopes will make her day, has inadvertently given her more hassle than happiness.

This may even be a true story that happened to the artist. Sargent loved children, and he enjoyed illustrating scenes from his own life. He often used his own mischievous, redheaded son, Anthony, as a model. In fact, Anthony appears here as our muddy little man. Perhaps this was Sargent’s perspective one day as he came around the corner to check out the commotion in the front hall.

In the end, Sargent’s simple scene of a rainy May Mother’s day shows that even poor weather cannot deter the happiness and excitement of a loving child. Although the floor is muddied, the child’s intentions never were.

Illustrator Richard SargentTo learn more about Richard “Dick” Sargent and to see other inside illustrations and covers from this artist, click here!