These Vintage Photos of Real Southern Mamas Will Melt Your Heart
When we asked our Southern Living family to send us photos of the most special women in their lives, we never could have imagined the outpour of amazing stories and snapshots we’d receive. From memories of hard-working Southern mamas to hilarious tales of half-fallen cakes, here are a few of our favorite, nostalgic submissions from our Celebrating Mama Photo Contest.
A First Birthday Baking Mishap
"This photograph was snapped by my father for my first birthday. The lopsided cake was so typical of her baking skills. She was a fabulous cook, but her baking skills were not her forte. I learned to bake at the age of six and my job was desserts for family gatherings and parties from the age of nine." - Laura Taylor
The Three Musketeers
"My grandmother, Aunt Violet, and my mother were joined at the hip. Granny knew everyone and everything about everyone's business. She ran the show for us all. Aunt Violet and Mother were sweet, and never said a disparaging word. All pure Christian, Southern Ladies. Irreplaceable." - Betty DeCastro
Mom and Flowers, My Two Great Loves
"I have been obsessed with flowers since a very young age. My beautiful Mother helped foster that interest by taking me to visit gardens whenever possible." - Crystal Burnham
Children Adored My Aunt Vivian
She had a way of making us feel loved, happy, and special. Thursday was her official visiting day with her mother and two sisters—Mama and Aunt Joyce. When she came to visit us, she always had a pack of chewing gum for any kids on the premises. And when we visited her, she would set her coffee table just like a mini version of “the big table” for my cousin and me. She loved beautiful tableware and used her sterling silver all the time—not just for special occasions. And she was one of those cooks who can do a quick survey of her pantry, pull out seemingly random ingredients, and get a Southern dinner on the table in no time. As kids, we lived for her cakes—chocolate most especially—and she never showed up without one. When I got older and got my first apartment, she would “slip” me things—a lace tablecloth here, a china tea service there. I know very little about silver, but when I got engaged and chose mine, my mother took one look at it and said, 'Buttercup—Vivian’s pattern.'" - Valerie Luesse
Learning to Choose Your Battles the Messy Way
"I wanted my nails to be pretty like my mom, so I insisted upon painting them myself. Of course my mom did not want me to, but I threw a big tantrum. If you look closely at the picture, you can see what a marvelous job I did of painting my own nails." - Latanya Thornhill
All Dressed Up In Homemade Suits
Though the black and white photograph my hide its true color, Allison is really boasting a beautiful red suit her mother made by hand.
A Homecoming Surprise
Keith surprised his mom, MeMe, in New Orleans in 1973. She had no idea he was coming home on leave.
Mama and the Easter Dresses
This sweet mama and her love of fancy Easter dresses has us ready for spring all over again.
Full of Family Love
"I feel fortunate to have benefited throughout my life from these smart, talented, loving, Southern, women." - Kathy Gates
Mama and Her Three Girlies
"My mom had three girls within 27 months, but she kept smiling!" - Lesley Riley
Four Generations of Southern Mothers
Suzanne remembers being a new mother standing alongside four generations of "strong (willed), Southern women."
A Southern Beauty on Easter
"This is an Easter photo of my Mom, Miss Laura Bonar, stewardess for Eastern Airlines, just after she became engaged to my Father, Eddie Ray, Jr, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her suit and hat are from Montaldo's in Charlotte. I still have the suit!" - Kelly Ray
All Dressed Up for the Camera
Brenda's family took formal photos together every year. She remembers how her mother made all of their adorable dresses back in the 50's.
Proud of their Place
"This was my grandmother and mom's first apartment in New Orleans. They were so proud of this place!" - Stacy Benton Williams
A Mother's Strength
"My father had recently passed away when this photo was taken, and I see such strength, beauty and determination in my mother's eyes. She went on to raise two successful children by herself, and I can't imagine how she did it all!" - Colene Elridge
All Decked Out for the Holidays
"My Mom always loved the holidays, and growing up, decorating our home meant a lot to me. Now when I decorate my home, I always think of my dear Mom." - Cathy Armistead
A Memorable and Welcoming Sunday Dinner Tradition
"Mom and daddy both worked in the cottons mills. They worked different shifts so that someone could stay at home with the kids! We did not have fancy parties, but mom cooked dinner every Sunday. There were many neighbor kids that joined us and still remember it today!" - Ruth McAbee Nesbitt
Vintage Baby Girl Names We Love
Passing down your grandmother or mother's name is an honorable tradition that many Southern families carry on. From Nell to Hattie, we love these vintage baby girl names that withstand the test of time.
A 1970's Disney Vacation with Mom
Rebecca Etheridge remembers her first trip to Disney with her mom, a "strong female role model" who has been there for her through the good and the bad. "She's a Southern woman through and through," says Rebecca.