Blog July 13, 2023

These Boots are Made for Walking: Mother Goose

These Boots are Made for Walking:  Mother Goose


If you’ve ever visited the Old Granary Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts, you may have stumbled upon the tombstone of Mary Goose, a woman believed by some to be the infamous author of countless cherished nursery rhymes: Mother Goose. Visitors toss coins at her tombstone, presumably to garner a bit of good luck, but the woman who was buried there in 1690 is undoubtedly not the original Mother Goose. According to local legend, it was the widowed Isaac Goose’s second wife, Elizabeth Foster Goose, who entertained her numerous grandchildren and other youngsters with songs and rhymes that were purportedly published by her son-in-law in 1719. Yet despite repeated searches for a copy of this collection, no evidence of its existence has ever been uncovered. Regardless, most historians agree that neither Mary nor Elizabeth created the stories that have passed on from generation to generation.

In fact, the etymology of the moniker “Mother Goose” may have evolved over centuries, originating as early as the 8th century with Bertrada II of Laon (mother of Charlemagne, the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) who was a patroness of children known as “Goose-foot Bertha” or “Queen Goosefoot” due to a malformation of her foot.

By the mid-17th century, “mere l’oye” or “mere oye” (Mother Goose) was a phrase commonly used in France to describe a woman who captivated children with delightful tales. In 1697, Charles Perrault published a collection of folktales with the subtitle “Contes de ma mère l’oye” (Tales from my Mother Goose), which became beloved throughout France and was translated into English in 1729. And in England, circa 1765, John Newbery published the wildly popular “Mother Goose’s Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle,” which indelibly shifted the association of Mother Goose from folktales to nursery rhymes and children’s poetry, and which influenced nearly every subsequent Mother Goose publication.

Mother Goose is often cited as the author of hundreds of children’s stories that have been passed down through oral tradition and published over centuries. Various chants, songs, and even games have been attributed to her, but she is most recognized for her nursery rhymes, which have been familiar with readers of all generations. Her work is often published as Mother Goose Rhymes.

Despite her celebrated place in children’s literature, the exact identity and origin of Mother Goose herself is still unknown. Some believe that the original Mother Goose was a real woman who lived in Boston during the later half of the 17th century. After being widowed by Isaac Goose, a woman named either Elizabeth Foster Goose or Mary Goose (depending on sources) moved in with her eldest daughter, entertaining her grandchildren with amusing jingles which quickly gained popularity with the neighborhood children. According to the legend, her son-in-law, a publisher, printed her rhymes, and thus the reputation of Mother Goose was born.

However, literary historians often dismiss the possibility of a Bostonian Mother Goose, as the existence of various French texts that refer to Mother Goose at a much earlier date make the American legend improbable.  These texts, dating as early as 1626, even show that the French terms “mère l’oye” or “mère oye” (Mother Goose) were already familiar to readers and could be referenced. The figure of Mother Goose may even date back as the 10th century, according to other sources.  In an ancient French legend, King Robert II had a wife who often told incredible tales that fascinated children.

Regardless of Mother Goose’s origins, Charles Perrault was the first to actually publish a Mother Goose collection of rhymes and other folk tales in 1697, essentially initiating the fairy tale genre. With the subtitle Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oie (Tales of my Mother Goose), the collection quickly gained popularity all over France. By 1729, Perrault’s collection had been translated into English, in the form of Robert Samber’s Histories or Tales of Past Times, Told by Mother Goose.  Samber’s volume was eventually republished in 1786 and brought to the U.S.

English publisher of children’s literature John Newbery later focused on the nursery rhymes, publishing Mother Goose’s

Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle, which helped Mother Goose become further associated with children’s poetry.

Do you have any favorite nursery rhymes? We do! We love “Hey Diddle Diddle” and “Hot Cross Buns.” Have you ever heard “Humpty Dumpty”? How about “Ring Around the Rosie”?  If so, you probably already know a bit about the Mother Goose!

Lots of kids think Mother Goose is pretty great. And why wouldn’t they? She’s an important part of many popular children’s poems. This leads some people to WONDER—is Mother Goose a fictional character? Or is she based on a real person?

If you ever visit Boston, Massachusetts, you may hear that Mother Goose was indeed a real person. Some believe she lived there in the 1660s. They say she was either named Elizabeth Goose or Mary Goose.

Legend has it that this woman cared for 16 children. She loved to sing songs and create rhyming stories for them. This was certainly a common practice at the time. Many women sang rhyming songs to their children to help them sleep. That’s why they’re called nursery rhymes!

However, there’s no proof that Mother Goose was a real person. Still, many fairy tales and nursery rhymes are credited to her. A few examples are “Jack and Jill,” “Little MissMuffet,” and “Hickory Dickory Dock.” She also appears as the title character in one rhyme:

“Old Mother Goose, When she wanted to wander, Would ride through the air On a very fine gander. Jack’s mother came in, And caught the goose soon, And mounting its back, Flew up to the moon.”

The first printed publication of Mother Goose stories came in 1695. It was a collection of fairy tales by Charles Perrault called Tales of my Mother Goose. The collection included classics such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella.”

Mother Goose was soon closely associated with nursery rhymes. This grew with the publication of John Newberry’s Sonnets for the Cradle around 1765. In 1781, Mother Goose’s Melody was published in England.

Today, Mother Goose even has her own holiday. Since 1987, many schools and libraries have celebrated Mother Goose Day on May 1. It’s a time to remember and enjoy the fairy tales and nursery rhymes of youth. How would you observe Mother Goose Day? Would you dress as your favorite nursery rhyme character? Recite a childhood poem for friends and family members? There are countless ways to celebrate!  This is an interesting fact I just uncovered.


I bet you are very surprised at the long list of just Nursey Rhymes.  How many do you know by heart?  Here we go with your List:



1 for Sorrow

1 Misty Moisty Morning

1 Potato, 2 Potato

1, 2 Buckle My Shoe

10 Little Indians


2 Little Dickie Birds


5 Fat Peas

5 Fingers

5 Little Pigs (This Little Pig)


A Candle

A Cat Came Fiddling

A Was an Apple Pie

A Week of Birthdays

A-Tisket A-Tasket

About the Bush

Are You Sleeping

As I Was Going to St Ives


Baa Baa Black Sheep


Billy, Billy

Birds of a Feather



Chop Chop Choppity Chop


Coffee and Tea



Do Your Ears Hang Low?

Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester



Eeny, Meeny


Fears and Tears

Frere Jacques

Friday Night’s Dream


Georgie Porgie

Go To Bed First

Go to Bed Late

Going on a Bear Hunt

Golden Slumbers

Good Advice

Goosey, Goosey, Gander


Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Hey Diddle Diddle

Hickory Dickory Dock

Higglety Pigglety Pop

Horsey, Horsey

Humpty Dumpty

Hush-a-bye Baby


I Had a Little Hen

I Had a Little Hobby Horse

I Had a Little Puppy

I Hear Thunder

If Wishes Were Horses

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring


Jack and Jill

Jack Be Nimble


Lavender’s Blue

Little Bo-Peep

Little Boy Blue

Little Jack Horner

Little Kitty

Little Miss Muffet

London Bridge Is Falling Down


Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

My Mother Said


Now the Day Is Over


Old King Cole

Old Mother Goose

Old Mother Hubbard

Once I Caught a Fish Alive



Pease Porridge

Peter Piper

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater

Pitter-Patter, Pitter-Pat

Pop Goes the Weasel

Pussy-Cat and Queen


Queen of Hearts


Rain, Rain, Go Away

Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross

Ride Away, Ride Away

Ring Around the Rosy

Robin Redbreast


Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

Round and Round the Garden

Row Your Boat



See-Saw, Margery Daw


Simple Simon

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Star Light Star Bright


Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

The Clock

The Hobby Horse

The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon

The Man in the Moon Looked Down From the Moon

The Man in the Wilderness

The Man in the Wilderness

There Was A Crooked Man

There Was a Little Girl

There Was An Old Woman

Three Blind Mice

To Market, To Market

Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son

Tommy Tittlemouse

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with Actions


Wee Willy Winkie

Where is Thumbkin?

Who Killed Cock Robin?