Soap Opera Mother’s Day Loving Matriarchs and Scary Mommie Dearest Types
Image: John Paschal/JPI
No more wire hangers…
There is no perfect mother. Even a soap opera matriarch can have skeletons in her well-organized closets. For some, it’s almost part of the job description. In order to be able to dispense all of that great advice, the matriarch needs to have life experience, right? Soaps.com is saluting daytime mothers this Mother’s Day – with a twist. Sometimes we like a little of the ‘Mommie Dearest’ quality in a female soap character so we’re going to dish a tiny bit of dirt on soap opera matriarchs – if we can – while giving an honorable mention to those who are the best in their role from soaps such as All My Children, As the World Turns, Bold and the Beautiful, Days of our Lives, General Hospital, One Life to Live, and Young and the Restless.
All My Children
Although she’s off enjoying retirement in Florida, Ruth Martin has long been the matriarch at All My Children. Ruth debuted in 1970 and along with Joe Martin, who she married in 1972, has been part of one of the longest-running committed couples in daytime. Ruth adopted Tad Gardner, endured being raped by his biological father, Ray, and also raised her and Joe’s son, Jake. Ruth worked as a nurse, supported her hubby in his medical career and provided help and advice to all comers, all while maintaining the most welcoming home in Pine Valley. But Ruth wasn’t as pure as the driven snow. She cheated on Joe with David Thorton and once conspired with Opal to lock Diana Cole in a shed. Though Lee Meriwether (pictured) took over the role in 1996, original All My Children cast member, Mary Fickett died on September 8, 2011.
As the World Turns
Nancy Hughes had the first line ever spoken in Oakdale on As the World Turns and, ever since has been the constant source of advice and maternal care. Dr. Bob Hughes was her son and Chris Hughes, her grandson. Even more than fifty years down the road, she still pops up to lend her ear to people’s problems and offer bits of wisdom. She’s been one of the most sacrosanct models of motherly virtue in the history of daytime. Aside from the fact that she annoyed the stuffing out of Penny and a few other people by being so old-fashioned, she’s hardly raised an eyebrow in a way that anyone could disapprove of. CBS daytime grieved when Helen Wagner passed away on May 1, 2010.
The Bold and the Beautiful
Stephanie Forrester was all about family and if anyone crossed them, they would most certainly pay – something the Logans know something about on The Bold and the Beautiful. Stephanie would go to great lengths, often inappropriately so, to ensure her precious children, Ridge, Thorne, Felicia, Angela and Kristen, were happy, whether they liked it or not. Just ask Ridge. He has had to endure his mother meddling in his love life since day one. At least nobody can accuse Stephanie of not loving her children. Right up until Stephanie’s passing, she loved fiercely.
Stephanie’s longtime nemesis Brooke Logan is another Bold and Beautiful matriarch who is fiercely protective of her children, despite having once slept with her daughter Bridget Forrester’s husband Deacon Sharpe. Since only one of her children currently lives in town, Hope Logan is the recipient of Brooke’s hands-on devotion, as evidenced by the great lengths she went to in order to protect Hope from her stepson Thomas Forrester’s obsession. It led to a crumbling of her marriage to Thomas’ father and Brooke’s destiny Ridge Forrester, but if it meant saving her daughter, it was worth it.
Days of our Lives
Alice Horton was Salem’s matriarch on Days of our Lives. A widow to Tom Horton, Alice was sincere, compassionate, lent an ear to anybody who requested it, had raised some of the good folks in Salem and made what we are to assume, the most delicious doughnuts in the universe. A little dirt on Alice? When Roman was arrested as the Salem Slasher, naughty Alice helped him escape from jail by bringing the innocent Roman some of her famous doughnuts – drugged. Roman ate them and became ill. He was taken to the hospital, where Alice and Bo helped Roman escape. Go Alice! Sadly, Frances Reid passed on February 5, 2010.
Though she doesn’t make doughnuts, Dr. Marlena Evans does give out excellent advice to her children, Belle, Eric, Sami and step-kids, Brady and Carrie, along with her grandchildren. Whether trying to talk her reactionary daughter Sami Brady down from an emotional outburst or supporting her grandson Will Horton when he came out as gay, Marlena is often the go-to sounding board in Salem. Putting her psychiatric skills to good use, she often tries to help fix the problems of her children which includes stepson Brady Black, who she considers one of her own.
While many soaps have loving, caring matriarchs, General Hospital’s Helena Cassadine is just the opposite, as she manipulates, kidnaps and even murders, all in the name of the Cassadine family. Her list of crimes is long, but one that stands out had her switching DNA tests to make it appear that her grandson Nikolas, and not the real father Lucky Spencer, is Elizabeth’s baby daddy.
Though she’s not as villainous as Helena Cassadine, Carly Corinthos is not above dirtying her hands in the name of protecting her children. Whether trying to pass off her firstborn Michael Corinthos as Tony Jones’ to keep him away from his biological father A.J. Quartermaine or offering to have sex with Johnny Zacchara in order to keep Michael out of organized crime or locking Nelle Benson on the roof of General Hospital so she couldn’t prevent her son and Carly’s grandson Wiley’s surgery, the woman is one fierce mama bear.
One Life to Live
Victoria Lord Buchanan Davidson Banks was Llanview’s matriarch on One Life to Live. Not only was she a caring mother and friend to most of Llanview, but she also ran the town’s oldest newspaper, The Banner, and even held the position of mayor a few times. Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet. Viki was no different. She suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder. As Niki Smith, Viki’s alter, pushed Viki’s husband Ben out of a window then tried to frame Viki’s daughter Natalie for the crime. Even though her alters were all stored away, we always wondered when they’d reemerge to wreak havoc on anyone who gets in their way.
The Young and The Restless
There’s no question that the Duchess, aka, Katherine Chancellor, was Genoa City’s matriarch on The Young and the Restless. A true dynamo, Katherine ran Chancellor Industries, raised her son Brock, opened her home and heart to Jill (who she believed to be her daughter), Esther, Nikki, numerous husbands and lovers, grandchildren, and her biological son, Tucker. Kay has lived through schemes, doppelgangers, face-lifts, heart problems, and amnesia, just to name a few challenges and has still come out as one of the strongest and most beloved women Genoa City has ever known. However, Katherine had a nasty side – she once drove her own husband off a cliff in a jealous, drunken rage, and indulged in numerous catfights with her rival, Jill. One of daytime’s vets, Jeanne Cooper died on May 8, 2013.
From cult member to stripper to businesswoman to alcoholic to murderer (in self-defense of course), much like her beloved friend Katherine Chancellor, Nikki Newman has been through it all.In addition to those salacious titles, Nikki is also a loving mother to two of her long time love Victor Newman’s children as well as her teenage love Paul Williams’ son who resurfaced in her life when he was an adult. Proving she’ll go to any lengths for her children, Nikki thought she killed her daughter Victoria’s abusive ex-husband J.T. Hellstrom when she hit him over the head and then helped bury him. Luckily, he was alive and escaped his grave, so it was all good.
Enjoy Soaps.com’s photo gallery of the mothers currently in soaps. Note that we do not have images for all of the characters.
(Another version of this was posted May 5, 2010 by Christine Fix, Amy Mistretta, Matt Purvis, Lori Wilson, Candace Young. Refreshed by Amy Mistretta February 27, 2018 and again by Lori Wilson May 6, 2020)