Maria Heck Life Deconstructed: What’s with these women in nursery rhymes?

Maria Jiunta Heck - Life Deconstructed | August 31st, 2017 1:14 pm

Editor’s note: This week’s installment of Life Deconstructed is a reworked version of a column posted by Maria Heck several years ago. Maria expects to resume her original content submissions in coming weeks.

I’ve finally cracked the code to the mystery of historic misconceptions about motherhood. The whole mess began with that witch, Mother Goose, who’s been spewing unbecoming images of mothers since 1916! Even the illustrations make all the women look like Jackie Gleason in a bonnet!

But the nursery rhymes themselves portray mothers (and females in general) as consistently ugly and mindless.

For example, take Miss Muffet – she’s such a scaredy cat. A little spider prompted her to run for the hills? Please. Way to portray the female character as strong and fearless. Miss Muffet would never make it through the first round of “Naked and Afraid,” I guarantee.

And the Mother of all Goose tales: Mother Hubbard. This poor sap was obviously senile and her dog wasn’t far behind. In the end, I surmised, Old Mother Hubbard is on some psychoactive medication and her dog isn’t really a canine at all, but her husband. I know this because throughout the rhyme she is waiting on him, paw and tail trying to please him with everything from beer to tripe! The last line intimates that she is indeed, his servant and his response for all she’s done for him is a paltry “bow wow”, which I take to mean “make me a steak and iron my shirts.”

The point is – if Old Mother Hubbard is a servant to her dog/husband…how far is Mary Mary Quite Contrary going in life?

Jack Sprat and His Wife? Just bizarre all the way around. Licking plates and all that strangeness…. they both need counseling. Why isn’t a male Mother Goose character ever contrary, or fat or dense or weak or ugly in these rhymes? Except for Jack Be Nimble. Something disturbing about a man jumping continuously to and fro over a candlestick. And - is this the same Jack who led poor Jill up that damn hill? In the usual Mother Goose mold, she was following blindly behind the male and tumbled down!

The men in nursery rhymes are idiotic…but the women are just inept.

These rhymes and fairy tales are the nail in the proverbial coffin for setting-up our daughters and sons to view females as dimwits. I realize it’s fantasy. But I’d like a nursery rhyme to just once portray a mother who is interesting and intellectual and doesn’t require a flipping kiss from a handsome prince before she’s able to make coffee in the morning and lick an envelope. The one who would lead Jack up the hill, make him get the stupid water, bring it back down, boil it and make chicken soup while she gets a pedicure.

So, while little Jack Horner sits in his corner, I can only assume his mother is elsewhere, trying to figure out a way to release her friend, Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s wife, from the pumpkin shell, where she sits in punishment for reasons probably stemming from undercooked pickled peppers obtained from Peter Piper.

And, I just hope that old woman in the shoe figures out that she’s eligible for low income housing. Where’s the father anyway? Don’t tell me – singing a song of sixpence in some bar? Apparently, he’s not sending any money home to the wife and kids…they live in a loafer for God’s sake!

How functional. Maybe this is real life after all.

Maria Jiunta Heck

Life Deconstructed

Maria Jiunta Heck, of West Pittston, is a mother of three and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life. Send Maria an email at