Contest Winners for 2002
13 to 15 Age Category
Edith Wilson - A Hidden Political Leader
A figure clad in black dangled from a rope in the ceiling. As she
lowered herself, she checked around for slight movements besides her
own. Working quickly and stealthily, she punched in the top-secret
code. There was a long, tense pause, then a bleep. Finally, she was
in. The country was now at her fingertips. Actually, she wasn't a
secret agent, nor was she sabotaging the country. However, Edith
Bolling Galt Wilson did have America at her fingertips, and will
forever be known as its "first woman president."
Though considered the "secret president" by historians, Edith Wilson
was far from being reserved. She believed it was her right to advise
and stay by her husband, President Woodrow Wilson, no matter
went and what he did. She was not going to be a pretty pawn standing
next to her husband like many of the previous First Ladies. Despite
the critics' disapproval, Edith Wilson wanted an active role in
government. She traveled with and wholeheartedly supported Woodrow's
efforts in trying to create the League of Nations in order to bring
peace to the World War I ravaged countries.
What made Edith Wilson so special, and the unofficial first female
president, was what she did for her husband in office. When Woodrow
suffered a stroke in 1919 that left him partially paralyzed,
Edith took action. She didn't want anyone to know her husband was
injured and kept Woodrow out of the public eye. If she didn't, her
husband's dream of creating the League of Nations would be
shattered. Edith even occasionally turned away from close
issues and messages were now relayed through her. She discussed some
of them with the incapacitated president, but made all decisions
under his name so that officials and the public would suspect
I thought it was amazing how one woman could carry out such
plan. No one would have every guessed, even today, that the glitzy
First Lady had the substance to run the country for a whole year,
hidden and undetected.
Edith Wilson's bold and curt attitude may not have made her likable,
but it provided her with valuable leadership qualities. She not only
ran a country secretly, but also stepped on to the political
a female politician by her husband's side. Never before had women,
not even previous First Ladies, done anything as daring as she did,
and that made her a heroine.
She broke stereotypes and still gained respect from her colleagues
and from generations after. No longer would First Ladies stand back
and watch their husbands; they would now stand with them and go
off on their own to fight for what they believed was right. Edith
Wilson was the first to test the water for women in politics, and as
a result made a big splash, leading the way from women in the
Leneve Ong, Age 14
Gabrielino High School
Zenobia: Warrior Queen of Palmyra
History provides us with many examples of unique women breaking
stereotypes. Of all heroines in history, I have been most
Queen Zenobia of ancient Palmyra. While only a teenager, she became
a wife, mother, and queen. While only a young woman, she became a
widow and ruler of an empire. Zenobia led a multi-cultural army as
she went up against the world power of Rome. How she took on these
challenges in a male dominated world is an example to us all.
Zenobia began her life in about 241 A.D. in the desert oasis of
Palmyra, Syria, about 130 miles northeast of Damascus. She was
in a family of Palmyrean nobility, with links to the Egyptian
It was written about Zenobia that, "She had a love for learning and
surrounded herself with intellectuals." One of her advisors was
the philosopher and rhetorician Cassus Longinus. Eunapius, in his
"Lives of the Sophists," describes Longinus as a "living library
and a walking museum." Zenobia also spoke in equal perfection Greek,
Syriac, Egyptian and Latin.
At approximately age 14, she married 35 year old Odaenathus, the
widowed ruler of Palmyra. History confirms that she bore him two
sons. After approximately 10 years of marriage, Odaenathus was
"Palmyra and it's Empire - - Zenobia's Revolt Against Rome," by
Richard Stoneman, says of Zenobia that , "controlling the balance
of two empires (Rome and Persia), she could aspire to create a third
that would dominate them both."
In 269 A. D., Zenobia's army marched into, and took over Egypt. Her
empire now stretched from the Nile River to the Euphrates and
included most of Asia Minor. It was secondary only to the Roman
Empire to the north and had become a threat to Rome.
As a result, in 272 A. D., Emperor Aurelian of Rome went forth
into battle against Palmyra, and captured it. At that time, Zenobia
fled, towards Persia, only to be captured on the banks of the River
Euphrates. In 273 A. D., Aurelian returned to Rome with Zenobia as
his prisoner. History has it that she spent the remainder of her
life in a Villa in Tivoli.
Why is Zenobia so important that you and I should take the time to
know her story. Because, we can learn much from her example. She
empowered herself through her devotion to learning, and quest for
knowledge. Her life course overcame gender boundaries, language
barriers and ethnic differences. Even as a prisoner paraded through
the streets of Rome, her spirit was never conquered. She maintained
extraordinary dignity even under the most difficult circumstances.
No matter what the future may bring, Queen Zenobia's ability to
adapt to a changing world, her intelligence, courage, determination,
dignity and general greatness of character is an example to us
all. Zenobia was a heroine in the purest sense.
Sainah L. Van Egdom, Age 14
As Mildred Harnack lay her head in the guillotine, her life flashed
before her eyes. The blade hung threateningly above, soon to
descent. She remembered her family and friends, none of whom she'd
seen for a long while. She remembered all the people she'd
the years and how she'd spent her life. And she remembered why
being executed. In Hitler's words, it was because she was a
American" from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who tried to help the Allies.
She thought of her husband, Arvid Harnack. How she missed
in 1926, with a mutual passion for social justice, they made a
perfect team. Originally from Germany, he later moved back
Mildred. They both found teaching positions at Humboldt University
Berlin. He had been imprisoned at a concentration camp on Christmas
Eve in 1942.
The Harnacks began an underground resistance group. They published
"The Inner Front." This was a popular newspaper which included
progress reports, discussions about alternative political systems,
poetry, advice and compassionate words for the persecuted. They
gathered information and used several transmitters to broadcast
German military advances. This continued, saving many people's
until August 30, 1942, when a Russian spy was arrested and revealed
information about the group. They were all caught. Mildred was
sentenced to 6 years in a concentration camp, but Hitler intervened
in the court's decision and sentenced her to death.
Mildred closed her eyes. She knew that within seconds, her life
would be over. She regretted none of what she'd done. Mildred said
a silent prayer, and with a loud swoosh, the blade fell.
Mildred Harnack was beheaded on February 16, 1943. She was the only
American woman to be executed in the German Reich for resisting
Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. She never had an obituary. In the
Memorial at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Mildred's name is
etched on a window.
In the United States, Mildred's efforts have gone unrecognized. In
writing this, I want to inform people about this incredible woman
and give her the honor and respect she deserves.
Amanda Aymin, Age 15
The Flower of Charleston
Out of the 1700's, at a time when the majority of women were
homemakers and house wives, emerged a woman of unprecedented
and ingenuity. Her name was Eliza Lucas and she was the
daughter of the respected British colonel and sugar plantation
After her father inherited three plantations in South Carolina,
the Lucas family moved to the United States with hopes that the
milder climate would improve the health of Eliza's mother. In 1738,
only a year after the Lucas family had settled in Charleston, war
broke out in Spain and George Lucas was called to fight. Instead of
hiring a manager to take his place in the family business, he put
his seventeen-year-old daughter Eliza in charge.
Eliza was an innovator. Not content with simply growing sugar,
she became a pioneer in the silkworm culture. After distant royals
became impressed with her quality product, she began to expand the
family business. She experimented with the fickle indigo plant, the
source of the best blue dye of her time. The self-taught botanist
successful in getting it to flourish on her local plantations. She
began to sell the seeds to nearby plantation owners, along with her
own instructions on how to grow them, and the colony soon blossomed
with the business. Soon after this success, she shipped over 100,000
pounds of her own indigo to England and became an incredibly wealthy
The plantations grew considerably to include flower gardens, cedar
groves, and fig orchards. This kept Eliza so busy she avoided
marrying until she was the rip old age of twenty-two, years after
her contemporaries were already married and having families. She
married Charles Pinkney and became mother to three children. While
her plantations continued to expand, Eliza spent her next forty
years happily and passionately carrying out her innovative
continued actively in her hobbies, such as teaching slave girls how
to read and write and playing the flute, until she died of cancer
The reason I believe that Eliza Lucas Pinkney was one of the
greatest unsung heroines is because of her bold determination and
enthusiastic personality that was so uncharacteristic of her
her creativity, she rocked the boat of what was the common mind-set
and laid the foundation of the great business women of today.
Meredith Grace Elston, Age 15
Lillian Trasher - American Role Model
Though many have never heard of her, Lillian Trasher is an
unsung heroine. In 1911 she established her orphanage while Egypt
remained under British rule. Faith, love, and perseverance are
prolific hallmarks of her life. As a missionary, she believed,
rightly, the difference she made would undoubtedly change hearts,
lives, and even the course of history.
Through Lillian’s entire life certain heroic qualities stand
out, among these were her lavish love and peerless perseverance;
Lillian accomplished a feat deemed impossible when she courageously
established an orphanage in Asyut, Egypt. Choosing to minister to
Egypt’s youth, Lillian faced many doubtful Egyptians, who labeled
her crazy, and a number of Americans who thought she was wasting
her life. Ultimately, her skeptics ate their negative remarks.
Bravely planting a Christian message of love in a predominantly
Muslim country, her unmatched perseverance ceaselessly amazed anyone
who knew her. Because she exhibited character traits of a genuine
heroine, Lillian is definitely an influential woman in history.
Lillian’s faith in Jesus Christ was the vital component during
her life and ministry. As an innocent child, her simple faith was
beautifully portrayed when she knelt by a log in the woods and
“Lord, if ever I can do anything for You, just let me know and I’ll
do it.” Eventually, her modest reliance on God developed into a
supreme confidence which was unshakeable. Once, while talking to
a skeptical Egyptian, she said, “All things are possible with God.
Otherwise, I would not be here.” A true test of her faith occurred
when Egyptians rebelled against British rule, and she was forced
to move the children to a safer residence. While the fighting
furiously continued, she comforted the children with songs and
soothing words. Miraculously Lillian and the children were
Without question, the essential element in Lillian’s life was her
When Lillian died, she left behind a magnificent legacy. Entrusting
her entire life to Jesus Christ permitted Lillian to change
thousands of Egyptian children’s lives. Today, the “Lillian Trasher
Orphange” is a continued haven to impoverished Egyptian children.
Over twenty-five thousand orphans have been welcomed and cared for
at this wonderful home. Encouraged by her example, numerous women
have voluntarily decided to serve as missionaries around the world.
Although she has died, her spirit of hope continues to exist inside
the hearts of all who have been forever changed by the Good News
this brave woman faithfully proclaimed.
Undeniably, Lillian’s acts of love, faith, and perseverance were
true heroic attributes. Her faith in Jesus Christ was crucially
significant because He gave Lillian the ability to love and
through tribulations. In many diverse yet wonderful ways,
she made affected tens of thousands of lives. Lillian Trasher is
an American role model each person should strive to emulate.
Kaleb Paddock, Age 15
Grass Valley, CA
Garden Gate Christian School
Winners for the 2002 Contest
[13 to 15 category]
[10 to 12 category]
[7 to 9 category]
[2000 Winning Essays]
[1999 Winning Essays]