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Contest Winners for 2002

10 to 12 Age Category

Eva Saxl: From Tragedy to Triumph

Eva Saxl, a young Jewish woman, was forced to flee her Nazi-occupied homeland of Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1940. Eva and her husband were on the last refugee boat to cross the Suez Canal during World War II. She spent the remainder of the war in a Jewish ghetto in Shanghai, China. At age nineteen, this alone took great courage. However, in war-torn China, this unsung heroine was destined to face an even greater trail. This challenge was to influence the rest of her life, and change the lives of countless others.

Soon after her arrival in China, Eva was diagnosed with type one diabetes, and placed on insulin. Then the Japanese closed all of the pharmacies in Shanghai, and insulin could only be purchased on the black market. This insulin was expensive, in short supply and dangerous. People had died from using the black market insulin.

Ms. Saxl decided that her only chance of survival was to do something extraordinary - maker her own insulin! Although she was a gifted linguist, she was not a scientist. She obtained a copy of Beckman's Internal Medicine, a book describing the methods first used to extract insulin from the pancreases of dogs. A kind Chinese man lent her the use of his small laboratory. Eva knit stockings for money to buy buffalo pancreases, the only kind available.

Next came over a year of hard work. She extracted a brown-colored insulin, and then tested this on rabbits. Finally, this heroine took the courageous step of testing this insulin on herself. Eva Saxl had overcome the odds- her insulin was a success!

Not content to simply save her own life, Eva supplied over four hundred other diabetics in Shanghai with her insulin. This included two boys in diabetic comas, who are still alive today. Eva never charged for her insulin. Instead, she asked the people she helped to make donations to the Chinese man whose laboratory she used.

After the war ended, Eval Saxl went on a mission to help others because of her experience in Shanghai. She emigrated to the United States where she gave free lectures to children and diabetics organizations. She also lectured around the world for the American Diabetes Association.

In 1968, she moved near her brother in Santiago, Chile. Here she continued to give free lectures for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Chile. Eva Saxl, at age eighty-one, continues the daily task of controlling her diabetes, which she has done for sixty years with no health complications.

Eva Saxl has displayed a tremendous amount of courage and generosity throughout her life. She has always given selflessly to benefit others, first as a refugee in China, and then as a worldwide lecturer. My unsung heroine inspires me because, as a diabetic myself, she has shown me through her example that I can accomplish anything I set my heart and mind to.

Samuel Hunt Shipley IV, Age 11
York, PA
Home School

Sarah Johnson, a Hometown Heroine

The Underground Railroad was a passage to freedom for many slaves from the 1780's until the end of slavery in 1865. The penalty for assisting a fleeing slave was a $1,000 fine and imprisonment; all those involved showed great bravery. One of those valorous people was my heroine, Sarah Johnson.

Sarah Johnson herself escaped slavery at a young age. In 1865, when Sarah was about 15, the man who owned the plantation on which she toiled passed away. Because there was a mortgage on the property, everything, including Sarah , was to be sold. The plantation owner's son, who had been a playmate of Sarah's when they were younger, cautioned her about this. She heeded the warning and ran away from the Chesapeake Bay plantation as darkness set in. Sarah followed the Susquehanna Trail north until she reached Southwestern New York. After the long journey the barefoot, fatigued, and famished girl stumbled into the settlement of Olean.

Sarah decided to settle in this town. She became the first African American to live in Olean. She stayed with Dr. Andrew Mead and his family in exchange for keeping house. While she lived there, Sarah also began to study mid-wifery with Dr. Mead.

After marrying, Sarah Johnson and her husband became the first African American landowners in Olean by purchasing a house at 607 Irving Street. They bought not only a house, but the headquarters of the Underground Railroad in Olean as well. Many weary travelers seeking freedom found refuge in the basement of this house. Despite the great fine if caught, Sarah continued to help those in need until the end of slavery.

In addition to her efforts with the Underground Railroad, Sarah Johnson also cared for many of the newborn babies in Olean as a mid-wife. Although she had 10 children of her own, she brought many more into the world through her important job. Sarah continued to mid-wife until her death in 1905. I chose to do my essay on Sarah Johnson as she is a local heroine who made a big difference in my community many years ago. In writing this essay I also learned a great deal about the role Olean played in the Underground Railroad. I admire and respect Sarah for not only settling in Olean but contributing to the community as well. She showed great courage by escaping slavery and helping others to do so.

Kelsie Norek, Age 12
Portville, NY
Home School

Sarah Grimke - An Unsung Heroine

It's the early 1880's. Would you disobey your parents and break the law? Would you risk punishment? Would you bring shame on your family for doing what you knew was right? My heroine, Sarah Moore Grimke, did just that!

Sarah Grimke was born in South Carolina in 1792. Her family lived on a plantation and owned thousands of slaves. When she was 5, Sarah saw a slave being beaten. She was so upset that she tried to take a steamboat to a place where slaves were free. She hated slavery ever since.

As a girl, Sarah noticed that blacks were treated differently. Which law did Sarah break? Sarah taught her slave girl, Hetty, how to read! Sarah loved to read. South Carolina's law prohibited blacks from reading. But that didn't stop Sarah Grimke!

Every night, Hetty was supposed to brush Sarah's hair. Instead, Sarah locked the door to her room, and taught Hetty to read. The law wouldn't stop them! But her parents did. One night, Sarah and Hetty were discovered, and reading lessons were sadly over.

Sarah continued to be troubled about slavery. Sarah also hated that girls and women were treated differently than boys and men. Her older brother studied Latin with a tutor, but she could not! She begged her father to let her learn and he said no!

But did that stop Sarah Grimke? No! Secretly, she studied Latin. Sarah wanted to be a judge like her father. He did not want his daughter to do a "man's" job. When Judge Grimke found out, he was furious. Sarah pleaded with him, but he was firm. No more Latin for Sarah! Instead, Sarah would care for her youngest sister, Angelina Emily.

At the age of 26, Sarah took her father to Philadelphia because he was ill. She stayed until he died. Three years later, and against her mother's wishes, she moved to Philadelphia for good. On a visit, Angelina was enchanted by Philadelphia. Blacks were free! They had jobs! Angelina moved north, too.

The Grimke sisters set to work immediately. They spoke out against slavery at abolitionist women conferences. Sarah and Angelina tried many times to convince their mother to set the family slaves free. Later they asked for their share of the slaves. They set them free, of course. Sarah soon focused exclusively on women's rights. The sisters were upset about all that women couldn't do. Why shouldn't women vote - because of a law? That didn't stop Sarah Grimke! In a Massachusetts election, they marched with a crowd of women who voted in their own ballot box.

The sisters wanted everyone to be equal - man, woman, black and white. They wrote books about their opinions on women's rights and slavery.

Sarah died in 1873, after a life of fighting for black freedom, and women's rights. Sarah Grimke did what she knew was right, believed in her cause and never gave up. Nothing would stop my heroine, Sarah Grimke.

Emily Brooks, Age 12
West Windsor, NJ
Home School

Jerrie Cobb - A Soaring Role Model

My heroine journeyed through high mountains and tough roads to fight the unbeatable battle. Proving to the world that women were just as competent as men, she turned her flying adventures into a space dream. Though not many people know my heroine, she is the first female American astronaut. She did not get to watch her hopes come true by being the first woman in space, yet she gives hope to the people of the Amazon. Jerrie Cobb is my unsung heroine who believed in never giving up her dream.

In 1959 Jerrie Cobb was picked by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to take the Mercury astronaut selection test where the top pilots were tested to see if they could be among those lucky first Americans in space. Jerrie Cobb passed all the tests with flying colors! She and other women proved in the NASA tests that women were less vulnerable to heart attacks, loneliness, cold, heat, noise, and would need less oxygen and food than men in space. Out of all of the candidates for the space tests, Jerrie Cobb finished in the top two percent.

A dramatic change occurred that was unfortunate for all the women astronauts. NASA made a new rule that said you had to be a jet pilot to go into space. Since there were no women jet pilots in the military, none of the women astronauts were able to journey into space. Jerrie Cobb and other skilled female pilots taking the tests should have rightfully had their dreams come true - a glance at the world from up above. Many more dreams went crashing down when Russia sent the first woman astronaut into space, Valentina Tereshkova. Tereshkova was a factory worker, not even a pilot.

When Jerrie Cobb realized that she would never go into space, she started using her talents in another way. She flies clothing, food, and medicine to the poor people of the Amazon Rainforest. Jerrie Cobb was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her Amazon work. I think Jerrie Cobb should have been judged by her incredible piloting skills and not overlooked because of her sex. Jerrie Cobb, our first female astronaut, is a courageous role model.

Molly Albrecht, Age 11
Lawrence, KS
St. John's Catholic School

The Many Songs of Hildegard
The woman I admire is remarkable in many ways. She was the first woman to do many things. Though she lived a very long time ago in another country, she is a wonderful role model for women today. In spite of her great accomplishments as a heroine of her time, history has not given her the recognition she deserves.

Her name is Hildegard of Bingen, and she lived from 1098 to 1174. In a time when few women wrote anything, Hildegard wrote major works of theology, medicine, and natural science. She was a playwright and a musical composer. . . .

Hildegard was born in Germany, the tenth child in her family. When she was eight years old, her family sent her to be educated by a nun named Jutta who lived alone. Jutta taught Hildegard to read Latin, study the Bible and perform music. As time went on, other women came to join them. Eventually, there were enough women to form a convent. When Jutta died, the women elected Hildegard to be the head of their convent. She was 38 years old.

Shortly afterwards, she began to write. Because few women wrote in her time, she was at first very hesitant. However, Pope Eugenius read samples of her work and was so impressed that he encouraged her to continue. She wrote a book on natural science and a book on medicine. She also wrote biographies of famous people. By the end of her life, she had written nine books in all.

Hildegard wrote many songs, including both the music and the words. Hildegard was one of the first musical composers whose works were not anonymous. . . . Hildegard became very famous for her music and was asked to compose musical pieces for others. For twelve years, Hildegard traveled widely and lectured. She continued teaching until the very end of her life. . . .

Hildegard is a great heroine who deserves to be much more famous. She did many things that were unusual for women in her time. She wrote books, composed music, traveled and taught. Through her leadership and hard work, she set an outstanding example for women of all ages. She is an admirable role model for women seeking to achieve high goals.

Alexandra Pimentel, Age 10
Annandale, VA

Ruth Wakefield

Yum! Yum! Yum! I love chocolate chip cookies. The chocolate is so sweet, and the cookie itself is delicious . . . .. Cookies weren't invented until 1930. That means Mark Twain and George Washington didn't have the pleasure of biting into a sweet chocolate chip cookie, but thanks to Ruth Wakefield we can.

Ruth Graves Wakefield was the person who invented chocolate chip cookies. Technically she didn't intend to create the delectable morsel, but when Ruth Wakefield ran out of bakers chocolate, she broke up bars of semi-sweet chocolate that Andrew Nestle had given her. She thought the chocolate would mix with the dough to make chocolate cookies. Not surprisingly, it didn't. It did make my all time favorite kind of cookie, the chocolate chip.

Maybe Ruth didn't save the world, but she did make it a whole lot sweeter. She influenced all women, and men to understand that not all mistakes are terrible things!

Jonathan Evan Bove, Age 11
Rockville Centre, NY
South Side Middle School

Amazing Susan

My heroine is not an inventor or a scientist, but a mother of two famous brothers. Susan Catherine Koerner was born on April 30, 1831. Not much is known about her childhood. She was the daughter of a carriage maker. She attended a small college in Hartsville, Indiana. She excelled in literature and science. Most people of that time period thought that women were incapable in different studies. Well, she became the top mathematician in her class.

Susan married Bishop Milton Wright. They had five children, two of whom were Orville and Wilbur. One snowy day when Orville was seven and Wilbur eleven, they were looking out the window watching their friends sledding. Wilbur said, "Mommy, I wish we had a sled." Susan knew they didn't have that kind of money to buy a sled. But she quickly said, "Get me a piece of paper." On the piece of paper she drew a sled. Then they went out to the barn and built it! Susan Wright always said if you get it right on paper, it will be right when you build it.

When Bishop Wright would come home from his trips he would always bring a toy for them. One time he gave the boys a helicopter. Susan told them that the metal propeller might hit them in the eye. So she encouraged them to build a safer one. Susan always gave her boys a listening ear and always believed in them. She would encourage them to build. She was very resourceful. For instance, she would make pants for the boys out of their father's old ones. She even told the boys to use twisted rubber bands for the power of the helicopter.

Susan Bishop Wright and her children would always have scripture reading every evening. They would study the verse together. One verse they studied was in second Timothy. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." A verse her family put into daily use.

Susan Catherine Koerner Wright died of tuberculosis on July 4, 1889. The boys had lost their partner. "It is she, not me, who should be remembered as aviation's greatest pioneer," Orville said. "I remember her hands always busy baking or building." "Mother knows everything," Wilbur would say. "We fell in love with machines because of my mother," Orville also once said.

I admire Susan Catherine Wright for her Christianity and encouragement to her children. She was determined to learn even though she was a woman. She taught her boys everything she knew. Her boys were inspired by her resourcefulness, and knowledge. Without Susan Wright, Orville and Wilbur probably would not have developed the airplane.

Lauren Benjamin, Age 11
Roanoke, VA

Winners for the 2002 Contest
[13 to 15 category] [10 to 12 category] [7 to 9 category]

[2000 Winning Essays] [1999 Winning Essays]

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