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20 Years And 20 Top TV Moms

In honor of the PTC’s 20th anniversary and of Mother’s Day, we present, in no particular order, the 20 top broadcast TV moms of the last 20 years.

TV moms have changed over the decades. On television today we seldom see the idealized mothers of generations past; whose hair was always perfectly coiffed, whose clothes were always pressed and pristine, who managed their home and family with ease and grace. And while critics complain that those TV moms of generations past were unrealistic and painted a picture of suburban, middle-class America that never really existed; they also gave us an ideal to aspire to.

TV moms today may be working mothers, they may be step-mothers, adoptive mothers, widowed or divorced single mothers; their homes are sometimes messy, their kids aren’t always perfect, but the TV moms on this list are protective, they are loving, they are tough when they need to be, and they sometimes make mistakes, but they are constantly striving to do better.

A couple of notes: Inclusion on the list is not necessarily an endorsement of the program generally, although many (not all) of the TV moms listed below are from PTC green-lighted shows; We also are not saying that these TV moms are perfect. They are flawed, as we all are.

Agree or disagree with our list? Who are your favorite TV moms over the past 20 years? Of all time? Leave a comment to let us know. And to all the moms reading this, we wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!  

Jessie Beckett, Second Noah

As adoptive mother to eight kids and as a veterinarian, Jessie shows compassionate concern for all living things. She helped the family stick together through adversity, and commanded – rather than demanded – their love and respect.

Jill Taylor, Home Improvement

Usually the voice of reason and the calm at the center of the storm, Jill Taylor successfully juggled school, career and family over eight seasons on Home Improvement.’

Harriette Winslow, Family Matters

Harriette and husband Carl exemplify the positive impact of a loving marriage on the entire family. They present a united front in caring for and disciplining their children. 

Jerri Peterson, The Parent ‘Hood
Jerri Peterson helps to instill in her children that integrity, self-discipline, and a good education are the keys to a successful future.

“Dr. Mike,” Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

Michaela Quinn presents a picture of a confident, determined, independent and intelligent woman. A pioneering female doctor on the American frontier just after the Civil War, she confronts prejudice and chauvinism, but she holds her head high and does her job skillfully and with compassion. When her assistant Charlotte dies, Michaela adopts her children and raises them as her own, imparting to them the importance of family, and values like honesty, compassion, respect for parental authority, and a strong work ethic.

Amy Matthews, Boy Meets World

Although the central relationship in Boy Meets World is arguably that of Cory’s friendship with teacher-turned-mentor, Mr. Feeny; Amy Matthews is the calm, wise, and stable center of the family who only wants what is best for her children, while offering guidance and advice to husband and children alike.

Dee Mitchell, Moesha

Suddenly step-mother to a teenage girl, Dee could have taken the easy route of trying to win her over by being her buddy, but instead forges the more difficult path of being a mother to her, and helps to teach her sound lessons on morality and honesty; while helping to secure a strong family foundation for the children.

Hilda and Zelda Spellman, Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Navigating the rocky teen years is hard enough for a normal teenager, but Sabrina isn’t a normal teenager. She’s a witch. Fortunately, aunts Hilda and Zelda are too; so they are able to dispense advice about school, crushes, friends – but they are also able to mentor and teach her to use her powers responsibly.

Annie Camden, 7th Heaven

Annie is the kind of mom we all wish we could be more often. Wise, patient, understanding. She seems to always know the right words to say to soothe a heartache or hurt, she is gentle in her guidance, but firm when she needs to be; she is forgiving, but clear about the behavior she expects from them in the future.

Claire Greene, Promised Land

When her husband loses his job, Claire picks up roots and takes the family out on the road. At the heart of this series was a family of individuals who were always willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of all. Faith in God and His plan and the importance of education are also integral to her character and woven into each episode.

Lois, Malcolm in the Middle

Motherhood rarely looks like the pictures on greeting cards. Lois provided a warts-and-all look at motherhood that may look dysfunctional and chaotic to the outside world; but is rooted in love, and a powerful will to keep her kids on the right path. She wasn’t perfect, but in the real world, who is?

Marge Simpson, The Simpsons

It’s unfortunate that Homer Simpson has become the poster child for the dumb, bumbling dad; because it makes Marge Simpson’s character the “good parent” by default. But even if Homer was “Father of the Year” material, Marge would still be noteworthy for her quiet understanding, long-suffering patience, and gentle nature

Bonnie Malloy, Life with Bonnie

Bonnie Hunt seems to have brought much of herself to the role of Bonnie Molloy; her TV alter-ego projects good humor, sensitivity and kindness. And the loving example she sets is also reflected in the tender concern and respect the children show for their parents and one another

Martha Kent, Smallville

As Clark’s adoptive mother, Martha Kent is instrumental in forming the personality of the man who will one day become Superman. Martha’s kindness, intelligence, strong ethics and moral sense are reflected in the character of Clark.

Helen Girardi, Joan of Arcadia

The family has just moved to a new town. As the new Chief of Police, her husband is fighting deep-seated corruption; she is grieving her star-athlete son’s recent paralysis; and even while she’s struggling with her own faltering faith, her daughter suddenly believes she is talking to God. Yet through it all, Helen stays strong to keep her struggling family together.

Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights

A steel magnolia – charming, outgoing, and friendly; but also tough as nails. She is fiercely loyal and protective of her family, and mothered not only her own children, but many of her children’s friends, as well. She also provided wisdom, guidance and love to the many students in her charge as a high school counselor and principal.

Frances Heck, The Middle

As a wife and mom to three children, Frances “Frankie” is devoted to her family. She struggles to help make ends meet but her goal is always to do the best for her husband and children.


Erin Reagan-Boyle, Blue Bloods

A single mom raising an independent-minded teenage girl on her own; she is smart and career-minded (ADA), tough when she has to be, and not afraid to lay down the law to her daughter.

Rainbow Johnson, Black-ish

A working mom of four, Rainbow is a sensible mom and supportive wife. In many ways, she’s the glue that holds her family together as they take on the challenge of adhering to their roots while breaking down barriers professionally and personally.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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