As we continue our series of Honoring Motherhood, today we are going to talk about Thomas Edison’s Mother.
Thomas Alva Edison was called an “addled” child (mentally ill) by his grade school teacher. Because he had a heroic mother who believed in him, he became the genius of the century. Thomas didn’t talk until he was four years old. He went to public school for 12 weeks when the School Master called him “Addled”. His mother, Nancy Edison (Nancy Mathew Elliott) chose not to tell her son what the School Master said. She homeschooled him saying the school was too small for him.
A Mother’s Love
Edison credited his mother’s love and patience with giving him a firm footing in the world as a reason for his great success. “My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me: I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.” He explained, “I remember I used to never be able to get along at school. I was always at the foot (bottom) of the class. I used to feel that the teachers did not sympathize with me, and my father thought I was stupid.”
Edison went to a one-room noisy school with 38 other students of all ages. His short-tempered, overworked teacher had no patience for his constant questions. The teacher thought his high forehead with a head that was larger than average made his brain “Addled or scrambled.” His mother saw his appearance, constant questions and curiosity as a sign of his extreme intelligence.
Nancy Edison was the daughter of a highly respected Presbyterian minister Rev. Elliot. She was an accomplished educator. Although Thomas had hearing loss and may have been labeled ADHD in today’s world, she saw the genius in him and taught him the three Rs and the Bible. His father, Samuel, encouraged him to read the great classics, giving him a ten cents reward for each one he completed.
Nancy Edison taught her son some of the following basic truths to live by:
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep trying. Learn from failure and try again. After Thomas Edison’s amazing invention of the electric light bulb he was confronted with his failures by a French reporter asking, “How did it feel to fail 999 times?” Edison replied, “I have not failed 999 times. I have found 999 ways how NOT to create a light bulb.”
- Read across the entire span of literature, not just what you like. Throughout his life, Edison read and memorized poetry, prose and literature. This made him a great communicator, able to draw on the great lessons of written culture and history.
- Never stop learning, keep improving yourself. Edison continued working on his inventions until the day he died. He slowed down a bit at the age of 83 and began working from home. But he never stopped learning until his death at the age of 84.
Thomas Edison credited his mother for giving him the firm foundation he needed to succeed. Nancy Elliott Edison was born in 1810 and died in 1871 when he was 24 years old. But her son’s inventions have lived on with the Incandescent light bulb, Phonograph, Movie Camera, Carbon microphone, Quadruplex telegraph and the Phonograph cylinder. He patented 2332 inventions worldwide. He founded the General Electric Company, Edison Illuminating Company ,·Motion Picture Patents Company, Edison Studios and Edison Records. He was considered the greatest inventor of all time. Today we enjoy movies, electric lights and much more because of the faithfulness of a mother who believed in her son even though the School Master called him “Addled”. She was a devoted Christian mother who taught her son the Bible and believed in him when no one else did.