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10 Nannies Who Helped Shape History

October 14, 2011

To make a difference in the life of a young person is as much a gift as it is a vocation. Nannies make that difference everyday in someone’s life. Sometimes the difference a nanny makes is even farther-reaching than she – or we – may have guessed. Here are ten nannies who helped shape history:

  1. Tiggy Legge-Bourke – Nanny to Prince William of Wales and brother Prince Harry. Tiggy provided a strong, stabilizing influence in the young royals’ lives after the tragic death of their mother, Princess Diana.
  2. Ann Pack – A Quaker woman who was hired as a wet nurse for young William, Duke of Gloucester. Her care of the boy was regarded as being instrumental in maintaining William’s health and is today regarded as a forerunner of today’s British Nanny.
  3. Baroness Maria von Trapp – School teacher, singer, stepmother, and ultimately the inspiration for the musical The Sound of Music. Her life story, and that of the von Trapp family as told through her books and in film, have inspired millions, and no doubt more than a few future nannies.
  4. Queen Nanny of the Maroons – Widely regarded as the mother of Jamaica, her influence, leadership and nurturing nature made her nanny to an island nation by service as well as in name. One of seven national heroes, depicted on the Jamaican 500 bill, or Nanny Note; legend of song, poetry and folklore.
  5. Alison Cunningham – Nanny to Robert Louis Stevenson. Cunningham played a large role in raising Stevenson and had a lasting influence on his religious views and experience. His book, A Child’s Garden of Verses is dedicated to Alison.
  6. Marie Curie – Renowned Polish-French scientist whose pioneering work in radioactivity earned her Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry. Early in Madame Curie’s career she worked as … a governess.
  7. Arina Rodionovna – Nanny to 19th Century Russian author Alexander Pushkin. Her influence on his life is credited for having inspired some of Pushkin’s greatest works.
  8. John Bowlby – British psychoanalyst, regarded as the father of the attachment theory. His attachment to, and affection for, his nanny during his youth greatly affected his views on relationships, which would help form the foundation for his later psychological work in the field of child development.
  9. Anna Leonowens – Teacher, writer, social activist. Governess to the family of Mongkut, King of Siam, which is the basis for the movie The King and I as well as the 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam. Co-founded the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; her experience as governess in Siam prompted her advocacy of women’s rights via lectures, books and education.
  10. Elizabeth Anne Everest – Hired by Lord and Lady Randolph to  nanny one Winston Churchill. So great was Mrs. Everest’s personal and spiritual influence on Churchill’s young life that author Stephen Mansfield wrote of them in Hidden Calling:

“So it was that when the man some called the ‘Greatest Man of the Age,’ lay dying in 1965 at the age of ninety, there was but one picture that stood at his bedside. It was the picture of his beloved nanny, gone to be with her Lord some seventy years before. She had understood him, she had prayed him to his best, and she had fueled the faith that fed the destiny of nations … in the hiddenness of her calling. ”


4 Responses to 10 Nannies Who Helped Shape History

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Liza says:

What a fun article! I didn’t realize so many famous people had such influential nannies in their lives!

kiley - nanny to sean and david says:

while it’s probably safe to say that most of us won’t ever reach international acclaim, it is always nice to see people in the profession receive credit where it’s due! :)

Joyce E. says:

Love that sentiment at the end about Winston Churchill having a picture of his nanny by his deathbed. What a wonderful impact she must have had on him!

patty says:

:) thanks for sharing, always nice to read a light-hearted, positive post like this!