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Edison, Thomas, Mother of

  • By: Tiffany Willey
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Nancy Matthews Elliott Edison (1810–71) was born in Chenango County, New York, to Revolutionary War hero Ebenezer Matthews Elliott and his wife, Mercy Putnam. She mothered seven children, including prolific American inventor, Thomas Edison. Edison, who held 1,093 patents during his lifetime, including those for the phonograph and incandescent lightbulb, credited his mother for his success: “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.” Nancy Edison indulged her son's curiosities, encouraged his experiments, and homeschooled her son when teachers described him as too “addled” to learn.

As a young woman, Nancy received some formal education, and worked as a teacher. Following the American ...

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