Follow TV Tropes


Apron Matron

Go To
Tough, old and knows her stuff.
Here was this good, respected widow lady of advancing years, who had guided my infant steps, heard my prayers at night, and read to me from the Billy and Bunny Book, sitting there looking like the matriarch of some soap-opera family of Texas tycoons, and apparently concealing the combined talents of the Scarlet Pimpernel and a Mafia godmother.
McAuslan, "The Gordon Women"
Not all matriarchs are malicious, and not all Mama Bears are young. These grand dames are the grandmothers, aunts, and headmistresses who care for their children, students, or even employees with an iron discipline the army would envy. The Apron Matron has a larger than life, imposing presence and leads with a personality more forceful than a wrecking ball.

If there's combat to be had, she can take on a brigade on her own, even chasing out ninjas armed with naught but a broom. (Sadly, she'll often be captured and bound.)

Expect her to be motherly, caring, strict, and kind. Also, probably "plump" yet strong. If married, she's likely to have a Henpecked Husband, though she's usually widowed or a Maiden Aunt or a mere Old Maid who adopted orphans. And if she's married to The Patriarch, this power couple is definitely a force to be reckoned with in whichever community they may head.

When it comes to how she relates to her kin, she is usually a clan's diplomat (especially if she's a Yakuza leader's consort or The Don's wife) or a Reasonable Authority Figure. While she will encourage her sons to go out and become real men like their father, her daughters will often be held to a very high moral standard when it comes to their virginity and will be thoroughly taught domesticity and keeping the clan's social bonds tight. In other words, trained to become tough mothers just like her.

Can overlap with Mama Bear, and must be written carefully to avoid Flanderization into My Beloved Smother. Her Spear Counterpart (and often her spouse) is The Patriarch. See also Mammy, Almighty Mom and Never Mess with Granny.

If an Apron Matron has enough prestige, she will likely become a Grande Dame.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Martha from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. She's such an overbearing Mama Bear that the two main characters, Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas, are reduced to trouble-making ten-year-olds in her presence. And only she's got the guts to pinch Yusei by the ear.
  • Pokémon: Lenora, the Nacrene City Gym Leader, seems to be borderline this, though she isn't shown to have children (she is in charge of the museum, though). The apron, though, only appears on her in the Japanese verison of the anime and her video game sprite, as the animators feared US viewers would see her as a 'mammy' stereotype since she's dark-skinned.

    Comic Books 
  • Bone: Thorn's grandmother, Gran'ma Ben. Of course, she is a Queen.
  • The Broons: Maw Broon, from the Sunday Post comic strip, is probably the example that every Scot will recognise immediately. She has eight kids and her own published cookbook.
  • Justice Society of America: Abigail "Ma" "the Red Tornado" Hunkel, which back in the 40s was combined with Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: Monstress from the Postboot Legion. She wasn't any older than the others, but she was a lot bigger, and had a motherly attitude towards her teammates, often calling them "dear."
  • Robin (1993): Mrs. McIlvaine is the Drake's strict older housekeeper who bosses both Tim and her employer Jack around if she thinks they're out of line.
  • Spider-Man: In Spider-Man (2016) #2, when the grades of Miles Morales start dropping, his mom called in her own mom (Miles' grandma) to straighten his life with her iron fist.
  • Supergirl: Miss Hart, Midvale Orphanage's headmistress, was a very plump, doting and headstrong middle-aged woman.

     Fan Works 
  • KCS often writes Mrs. Hudson as a redoubtable lady who even somewhat intimidates her lodgers, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
    • Agreement and Disputation: Holmes mentions Mrs. Hudson's formidability on more than one occasion, at one point suggesting she would be able to throw him out on his ear if she chose. Despite his stubbornness and experience with dangerous criminals, even the detective finds her somewhat daunting.
    • Love Covers All Sins concerns the aftermath of The Adventure of the Dying Detective, and Mrs. Hudson puts her foot down when she finds out that Holmes' impending "death" was only acting and self-starvation. She orders Holmes to eat after finding out he's been fasting for three days and scolds the sulking detective, saying that he should apply his powers of deduction to what about his actions so upset the doctor. She shows no remorse for this "impertinence" either.

    Films — Animation 
  • Abuelita Elena, the daughter of the eponymous character in Coco, is the tough matron of the Rivera family, still faithful to their ban on music until her change of heart.
  • In Turning Red, Grandma Wu is like this being the matriarch of the Lee family who is tough but fair to the younger females of her family.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Ma Bell, who is also a Mama Bear. On two occasions she singlehandedly takes on several evil henchmen at once to protect her (grown) son.
  • While a minor character, Gertrude from To Catch a Thief is a very good example. She acts like John's mother, harasses the French police when they come to arrest him under false pretenses so he can get away, helps him when he's on the run, and generally refuses to be intimidated by the murderers, thieves, and criminals targeting John. Summed up in a single line from John:
    John: Gertrude has an exceedingly light touch. She strangled a German general once, without a sound.
  • Doctor at Large has Mrs. Digby, the prudish, constantly sniffing innkeeper of the Judges Arms who doesn't approve of Dr. Sparrow and Nurse McPherson sharing a room.

  • Amelia Peabody Emerson. Her parasol is a weapon feared throughout Egypt (before her husband gave her a sword-cane version), and senior British officials cringe at the thought of her tongue-lashings.
  • Mrs. Brown ("Brownie" to most of the characters) in the Billabong Books by Mary Grant Bruce borders on this. Most of the time, she's just a comforting, motherly type who stays in the kitchen by choice because it's where she's most useful, but when the house catches fire and there is a Bucket Brigade trying to extinguish the fire, Mrs. Brown pumps the manual pump for them until her hands are almost being burned by the metal handle which is being heated by the nearby house fire and refuses to stop because, once again, it's the job she can do best. Other examples of her courage include:
    • Standing up to the petty, mean, lazy, just-been-fired station hand who ended up starting the above fire.
    • Standing up to a bullying character who thought he could order her around just because there were (he thought) no men around.
  • Razo and Rin's mother in Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern series, the matriarch of a large and unruly family. Five of her seven children are bigger than she is, but guess who's unquestionably in charge?
  • The Bridge Kingdom Archives: Coralyn is the unofficial ruler of the Maridrinian harem and all the other wives defer to her. She is also shrewd, tough, and would do anything to protect the harem's children. Silas, who is her husband in name only, since he "inherited" her from his father, dislikes her immensely but also respects her.
  • In A Brother's Price, the first daughter to be born to a group of sisters is given the title/name Eldest. When she and her sisters marry and have daughters of their own, she becomes known as Mother Eldest, and she's the head of the family. The family's husband, if they're lucky enough to have one, takes on the softer and more nurturing aspects of childrearing, helped somewhat by Eldest's younger siblings. Eldest's role is more disciplinary, but in the case of the Whistlers at least, not without affection.
  • Mother Superior Mary Francis in James Byron Huggins' novel Cain. Frail, aged nun vs. demon-possessed assassin/cyborg/vampire?
    Cain: Holy water, Mother?
    MSMF: No. Gasoline.
    • Somewhat later, she goes out with a literal bang, taking out an army of minions with a bandolier of grenades. (No, she's not the protagonist.)
  • Honoria Cornelius from The Cornelius Chronicles, who can fend for herself much better than her adult super-spy son.
    Jerry Cornelius: Oh no, Mum! I'd rather phase-out altogether.
  • Dark Shores: Lady Calorian. As a widowed wife of the previous High Lord Calorian, she should not even enter the council chamber and yet she walks in, shoos her eldest son (the current High Lord) from his chair, and then calmly proceeds to order all gathered aristocrats (including the Princess) around. When her youngest son Killian dares to suggest she should evacuate, she just arches her eyebrows. She is also probably the only Reasonable Authority Figure around.
  • The Grapes of Wrath: Ma Joad. Even the characters acknowledge she's the one that holds the "fambly" together.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Molly Weasley: stern, happy homemaker or ass-kicking witch? How about both?
    • Augusta Longbottom also qualifies, although she's less kindly and there's no way anyone could capture her.
    • Minerva McGonagall. Yes, she's strict. Yes, she cares for the kids under her care. And yes... she will curse the living daylights out of you if you hurt her students.
    • The school matron, Madam Pomfrey.
  • "The Gordon Women", in the McAuslan short story collection by George MacDonald Fraser, is dedicated to this trope (along with a mixture of the Proper Lady and Iron Lady tropes). The star of the show is his Aunt Alison, who manages to defuse a potential crisis through acting and sheer steel nerves, much to her nephew's amazement.
  • Rachel of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Her strictness earns her the nickname "the Dragon".
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude: Úrsula is a strong-willed matriarch who keeps the house in order and is capable of standing up to even the most willful of her family.
  • The Badger Mothers in Redwall generally fit this, with Bella of Brockhall probably the most so.
  • Mama Thames in Rivers of London, do not get on her bad side.
  • Lerna in Rogue Sorcerer proves herself to be a defender of young women when she bullies Aiden out of bed and berates him in the mistaken assumption that he and Claron are lovers and that she refused to sleep with him because he had offended her in some way. She's plenty tough as well, not even flinching when she hears that one of her patrons has recently killed someone.
  • Septimus Heap: Sarah Heap becomes this in Darke, keeping the peace between Septimus and Simon in the Heap home and keeping the place in order.
  • In Suite Française, Charlotte Péricand. She runs her household with great efficiency, and when fleeing from enemy bombing she acts to save her children with ruthless decisiveness (as long as the family's alive, nothing else matters). However, she usually fails to match the "caring" and "kind" part of the trope description by her lack of real empathy, even though she conscientiously tries to carry out the duty of being good-hearted and generous.
  • Tortall Universe: Chenaol of the Trickster's Duet rules her kitchen with a firm hand. She is also the armsmistress for the raka rebellion because a chef has many legitimate reasons to be handling lots of sharp metal objects.
  • Abound in the Village Tales series, at all levels. The Duke of Taunton's sister-in-law Lady Crispin is on the Proper Lady / Iron Lady / Grande Dame side of this; as of The Day Thou Gavest, retired, working-class footballer Edmond's tough, Yorkshire mum, due to remove to the Woolfonts as the new Health Visitor and midwife, is arriving to bring a touch of no-nonsense to the District. And the working-class Rector's mum and formidable, house-proud gran (and for that matter his late wife's mum) are avatars of the trope. Do Not Mess With Them.
  • The ideal Barrayaran woman in the Vorkosigan Saga was this. Cordelia played along but did not necessarily just Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Marya Akhrosimova in War and Peace. She's the sort who speaks her mind, and to hell with aristocratic pleasantries.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jeeves and Wooster: Bertie Wooster's Aunt Dahlia is an upper-crust version of this, probably a Grande Dame from the point of view of her family. His Aunt Agatha, on the other hand, is more of an Evil Matriarch.
  • Last of the Summer Wine is just crawling with 'em, although Nora Batty (as seen in the page image above) is probably the chief harridan among them. Many of them had a Henpecked Husband earlier in the series but are by now widowed.
    • Glenda was introduced as a contrast. A mid-30s newlywed with different attitudes. After more than twenty years in the show, she was clearly being assimilated by the others.
  • On No Reservations, they are a frequent and reliable source of a good meal in Bourdain's travels.
  • Michael Westen's mother in Burn Notice. Even Michael is slightly afraid of her.
  • Once Upon a Time: Red's grandmother. Raised her granddaughter, is implied to be a Parental Substitute for Snow White, has elements of Type IV Good Is Not Nice, used to be a werewolf, and can and will kick your ass.
  • Merlin has Recurring Character Audrey, the head cook of Camelot who isn't beyond physical violence if someone steals from her kitchen.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Olenna Tyrell who is a liberal matriarch in contrast to conservative patriarch Tywin Lannister.
    • Catelyn Stark is not one visually, but she's defined by her role in her family.
  • Peggy Olson's staunch Irish Catholic mother Katherine on Mad Men. Katherine tends to be very tough on her youngest daughter, who had a baby out of wedlock, and has plenty of Catholic guilt to share.
    • Henry Francis's mother Pauline is an older, WASP-y, and upper-class version of this trope. She does care about her family but is very intimidating.
  • Mrs Patmore in Downton Abbey is a very literal example, as she is almost always wearing an apron. Anna even refers to Mrs Patmore once as 'the generalissimo' of Downton.
  • The Barrier: Rosa, the head of household staff in the wealthy home for which a couple of the protagonists work, is stern towards her underlings, but also as caring as she can manage to be without risking her job and stern in part because too much slacking off is grounds for getting fired. She's also shown to be a motherly figure to her employers' children and warms up to the young daughter of two of her underlings as soon as she sees that she's been properly brought up.

  • In "My Mother Is from Morocco", an Israeli song celebrating traditional Jewish-Moroccan folk traditions, the speaker is a young girl praising her mother who comes off as this: after every family meal she arranges, the family members come to kiss her hand in turn, and everyone turns to her for a folk remedy for whatever ailment they havenote . The song ends with the girl saying she knows she’ll be just like her mother when she has a family of her own.

    Mythology and Religion 

    Video Games 

  • Despite having appeared in a grand total of three strips, Fanon has ascribed these traits to Doris in Misfile. She's also something of a Memetic Bad Ass too.
  • Sophie Rosen from Bad For Sleep is shown to be an extremely caring mom who tries her best to fulfill her daughters' goals.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life