The Real Mother Goose

Can the real Mother Goose be traced back to an actual human being? Well, that question is still up for debate.

Below is a timeline tracing Mother Goose back to 1586.

While there is no concrete evidence linking the Madame Goose to a single person, I think Mr. L. Frank Baum says it best when referring to his hunt for the Real Mother Goose:

"While I have taken some pains to record the various claims to the origin of Mother Goose, it does not matter in the least whether she was in reality a myth, or a living Eliza Goose, Martha Gooch or the "Mere Oye" of Perrault. The songs that cluster around her name are what we love, and each individual verse appeals more to the childish mind than does Mother Goose herself."

1586

  • St. Olave’s Church in London, England there is a listing in the burial registrar:"1586 September 14th, Mother Goose"

1650

  • French Critic, Jean Loret makes a written reference to a “Mother Goose Story” (un conte de la Mere Oye), in his monthly periodical La Muze Historique, which suggests that his readers were already familiar with the Mother Goose persona.

  • Rhymes of the Nursery; or Lulla-Byes for Children appeared around this time. Although the name Mother Goose was not mentioned in correlation with this small book, it did contain some of the nursery rhymes we now attribute to the real Mother Goose such as "Little Boy Blue", "Little Jack Horner", "Mistress Mary", "Old King Cole", & "Sing a Song of Sixpence".

1697

  • Charles Perrault published his version of a collection of popular fairytales in Paris, France. Entitled, Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralites: Contes de ma mere l’Oye (Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose), the collection includes stories that in today’s world we no longer associate with Mother Goose. Perrault’s collection included, "Blue Beard", "Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper", "The Fairies", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Little Thumb", "The Master Cat; or, Puss in Boots", "Ricky of the Tuft", & "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood".

1704

  • Some claim that the real Mother Goose was Martha Gooch, a well liked nurse of newborn babies in Sussex, England. At some point during her years of service as a nurse Martha became referred to as Mother Gooch. Eventually, people would begin to nickname her Mother Goose because of the silly rhymes she would sing to the babies. It wasn’t until Martha was nursing a child of Ronald Barclay, that someone became interested in her rhymes. It is said that Barclay wrote down all of her rhymes and had a book printed by John Worthington & Son in London, 1712. The book was called, Ye Melodious Rhymes of Mother Goose. However, there is little evidence that this book ever existed.

1719

  • The following statement was made by John Fleet Eliot, a descendent of Thomas Fleet:

    "At the beginning of the eighteenth century there lived in Boston a lady named Eliza Goose (written also Vergoose and Vertigoose) who belonged to a wealthy family. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth Goose (or Vertigoose), was married by Rev. Cotton Mather in 1715 to an enterprising and industrious printer named Thomas Fleet, and in due time gave birth to a son. Like most mothers-in-law in our day, the importance of Mrs. Goose increased with the appearance of her grandchild, and poor Mr. Fleet, half distracted with her endless nursery ditties, finding all other means fail, tried what ridicule could effect, and actually printed a book under the title "Songs of the Nursery; or, Mother Goose`s Melodies for Children." On the title page was the picture of a goose with a very long neck and a mouth wide open, and below this, "Printed by T. Fleet, at his Printing House in Pudding Lane, 1719. Price, two coppers."

    There is no other evidence that Fleet’s book actually existed or that Mrs. Vergoose was the real Mother Goose.

1760

  • John Newbery, a bookseller of St. Paul’s Churchyard in London, England is perhaps the first to attach the name Mother Goose to the traditional nursery rhymes we know today. Newbery’s book was titled Mother Goose’s Melodies or Sonnets for the Cradle.

1786

  • Isaiah Thomas publishes the first American Edition of Newbery’s Mother Goose’s Melodies.

1806

  • "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is born. Originally a poem by Jane Taylor titled, "The Star," it has become one of the best known rhymes attributed to Mother Goose.

1853

  • The following doesn’t have to do with the identity of the real Mother Goose, it just amused me to see Hawthorne comparing his works to the works attributed to Mother Goose, that I thought I’d share this excerpt from a letter of his with you.On March 16, 1853, Hawthorne writes to Richard Henry Stoddard:

    "I have finished the Tanglewood Tales, and they will make a volume about the size of the Wonder-Book, consisting of six myths—Minotaur, Golden Fleece, Story of Proserpine, etc., etc., etc., done up in excellent style, purified from all immoral stain, recreated good as new, or better—and fully equal, in every way, to ' Mother Goose.' I never did anything so good as those old baby-stories."

1947

  • The First Annual Mother Goose Parade occurred on November 28, 1947 in the City of El Cajon, San Diego County, California.

1987

  • Mother Goose Day, founded by Gloria T. Delamar

Although her rhymes are alive and well, the identity of the real Mother Goose still remains a mystery to date.

I hope you were able to make use of some of the information you found here. If you would like to become informed of new information I pick-up about Mother Goose Stories & other children's books feel free to subscribe to My Newsletter below.

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If you are still in pursuit of origins of the famed Goose, I’ve listed my source references for this page below.

Mother Goose in Prose, by L. Frank Baum
Google Timeline for Mother Goose


Return to Mother Goose from Real Mother Goose