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Marian Robinson: Michelle Obama’s Trailblazing Mother

The Untold Story of Michelle Obama's Mother: Age, Birthplace, Career, Siblings, Children, and Current Pursuits
by Robyn Kerkhof | Sep 11 2023
Credits: Getty Images

When discussing influential figures in U.S. history, Michelle Obama is a name that inevitably comes into the picture. However, behind every powerful woman is a strong and inspiring influence.

In Michelle Obama’s case, the impact of her mother, Marian Robinson, is undeniable. This article highlights details about Michelle Obama’s mother, providing information about her life, her job, her age, and place of birth, along with various other related questions.

Meet Marian Shields: Michelle Obama’s Hardworking Mom

Marian Shields (86 years old) was born in 1937 in Chicago and was the fourth child from a family of seven – five girls and then two boys. Her parents, Purnell Nathaniel Shields, a house painter and carpenter, and Rebecca Jumper, a licensed practical nurse, both had multi-racial ancestry.

Shields’ maternal great-grandfather, Dolphus T. Shields, was a direct descendant of slaves. He moved from Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama, establishing a carpentry and tool sharpening business. His descendants, including Shields, would eventually relocate to Chicago during the Great Migration.

How Marian Shields Raised A Family In Chicago

On October 27, 1960, Shields wed Fraser Robinson III in Chicago. They brought two children into the world, Craig Malcolm and Michelle LaVaughn, named after Robinson’s mother. Shields held a secretarial position in various institutions, including Spiegel mail-order retailer, the University of Chicago, and a bank.

In the late 1960s, she resided in a brick bungalow’s second-floor apartment, rented from her Aunt Robbie in South Side, Chicago. This is where Shields raised her children until she moved to the White House with the Obamas.

Her daughter, Michelle Obama, detailed her mother’s attachment to her home in Chicago, and her dedication to her children in her book, Becoming. Shields resumed her career as an executive assistant at a bank when Michelle entered high school. Tragically, her husband Fraser passed away on March 6, 1991. 

Michelle characterized her mother as direct, truthful, and unwaveringly supportive. As a child, Shields enriched Michelle’s education by taking her to the library before entering school and guided her reading and writing lessons.

She advocated for independence, encouraging her kids to resolve their own issues, but was discerning enough to intercede when necessary. Case in point, she championed for Michelle when she was given subpar learning opportunities in the second grade.

Shields fostered open communication with her children, always available for practical advice. She welcomed Michelle’s friends into their home and allowed her daughter to make significant choices autonomously.

Marian Robinson Becomes A Part of The First Family

Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson, was a stay-at-home mom. Her father, Fraser C. Robinson III, worked at the city’s water purification plant.

Unfortunately, her father passed away in March 1991, and she has always carried his memory with her. During this time, her friend Suzanne Alele also passed away from cancer, causing her to reflect on her impact on society.

These losses served as a turning point in her life. Michelle met Barack Obama at their law firm, where they were among the few African Americans. She was assigned to mentor him, and they initially bonded over a business lunch and a community organization meeting.

Before meeting Obama, Michelle had planned to focus solely on her career. Their first date was to see Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing,” and they soon realized they were opposites who were attracted to each other. 

They married in October 1992 and later went through in vitro fertilization to have their two daughters. The Obama family resided in Chicago’s South Side, where Barack taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Despite his political career, they decided to remain in Chicago for the well-being of their daughters.

As Michelle and Barack Obama embarked on his 2008 presidential campaign, Robinson offered her support by taking care of their daughters, Malia and Sasha. During Barack’s term as president, Marian Robinson resided in the White House with the First Family.

Marian Robinson’s time as part of the first family in the White House was marked by grace, poise, and a genuine commitment to family values. Serving as the mother to Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017, Marian Robinson provided a stabilizing presence in the midst of the whirlwind of political life. 

Craig Robinson: Michelle Obama’s Athlete Brother

Born on January 17, 1964, Michelle Obama, (59 years old), best known as the former first lady of the United States, shares her childhood with her brother, Craig Malcolm Robinson. They were raised in the South Shore community in Chicago, where they developed a tight-knit relationship as they navigated through the complexities of life and defeated obstacles together.

Craig Robinson, born on April 21, 1962, is Michelle’s elder brother, who carved out a distinctive career path in the realm of basketball. He had demonstrated an affinity and interest in basketball from a young age, a passion that eventually led him to monumental success and recognition. 

Robinson attended Princeton University, where he established a reputation as a star player with his enviable skills and strategy. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in Sociology. His exceptional abilities and talent helped him ensure a place in the basketball field, not as a mainstream player, but as a coach who molded players into achieving their best potential.

Craig Robinson has a noteworthy career as he accepted the responsibilities of being the head men’s basketball coach at renowned universities, including Brown University and Oregon State University. At Brown University, he served as head coach from 2006 to 2008. At Oregon State University, Robinson held the position from 2008 to 2014. His coaching strategies and leadership boosted the teams’ performance and placed them on the map.

Proud Grandmother: Marian Robinson’s Two Granddaughters 

When Michelle and Barack Obama assumed the presidency on January 20, 2009, their daughters, Malia and Sasha, were just 10 and 7 years respectively, turning into the youngest residents of the White House since the Kennedy family. Both of them gracefully navigated the often harrowing path of growing up in the public eye. 

Malia Obama, the elder of the two, was born on the 4th of July, an Independence Day baby, which marks her very entrance into the world as an emblem of her father’s patriotic spirit. Her name reputedly means “Queen” in Swahili, befitting her poised and dignified demeanor. 

Throughout the eight years of her father’s presidency, Malia demonstrated maturity that extended beyond her tender ages. She attended the esteemed Sidwell Friends School in Washington D.C during her time in the White House, and following her father’s final term, she took a gap year before enrolling at Harvard University in 2017, a testament to her intellect and commitment to academics.

Sasha Obama, whose real name is Natasha Marian Obama – shares her father’s charismatic charm and her mother’s vivacious spirit. Born on June 10th, 2001, Sasha was just a school-age child when she moved into the White House. Despite her youth, she adapted to the limelight with an admirable blend of grace and regularity.

Sasha was only in the second grade when her family moved to the White House, making her the youngest presidential child to enter the White House since John F. Kennedy Jr. Sasha, like her sister, also attended the Sidwell Friends School, where she participated in various sports activities, displaying her all-roundedness.

Michelle Obama’s Life After The White House

After leaving the White House, Michelle Obama turned to writing, and her highly anticipated memoir “Becoming” was published in November 2018. The memoir walks the readers through her extraordinary journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House.

Beyond this, she also actively engages with several non-profit initiatives and global adolescent girls’ education campaigns, continuing her work to achieve a positive impact. Here are three examples of nonprofits she works for:

1. Let Girls Learn: Michelle Obama strongly advocates for girls’ education worldwide. She co-launched the Let Girls Learn initiative in 2015, along with then-President Barack Obama, to provide education opportunities for adolescent girls who face various challenges in pursuing an education. Through Let Girls Learn, she aims to break down the barriers that keep girls out of school and empower them to reach their full potential.

2. Girls Opportunity Alliance: In 2018, Michelle Obama launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance, a global initiative to support grassroots organizations that empower adolescent girls through education. This initiative seeks to mobilize resources, raise awareness, and connect individuals and organizations to support initiatives that provide quality education to girls, helping them thrive and succeed.

3. Reach Higher: As part of her ongoing commitment to education, Michelle Obama founded Reach Higher in 2014. Reach Higher aims to inspire young people in the United States to pursue higher education, whether attending a professional training program, community college, or a four-year college or university. The initiative provides resources, support, and encouragement to students, helping them navigate the complex college application and enrollment process and achieve their educational goals.

Marian Robinson played a crucial role in shaping Michelle’s values and instilling in her a sense of service and community. As a stay-at-home mom, Marian was a strong influence on Michelle’s upbringing and the values she holds dear.

Marian’s dedication as a mother and her commitment to family and community likely influenced Michelle’s own beliefs and desire to make a positive impact through her non-profit work. Through her work with these non-profit initiatives, she continues to make a meaningful impact on the lives of countless individuals, fostering positive change and opportunities for a better future.

Marian Robinson’s contribution to Michelle Obama’s success is immense. If you wish to learn more about Michelle Obama’s life experiences and her profound journey, you can delve into her memoir “Becoming” available on the Blinkist app.

Blinkist is a unique application designed to deliver insightful summaries of best-selling non-fiction books. Why not take up a free 7-day trial and immerse yourself in the powerful narrative of Michelle’s becoming? Don’t miss the opportunity to enrich your knowledge while enjoying a huge selection of non-fiction titles.

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