Deputy Curator Georgina takes us through some of her favourite stamps featuring mothers of all kinds.

To celebrate Mother’s Day I delved into our stamp collection to find some interesting mums that have appeared on stamps.

Here are just a few of my favourites…

An embroidered card decorated with flowers and the words, To my Dear Mother from your loving Son

An embroidered card with pansies and the words ‘To my Dear Mother’, 1917 (OB1995.64/6)

History of Mother’s Day

Mothering Sunday – or more commonly known as Mother’s Day – is held on the 4th Sunday of Lent in the Christian calendar. Mothering Sunday was a time for people to return to their ‘mother church’, for a special service. Traditionally those in domestic service were given time off to spend with their families. Many children would work away from their home, so this was a time for family reunion. Over time this holiday became more commercial and now we think of it as a time to treat our mothers to flowers and chocolates.

Mothers in the Animal Kingdom

A Miniature Sheet consisting of six stamps depicting animals including an orangutan.

Animail, Miniature Sheet, 2016

When we think of Mother’s Day we probably only think of humans but we can’t forget the amazing animal mothers out there. The mother orangutan has a baby around every 9 years up until the age of 40. The babies rely entirely on their mums for the first 2 years and will stay with their mums for the next 6-7 years. It is in this time they learn to be self sufficient, a bit like we do, when we move out of our parents’ home. It has also been known for female orangutans to visit their mums up to the age of 15/16.

Two stamps; one depicting an orangutan and the other a polar bear.

81p, Orangutan, Charles Darwin, 2009 & 1st NVI, Polar Bear, WWF, 2011

Polar Bears on the other hand tend to have twins, which means they’ve always got a mate to play with. The mums actually put on an extra 400 pounds whilst pregnant which helps during their maternity hibernation when they don’t eat or drink. The mothers build their own maternity dens where they give birth to the cubs and remain for the first couple of months of their lives for safety.

Mother of Christ

A miniature sheet from Christmas 2005 depicting six different depictions of the Madonna and Child.

Christmas 2005, Miniature Sheet, 2005

One of the most obvious mothers to have appeared on stamps is that of the Madonna. The Madonna is an intercessor between God and man and she is often depicted enthroned surrounded by angels and saints. Many of the Christmas stamps both above and below are historic images depicting the Virgin nurturing the Christ child. These paintings would have been used as devotional images.

A Christmas miniature sheet depicting five different images of the Madonna and Child.

Christmas 2013, Miniature Sheet, 2013

Mother of a Movement

Two stamps, one adopted and one not of Emmeline Pankhurst for the British Anniversaries stamps of 1968.

An unadopted stamp design on the left and the issued stamp for British Anniversaries, 1968.

Emmeline Pankhurst was born in 1858 into a politically active family which must have impacted her beliefs and future actions. Emmeline founded the Women’s Social & Political Union, whose members were known as the Suffragettes. She was the mother of a movement which protested for equal rights for women. Her daughter Christabel followed her into the campaign and along with many other women were arrested for their protests. Emmeline was a mother to many women fighting for their rights to be heard. Unfortunately Emmeline died before she could see women given the right to vote.

An unadopted stamp deign of eight suffragettes holding each letter of the word suffrage.

Unadopted stamp by David Gentleman for the British Anniversaries issue of 1968

Maybe one day we’ll have a stamp issue dedicated to mothers but until then I hope you’ve enjoyed looking into some of our stamp collection. In the images above we have mothers who dedicate years of their lives to the education of their children and others that encouraged young people to stand together. I hope everyone has a lovely Mother’s Day and don’t forget, mums should be spoilt all year round!

Why not treat her to a visit to The Postal Museum?

– Georgina Tomlinson, Deputy Curator (Philately)