Jackie “Moms” Mabley was from Brevard, North Carolina. She rose to national recognition as a standup comedian in the early 1960s. A pioneer of social satire, she has strongly influenced such contemporary Black comedians as Richard Pryor and Whoopi Goldberg. Mabley was also known for her compassion and kindness; these qualities earned her the endearing sobriquet “Moms”. Born Loretta Mary Aiken, Mabley grew up in a large family in the south. Her father ran several businesses while her mother presided over a large household that included boarders.
In her comedy routines, Mabley adopted a stage persona based loosely on her own grandmother but with a distinctly cantankerous and sassy edge. She was known for her folksy humor and ribald jokes and affectionately referred to her audience as her “children.” Onstage Mabley became famous for her gaudy housedresses, floppy hats, and oversized clodhoppers. During the 1960s, she recorded more than 20 albums of her comedy routines and appeared on television shows hosted by Harry Belafonte, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Bill Cosby.
A year after starring in the feature film Amazing Grace (1974), Mabley died of natural causes at the age of 78.