Mother of Mothers—A Tribute to Mother Mary Ann Angell, by Allison Ray Benavides, LCSW


“Mother of mothers! Queen of queens

For such thou truly art —

pray the Lord to strengthen thee

And to console thy heart…”

—A poem written in 1847 for Mary Ann Angell by her friend Eliza R. Snow

Art by Jackie Dunn Smith

“And above the fireplace here is a portrait of Brigham Young with his second wife, Mary Ann Angell and their children,” shared the sister missionary guiding our tour of The Beehive House, the Young residence in Salt Lake City.

“Look kids! Your great, great, great, great, great grandparents!” My two boys couldn’t have cared less and ran ahead into the next room. I paused to stare at my grandmother’s image. 

A lot of people are related to Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He had 56 wives and 57 children after all. But growing up Mormon I’d always taken great pride in the fact that my family descended from “Mother Young”. She was married to widower Brigham eight years before his first polygamous marriage. A courageous and faithful pioneer, she braved unrelenting persecution until following him west to Utah. There she kept her own home, her own family, her own life.

I’ve been calling my son “Angel” since I became pregnant, not aware that it was a family name, that it was her name. I’ve also been following the Wise Woman Tradition of herbalism for twenty years, not aware that she was a famed herbalist and Healer. 

“Notice the twins behind the piano,” our tour guide continued. “Their son hands a white rose to their daughter. She passed away two weeks before this was painted.” 

I was also not aware that like myself, she too had a child with a life-threatening condition. Except her daughter didn’t survive, and my son has.


In early 2013 while nursing my infant late one night, I came across a newspaper article that I read through tears. A desperate father in Modesto stopped his son’s traumatizing, daily seizures with a specific kind of Cannabis that didn’t get you high. The whole story blew my mind. Who had ever heard of such things? Seizures that don’t stop? Cannabis without a psychoactive effect? Cannabis for kids?

Flooded with chills, I knew at that moment the world was about to change forever. What I didn’t know was that mine was too. Just weeks later my toddler would have his first of thousands of seizures.

Months later, we learned that his unrelenting daily seizures are “intractable"—which means he is medication resistant, which translates to “we can’t help you.” The best part about a diagnosis like this is that while your doctor admittedly can’t help, they simultaneously discourage you from going anywhere else. “There just isn’t the research to support . . .” 

As if research is what Mothers need to be Healers. 

Research is good at relaying what works for a majority. It is abysmal at knowing what works for the thousands of disabled children suffering in the margins. However, as luck would have it, cannabis happens to have been banished there as well. In an epic turn of taboos, they met and joined forces. The pure collaboration between our kids and cannabis was rumored to be so miraculous that I hopefully tagged along with other pioneers, following them all into the periphery. Within two months of adding a high CBD oil to my son’s treatment plan, he became seizure-free and still is four years later.


In 2018 our story is far from unique or unheard of. In less than five years, access to cannabis has exploded and thousands of children across the world are enjoying similar success—without doctors, without research, without legal protection. While these supports make common sense and are ideal, us modern-day pioneers at the forefront of pediatric cannabis have demonstrated they are not necessary for success. In fact, we have found ourselves to be more empowered in their absence. 

What a mother needs to be a Healer in her own home is beyond science and politics. Our needs reach back, deep into a long ancestral history, where plants are medicine and healing is sacred. Where Wise Women like my grandmother, Mary Ann Angell, were empowered to take matters into their own hands and were respected because of it. I have no doubt that her expert ability to nurture her own daughter kept her alive another five years after the wagon accident that caused the injuries she eventually succumbed to. If there is ever a time in a Mother’s life when she needs to feel empowered, it is when her child is gravely ill. 

In service to this end, cannabis has quickly become the totem plant of motherhood. Her various strengths are unparalleled by most other treatment options. Unlike pharmaceuticals, cannabis has a vital life force and energy all her own. Her healing reaches out and in, backward and forwards, across all spectrums of a woman’s life. She connects us to the wisdom of our cultural history, our ancestors, our earth. Her Spirit brings us closer to ourselves, our children and each other. Importantly, through these networks of healing connections, cannabis, and our kids have moved each other out of the margins and closer to the center where wholeness and healing are always found. 

Meanwhile, cannabis and mothers have moved healing out of doctors offices and back into our homes. She reminds us that we don’t have to be limited by what this or that research does or doesn’t say. We don’t need to hold back and are more effective when we bring our whole selves to the examining table. She calls on us to be Wise Women, empowers us to be Healers. In return, she promises to meet you bedside. As your inspiration and guide, cannabis is here to remind you: “Yes mama, YOU can heal your child. You are not alone, I’m here to help.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Allison Ray Benavides, LCSW

Allison is a medical social worker living in San Diego and working in the field of death and dying. She has a deep respect and gratitude for all wisdom traditions and is most inspired by her work when women, nature, Spirit and healing come together. When her three-year-old son was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy in 2013, he was lucky to find seizure freedom with high CBD. She is the cofounder of a support group for San Diego families navigating the uncharted territory of pediatric cannabis together.

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