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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 where he 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 immediately shattered. Edith even occasionally turned away from close friends. All 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 nothing.

I thought it was amazing how one woman could carry out such a complex 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 scene as 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 future.

Leneve Ong, Age 14
Rosemead, CA
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 impressed by 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 raised in a family of Palmyrean nobility, with links to the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ptolemy IV.

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 assassinated.

"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
Ferndale, WA
Home School

Mildred Harnack

As Mildred Harnack lay her head in the guillotine, her life flashed before her eyes. The blade hung threateningly above, soon to make its descent. She remembered her family and friends, none of whom she'd seen for a long while. She remembered all the people she'd helped over the years and how she'd spent her life. And she remembered why she was being executed. In Hitler's words, it was because she was a "meddling American" from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who tried to help the Allies.

She thought of her husband, Arvid Harnack. How she missed him. Married in 1926, with a mutual passion for social justice, they made a perfect team. Originally from Germany, he later moved back there with Mildred. They both found teaching positions at Humboldt University in 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 lives, 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 Jewish 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
Etters, PA
Home School

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 boldness and ingenuity. Her name was Eliza Lucas and she was the well-educated daughter of the respected British colonel and sugar plantation owner, George Lucas.

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 was 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 business woman.

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 ideas. She continued actively in her hobbies, such as teaching slave girls how to read and write and playing the flute, until she died of cancer in 1793.

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 day. With 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
Dawson, IL
Goldenwood Academy

Lillian Trasher - American Role Model

Though many have never heard of her, Lillian Trasher is an authentic 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 prayed, “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 unharmed. Without question, the essential element in Lillian’s life was her fervent faith.

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 persevere through tribulations. In many diverse yet wonderful ways, the choice 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
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