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The Mothers of Motown: How Motherly Love Helped Build an Empire

Posted on: 05-06-2016

Ernestine Ross with daughter Diana Ross and Florence Ballard

As many people know, mothers are no stranger to sacrifice. In fact, they are the greatest symbol of unconditional love. This is especially true of the mothers of Motown legends. Today, we remember three “Motown Mothers” whose contributions helped build the empire of Motown Records and added to the world renowned Motown sound.

The Mother who Chaperoned Tours
The late Ernestine Ross (Moten) raised six children, the second of which would go on to be the platinum selling recording artist Diana Ross. Mrs. Ross was not just a mother to Diana but to The Supremes as well.  Known as “Mother Supreme,” Mrs. Ross was the matriarch of the group. Besides providing motherly counsel, she went on the road with them to chaperone their tours.


Stevie Wonder with mother Lula Mae Hardaway

The Mother who Co-Wrote Hit Songs
Stevie Wonder’s mother, the late Lula Mae Hardaway, was a dynamic force in his life for several reasons. Besides supporting his rise to fame, she helped with the creation of hit songs we know and love today. Mrs. Hardaway was a co-writer for several Stevie Wonder songs including “I Was Made to Love Her” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Your’s.”

She penned the catchy chorus of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Your’s” while at home in Detroit with her musical genius son. As Stevie played the piano, singing over and over again “Here I am baby…. Here I am baby….” his mother soon chimed in with the lyrics “Signed, sealed, delivered. I’m yours.”

Bertha Fuller Gordy, Berry Gordy’s mother

The Mother who Helped Build the Empire
Entrepreneurship was the backbone of the Gordy family. Berry Gordy’s father, the late Berry Gordy Sr., supported their family through several business ventures, including a family-owned and operated grocery store. The entrepreneurial spirit was also passed down to Berry Gordy by his mother, the late Bertha Fuller Gordy, who started her own insurance agency.

Mrs. Gordy’s business savvy and leadership not only inspired the young Berry Gordy to found Motown Records; it also was a great asset to him as his little record company grew into the empire we know it as today.

Mrs. Gordy worked in the Office of the President at Motown Records. She used her strong business skills to help troubleshoot any issues the record company encountered and supported her son as his business grew rapidly.Her motherly love raised a family that would go down in history.

Mrs. Gordy and all of the aforementioned mothers represent motherhood’s way of bringing out the best in us. In this case, these mothers and their love brought out talent that would be heard around the world forever.

Motown Museum wishes all mothers a happy Mother’s Day!