“Every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman,” the pioneering psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott wrote in his manifesto for the mother’s contribution to society. Winnicott placed the concept of the “good-enough mother” at the heart of a healthy individual, and it is hardly coincidental that more often than not, great individuals have benefitted from the formative value system and unconditional love of a great mother — from Mark Twain, whose mother modeled for him what it means to have compassion for otherness, to Barack Obama, whose mother shaped his understanding of love.
Among these culture-shifting mothers is Isobel Hawking, mother of the great physicist Stephen Hawking (January 8, 1942–March 14, 2018) — a formidable mind whose work revolutionized our understanding of the universe and whose far-reaching legacy inspires poems.
The second oldest of seven children in a family of modest means, Isobel was among the few women to attend university in the 1930s. Less than a decade after the esteemed institution had begun granting…
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