Aretha Franklin, the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and "Queen of Soul," died this week in her home in Detroit. She was battling a progressive case of pancreatic cancer after years of ill health. In a statement, her family said they were "not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family."
The soul singer was world-renown for her powerful anthems like "Respect" and "A Natural Woman," but less know about one of Franklin's more shrouded jobs: Mom. Franklin had two children by the age of 15, right around the time she began her singing career, making her a working mother before she could drive. She had two other children at 22 and 28.
Around the time Aretha was a young mother, moms were about 30% less likely to be employed than other women. And, I mean, all working moms seem a like superheroes to me. But the fact that Aretha Franklin was able to balance parenthood and a growing artistic career while being a voice to the Civil Rights movement seems pretty special.
However, she didn't do it alone. As many working moms know, it takes a lot of help to raise kids. While Franklin was on tour with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., her grandmother Rachel and sister Erma watched her kids. She sacrificed spending time with her biggest fans to pursue her singing career, but it obviously paid off. Eventually, a few of them grew up to tour with her.
Aretha was a decorated performer, a feminist, and an advocate for racial equality. The fact that she was a working mom just makes her an even more impressive role model.
She'll be missed by family and fans alike.