What Is Mother Goose?

mother-goose Credit: Blanche Fisher Wright/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-3.0

Mother Goose is a collection of children's rhymes and stories that were passed down orally before being published and printed as a collection. Today, Mother Goose is famous for what are now considered nursery rhymes. Some of the most famous Mother Goose nursery rhymes include "To Market," "Miss Muffet," "Jack and Jill" and "Humpty Dumpty."

According to the Poetry Foundation, the identity of Mother Goose is unknown; however, there are two different theories about her identity. The first is that she was a real woman who lived in Boston during the 17th century. When she was widowed by her husband Isaac Goose, she moved in with her daughter and entertained her grandchildren and other neighborhood children with her rhymes and stories. Her son-in-law was a publisher, and when he saw how popular her stories were, he published them. Many dismiss this theory because the name "Mother Goose" and her rhymes date back even earlier in France, with some traces going as far back as the 10th century. The French have one legend, which is that she was the wife of King Robert II and entertained children with her stories.

The first person to publish a Mother Goose collection was Charles Perrault of France in 1697. This collection was later republished and brought to the United States in 1786.