6 Children Who Famously Followed in Their Parents' Footsteps

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt often brought his eldest son, Theodore, Jr., to work with him. Likewise with Jim Henson and his son, Brian. Marie Curie? Not so much. To celebrate "Take Your Child to Work Day," we look at several famous instances of children following the path set forth by their mother or father, and who may or may not have regularly accompanied them to the office, the lab, or the battlefield.

1. VESPASIAN AND TITUS

From humble beginnings, Vespasian rose to the rank of general and eventually Emperor of Rome, a title he held from 69 CE until his death in 79 CE. He had two sons but was particularly close to his eldest, Titus, who served as prefect of the Praetorian Guard under his father. Vespasian involved his son in many of his decisions as emperor, and after he died Titus took the throne, becoming the first son to directly succeed his biological father as Emperor of Rome. Among the numerous pieces of his father’s legacy that Titus cemented was the Colosseum, which Vespasian began constructing in 70 CE and which his son finished the year after his death.

2. MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT AND MARY SHELLEY

Mary Wollstonecraft, circa 1797; Mary Shelley, circa 1830.
Mary Wollstonecraft, circa 1797; Mary Shelley, circa 1830.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Raised by an abusive father, Mary Wollstonecraft took refuge in her work as a writer and translator. She became a renowned feminist, and in 1792 published her most famous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which stirred up considerable controversy for its assertion that women deserved a proper education. In 1797, she gave birth to her second daughter, Mary, and died 11 days later due to complications. Although she never knew her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin—who became Mary Shelley after marrying the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816—inherited her gift for writing, and at age 20, she published Frankenstein.

3. MARIE CURIE AND IRÈNE JOLIOT-CURIE

Irène Joliot-Curie and Marie Curie, circa 1925
Irène Joliot-Curie and Marie Curie, circa 1925.
Wellcome Collection, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

With three Nobel prizes between them, Marie Curie and her daughter Irène were pioneering scientists whose work revolutionized our understanding of radioactivity. Born in Poland, Marie Curie attended the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris and went on to, along with her husband Pierre, discover radium and polonium. The birth of Irène in 1897 didn't slow the husband-wife team down, and in time Marie and Irène would also work closely together. During World War I, mother and daughter operated mobile x-ray units that came to be known as "Petite Curies." Irène's work built upon her parents' research, and in 1935 she and her husband received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for artificially creating a radioactive element. Both women likely died due to prolonged exposure to radiation.

4. THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THEODORE ROOSEVELT JR.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT AND THEODORE ROOSEVELT JR.
Theodore Roosevelt: National Archive, Newsmakers. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.: Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The 26th president and former Rough Rider instilled in his eldest son an appreciation for military history and battlefield heroism. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., or "Ted" as he was commonly known, proved his mettle as a major during World War I, where he fought in several battles and was wounded in France. After the war, he assumed a political career but reentered the military in the lead-up to World War II. Given the rank of Brigadier General, he lobbied his division commander to accompany troops during the D-Day invasion. At age 56, walking with the aid of a cane and carrying a heart condition he hadn't disclosed, Roosevelt Jr. was among the first soldiers to step foot on Utah Beach. Nearly a mile off course, he orchestrated a modified attack from the new position, calmly directing landing units as enemy fire rained down on their position. Roosevelt Jr. survived D-Day, but died of a heart attack weeks later. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, and years later, Theodore Roosevelt would also be awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, making the Roosevelts one of only two father-son pairs of recipients.

5. ZULFIKAR AND BENAZIR BHUTTO

Pakistani President Zulfikar Alî Bhutto, whose daughter Benazir Bhutto is standing next to him, shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1972.
Pakistani President Zulfikar Alî Bhutto, whose daughter Benazir Bhutto is standing next to him, shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in June 1972.
AFP, Getty Images

Zulfikar Bhutto founded the Pakistan People's Party and from 1971 to 1977 served first as the country's president and then as the prime minister. Following a military coup, he was executed in 1979 and his daughter, Benazir, who had just returned home after attending college in the west, was placed under house arrest. Benazir inherited leadership of the PPP and, after years of careful maneuvering, became Pakistan’s prime minister in 1988—the first female prime minister of a majority Muslim nation. Benazir Bhutto served just two years, followed by another stint in the '90s, all the while battling corruption charges brought by her opponents. In 2007, while attempting to mount another comeback, she was killed by a shooter/suicide bomber in Rawalpindi.

6. JIM AND BRIAN HENSON

Jim and Brian Henson
Jim Henson: John Gooch, Keystone/Getty Images. Brian Henson: Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images.

The younger Henson began appearing on television when he was just 6 years old. That's when he appeared in the very first episode of Sesame Street, the iconic show that Jim Henson helped bring to life. At 14, Brian created puppets that his father used on The Muppet Show, and at 16 the elder Henson hired him as a puppeteer on 1981's The Great Muppet Caper. Brian's big break came in 1986 when his father named him one of the "puppeteers" (and voice) for the dwarf Hoggle in Labyrinth. After his father's tragic death in 1990, Brian Henson went on to produce and direct TV shows and films, including A Muppet Christmas Carol and Farscape, and today is chairman of The Jim Henson Company.

This story originally ran in 2017.

Why Are We So Scared of Clowns?

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

With the recent box office-smashing success of Stephen King's It, it’s safe to say that coulrophobia (fear of clowns) isn’t a fringe phenomenon. The colorful circus performers are right up there with vampires and werewolves on the list of iconic horror villains. But unlike other movie monsters, clowns were originally meant to make kids laugh, not hide under their beds in terror. So what is it about clowns that taps into our deepest fears?

According to Yale doctoral candidate Danielle Bainbridge, the unsettling clown stereotype goes back centuries. In the inaugural episode of the PBS digital series Origin of Everything, Bainbridge explained the long history of this pervasive part of our culture.

Before clowns wore floppy shoes and threw pies at each other’s faces, early versions of the performers could be found in royal courts. The court jester wasn’t evil, but he was the only person in the kingdom who could poke fun at the monarch without fear of (literally) losing his head. The fact that fools didn’t fall within the normal social hierarchy may have contributed to the future role clowns would play as untrustworthy outsiders.

From the medieval era, clowns evolved into the harlequins of 16th-century Italian theater. Again, these weren’t bloodthirsty monsters, but they weren’t exactly kid-friendly either. The characters were often mischievous and morally bankrupt, and their strange costumes and masks only added to the creepy vibes they gave off.

Fast-forward to the 19th century, when the white-faced circus clowns we know today started gaining popularity. Unlike the jesters and harlequins that came before them, these clowns performed primarily for children and maintained a wholesome image. But as pop culture in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s showed us, that old perception we had of clowns as nefarious troublemakers never really went away. Steven King’s It, the cult classic Killer Clowns From Outer Space (1988), and that scene from Poltergeist (1982) all combined these original fears with the more modern association of clowns with children. That formula gave us one of the most frightening figures in horror media today.

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The Mongolian Princess Who Challenged Her Suitors to a Wrestling Match—and Always Won

iStock.com / SarahWouters1960
iStock.com / SarahWouters1960

In a lot of fairy tales, a disapproving father or a witch's curse stops the princess from finding Prince Charming. But things were a little different in 13th-century Mongolia. Any single lad, regardless of status or wealth, could marry the khan's daughter, Khutulun. There was just one caveat, which the princess herself decreed—you couldn't take her hand in marriage until you took her down in a wrestling match. If you lost, you had to give her a handful of prize horses.

Sounds easy, right? Nope. After all, this is the great-great-granddaughter of Genghis Khan we're talking about!

Born around 1260, Khutulun was an intimidating presence. According to The Travels of Marco Polo, the princess was "so well-made in all her limbs, and so tall and strongly built, that she might almost be taken for a giantess." She was also the picture of confidence. She had mastered archery and horsemanship in childhood and grew up to become a fearless warrior. Whenever her father, Kaidu—the leader of the Chagatai Khanate—went to battle, he usually turned to Khutulun (and not his 14 sons) for help.

Nothing scared her. Not only did Khutulun ride by her father's side into battle, she'd regularly charge headfirst into enemy lines to make "a dash at the host of the enemy, and seize some man thereout, as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird, and carry him to her father," Marco Polo wrote. The 13th- and 14th-century historian Rashid al-Din was more direct, writing that she "often went on military campaigns, where she performed valiant deeds."

It's no surprise that Khutulun had suitors lining up and down the street asking for her hand in marriage. The princess, however, refused to marry any of them unless they managed to beat her in a wrestling match, stipulating that any loser would have to gift her anywhere between 10 to 100 horses.

Let's just put it this way: Khutulun came home with a lot of prize horses. (Some accounts say 10,000—enough to make even the emperor a little jealous.) As author Hannah Jewell writes in her book She Caused a Riot, "The Mongolian steppes were littered with the debris of shattered male egos."

On one occasion, a particularly confident suitor bet 1000 horses on a match. Khutulun's parents liked the fellow—they were itching to see their daughter get married—so they pulled the princess aside and asked her to throw the match. After carefully listening to her parents' advice, Khutulun entered the ring and, in Polo's words, "threw him right valiantly on the palace pavement." The 1000 horses became hers.

Khutulun would remain undefeated for life. According to legend, she eventually picked a husband on her own terms, settling for a man she never even wrestled. And centuries later, her story inspired François Pétis de La Croi to write the tale of Turandot, which eventually became a famed opera by the composer Giacomo Puccini. (Though the opera fudges the facts: The intrepid princess defeats her suitors with riddles, not powerslams.)

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