Elizabeth Taylor: Working Mom.

by Meredith O'Brien


When Elizabeth Taylor died this past week, I was dazzled by the old photos of her that appeared in newspapers and web sites alongside tributes to the famed actress. In the 1950s and 1960s, she was not only considered gorgeous but she was most definitely viewed as box office gold.


In 1961 when she was just 29, Taylor was the country’s top movie star, besting major film actors such as John Wayne, Cary Grant and Doris Day when it came to box office receipts. She was also a working mother with three young children – she’d later adopt a girl – and the breadwinner for her family in an era when an actress who got pregnant was routinely suspended by her movie company and placed on unpaid leave.


As I read about Taylor’s accomplishments in the many articles about her published in the days after her death – 54 films, two Oscars, five Academy Award nominations, a leader in the fight against AIDS, married eight times – I kept wondering, amidst all the discussion about her violet eyes, her vivaciousness, her sensuality and her passion for romantic love, what about Taylor as a mother? I was surprised to learn that she had had four children and, when she died, had 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Sure, during the 80s and 90s I knew all about her unusual friendship with Michael Jackson, and saw her personal commercials on TV, but didn’t know anything about her as a mother.


So I went on a quest to learn more about Taylor, the superstar working mom. I spent loads of time reading archived news articles online about her, watched a number of TV segments about her and perused three Taylor biographies. What did I glean from all of that? That not much ink was used writing about Elizabeth Taylor the mother, certainly not as compared to the amount of time the media spends today in dissecting, say, Angelina Jolie’s life with her kids. I did learn that by the time Taylor had her second child, she had plenty of money to hire nannies and that she had a habit of taking her kids with her on movie sets until they got old enough to send to boarding school. There were also people who were sharply critical of Taylor and how her children dealt with Taylor’s frequent change of husbands.


Some writers, I discovered, concluded that Taylor was a fiercely protective, loving mother.