Donald's mother was created by Carl Barks, who first mentioned her in his 1950s Duck Family Tree. On this tree, she was shown to be Scrooge's sister and Grandma Duck's daughter-in-law. Barks gave Donald's mother the name Hortense McDuck, and also mentioned her husband, Donald's father, whom he named Quackmore Duck.
Donald's parents first appeared in the 1977 comic Paperino e il concorso letterario. During Donald's flashback, they could be seen dancing to the music of a gramophone in one panel. Donald's mother was given a typical 'années folles' (1920s) haircut. Donald tells that his parents were not rich, but nonetheless fun-loving persons.
In Mark Worden's illustrated version of Barks' 1950s Duck family tree, Hortense and Quackmore were also given a portrait. The two characters reappeared on Don Rosa's 1990s Duck family tree.
Donald briefly mentioned his mother in an unnamed 1983 newspaper comic strip.
In the comic book series The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Hortense became a prominent character. According to this series, she is the youngest of Scrooge's sisters. She's a toddler when her eldest brother Scrooge leaves Scotland for America. In the series' 10th chapter The Invader of Fort Duckburg, she leaves Scotland for Duckburg, U.S.A, where she meets Quackmore, Grandma Duck's son, who has a temper very similar to her own. In the beginning of The Empire-Builder from Calisota, Hortense and Quackmore are engaged. This story also shows that she, together with her sister Matilda, hired Emily Quackfaster, Scrooge's secretary. Near the end of the story, she leaves Duckburg with her sister, her husband and their children, Donald and Della.
In the 1995 comic Of Ducks, Dimes and Destines, Donald's mother can be seen on a picture in Donald's house while the family is having dinner. Donald also mentions his mother in The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut (2001).
Donald's mother was possibly mentioned in the Quack Pack episode "Can't Take a Yolk". When the nephews discover that the formula will keep their uncle getting younger until he hatches back into the egg, Huey says: "Better call Grandma. She's in for a big surprise..." Since their great-grandmother Grandma Duck didn't appear in the series, it's possible that Huey was actually referring to their own grandmother, Donald's mother.
- Hortense is also the name of the ostrich in Donald's Ostrich.
- Scrooge named his horse after his sister, because they have similar tempers.
- In two comic stories, Donald himself unwittingly references his mother's baby speech:
- In Of Ducks, Dimes and Destinies by Don Rosa, Donald is shown sleeping and makes the sound "glxblt" when he snores.
- In The Dream of a Lifetime, also by Rosa, Donald (who is inside Scrooge's dreams, trying to stop the Beagle Boys) finds his mother as a baby in Scrooge's dreams about his childhood. When Fergus, seemingly thinking Donald is a kidnapper, strangles him, Donald exclaims "blxglt!?".