Famous Moms Who Went Back To School

By Evan Jones
April 2011

As a celebration of Mother’s Day, we at StraighterLine offer a special tribute to working moms who went back to school. We hope you will enjoy these empowering stories of famous women returned to further their education while raising their children. Working moms who “drop back into” school come from all walks of life: rich, poor, and in between. They are liberals, conservatives, and everything in between (and beyond). But they that have stood the course share this: strength, discipline, and dedication to the ideals of success and knowledge. Only those who have done so can know the immense challenge and robust dedication that is involved.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling needs no introduction. As author of the immortal Harry Potter series, her enduring fame is assured. But it hadn’t always been that way for the woman who was first a welfare mother, and then a struggling, unknown author. She had been a teacher in Portugal before the breakup of her first marriage, after which she moved to Scotland. But if she wanted to teach there, she needed a postgraduate certificate of education. So in the fall of 1995, she went back to school.

Although the idea had occurred to her five years earlier, it was while she was back in school that she began writing the first Harry Potter novel, mostly in local coffee shops, with her baby daughter in tow. The seven-book series (the last of which I stood in line for to buy on the very first day) is the best selling series of all time (as well as the highest grossing movie series of all time) and appears to be destined for the ages, to go down in history with the masterworks of Carroll, Tolkien, and Lewis.1

Christy Turlington

She is currently one of the world’s top supermodels, though she is not comfortable with that term. She achieved huge professional success as early as 1987 representing Calvin Klein (doing so for 20 years), and with several million-dollar contracts, 500 magazine covers, plus documentaries, music videos, and photo books, one would be hard pressed to find a better description. She is an ambassador for the CARE relief organization, and active in PETA.

Christy is also a working mom who has returned to school , both before she was married and again a decade later. Her interest in yoga and Eastern religions brought her back to school in 1994 and she graduated cum laude with a degree in Comparative Religion and Eastern philosophy. (She remains, however, a practicing Roman Catholic since childhood.) She is married with two children, and has returned again to college in 2009, studying for a master’s degree in public health at Columbia University.2

The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Margaret Tobin Brown

A survivor of the Titanic disaster, having assisted in the evacuation and protesting for her lifeboat to return to search for survivors, she became known, after her death, as “the Unsinkable Molly Brown”. She was a daughter of immigrants and married a poor man who subsequently made good and created a fortune in the mining business. She became prominent locally, helping out the families of minors and joining the Women’s Suffrage movement, helping to establish the local chapter.

The family then moved to Denver, where she became a charter member of a leading philanthropic group active in women’s rights, and had two children. And in 1901, she also went back to school , becoming one of the first students of the Carnegie Institute, and became educated in the arts, and fluent in French, German, and Russian. She went on to help establish the first U.S. juvenile court, which was the blueprint for critically needed judicial reform. She remained a strong advocate of feminism, education, workers’ rights and historical preservation throughout the remainder of her life.3


1 Ann-Marie Imbornoni, J. K. Rowling, The story of Harry Potter's creator, Fact Monster Feature http://www.factmonster.com/spot/harrycreator1.html

J.K. Rowling, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling

List of best-selling books, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books

List of highest-grossing films, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_films#Highest-grossing_film_series

2 Christy Turlington, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christy_Turlington

3 Margaret “Molly” Tobin Brown, Women in History, Living vignettes of notable women from U.S. history http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/brow-mol.htm

Margaret Brown, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Brown