Mother’s Day: June Cleaver, The Mother of All TV Moms

by Karen A. Romanko

When you think of TV moms, who’s the first person who comes to mind? Carol Brady? Marion Cunningham? Roseanne Connor? Frankie Heck? For me, and most “kids” of my generation, the mother of all TV moms is June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), who gave new meaning to the term “full-time mom” on Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963). Except for the occasional outing to a PTA meeting or the store, June was pretty much housebound, as were many real-life women of the era, when only one third of  women participated in the labor force. But June stayed home in style, with her well-coiffed hair, perfect nails, movie-star makeup, stylish dresses, and signature strand of pearls, all worn while preparing supper or vacuuming the living room. The real moms of the era rarely looked as glamorous at home, often preferring to wear a housecoat or duster to do their—er, dusting.

June practiced a stealth parenting style. Often she wouldn’t deal with the boys directly, but pushed husband Ward (Hugh Beaumont) to handle the problem du jour with Wally (Tony Dow) or Beaver (Jerry Mathers). Like most parents, she was hit or miss in relating to her children. In “Teacher Comes to Dinner” (1959), she places son Beaver in an uncomfortable position, when she invites his teacher, Miss Landers (Sue Randall), to dinner at the Cleaver house, leading Beaver to the shocking revelation that teachers have toes. She displays more empathy, however, when older son Wally wants to buy an expensive orchid for his date, while Ward is against spending so much money, in “Wally’s Orchid” (1960). June also showed restraint in putting up with her kids’ friends, especially Wally’s smarmy friend Eddie Haskell (Ken Osmond), but she wasn’t always successful in concealing her contempt.

Hugh Beaumont, Tony Dow, Barbara Billingsley, and Jerry Mathers

Ultimately, though, June was a loving mom who just wanted her sons to be happy and fulfilled. Today we celebrate June, and especially our real moms, many no longer with us, who held their families together during good times and bad, made us feel loved, and provided a comforting presence at home no matter what went wrong out in the world. We also toast today’s moms, many who work full-time, balancing jobs with their increasingly demanding family responsibilities. Thanks to you all! Happy Mother’s Day!

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  1. When I think of TV moms, June Cleaver is the first character to come to mind. Good topic choice for Mother's Day!

    1. Thank you! She is definitely iconic and unforgettable.


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