Contest Winners for 2002
7 to 9 Age Category
I chose this story because Dorthea Dix helped women who were
mentally ill in the early to mid 1800's. My grandma was mentally
ill. I never got to know my grandma because of her mental illness. I
am glad that doctors now know how to help women who are mentally
ill. Dorthea Dix is my favorite unsung heroine.
The book starts out when Dorthea Dix visits a jail. She was led to
a jail cell where 20 female inmates awaited her. She started her
lesson, leading them in a Bible reading, a prayer and a hymn. Later
after that, she asked the man if she could have a tour of the
jail. The man said no. After she asked him a couple more times he
When she was walking down the dark halls, she saw women chained up
against the walls shivering from the bitter cold wind. When Dorthea
Dix walked out of the jail that day she saw clearly what to do.
She wanted to bring about change. She shared her passion for reading
the Bible. She was a caregiver. She cared for people that no one
else cared about. She wanted others to improve themselves. She
raised funds for 32 hospitals. She spoke and influenced politicians
to change the laws about mentally ill people.
When Dorthea Dix was 42, she went to many hospitals and nursing
homes. For a couple of years she lived in Rhode Island. 15 years
after that she retired and went back home. Wherever she went she
always had the Bible by her side. In 1881 she returned to the
hospital where she was born. She thought she would stay just for
a visit, but then she decided she would live there the rest of
Dorthea Dix helped bring an end to the tradition of neglect and
abuse. She helped bring better treatment and hope to the medically
outcast. Dorthea Dix was a wonderful person.
On July 18, 1887 Dorthea Dix died. She was 85 years old. At this
time there were 123 hospitals, caring for more than 50,000 mentally
ill people. Dorthea Dix established 32 of those hospitals. That
is another reason why she is my favorite unsung heroine. This is
what her friend Dr. Charles Nichols thought her grave stone should
Thus has died and been laid to rest, in the most quiet,
unostentatious way, the most useful and distinguished woman America
Dorthea Dix was a wonderful unsung heroine.
Sarah O'Sell, Age 9
Arrowhead Elementary School
I can't imagine my Dad, a mechanic, going to work without his
Kevlar gloves to protect his hands from sharp objects. I can't
imagine police officers in a shoot out without their bullet proof
vests. I can't imagine firefighters rushing into a burning house
without their Kevlar suits. They all owe their safety to my heroine
Stephanie Louise Kwolek.
Awhile ago I asked myself if there was such a thing as bullet
proof material and I discovered the work of Stephanie Kwolek. Her
invention was a wondrous surprise, but the process to the discovery
was quite extraordinary.
Stephanie Kwolek was born in 1923 in New Kensington,
Pennsylvania. She loved nature and science ever since she was
a small child. That led her to study chemistry and biology at
the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now the Carnegie-Mellon
For Stephanie to earn a degree in chemistry in 1946 was special
because women were still expected to work at home or become a nurse
or teacher. Stephanie wanted more than a degree in chemistry. She
wanted to become a doctor, but she had to go to work to earn the
money for medical school. Many companies offered her a job as a
chemist, and she accepted DuPont's offer. She loved the challenging
work and forgot about medical school!
When World War II ended, many women lost their jobs because the men
came back from war and took back their jobs. To keep her position
in the lab she transferred to DuPont's Pioneering Research Lab in
Wilmington, Delaware in 1950.
She began to work on finding a material that was lightweight
and strong. After years of hard work she created an odd looking
solution. She wanted to test it in the machine that turns solutions
into fiber, but the machine operator said no. He thought it would
ruin his machine. Stephanie wouldn't give up. She finally wore
him down and they spun the strongest and stiffest fiber they had
Her invention was named Kevlar and is used in boats, spacecrafts,
sporting gear, firefighters' suits, bullet proof vests, gloves,
tires, and many other products.
Stephanie inspires me to never give up. Her diligent work habits
earned her 28 patents during her career. She wasn't trying to be
a heroine, but she's mine because of the lives of police officers
and firefighters she's saved.
Joseph Allen Santiago, Age 9
Linda Mar School
During the Civil War, men on the boats of the U.S. Navy would yell,
"Shoot up the flares!" when their boats got hit by the Confederates
and were sinking. Another boat would see the flares and save
the sinking sailors. Martha Coston saved many lives and helped
win many battles during the Civil War because of her Pyrotechnic
Night Signals. She's my heroine because she wasn't afraid to
work with dangerous things like gunpowder and fireworks. Also,
she wasn't afraid to stand up to men in order to make her flares
and save lives.
Martha needed a job to get money when she was 21 because her
husband died and she had four children to feed. She found her
husband's notebooks and saw how he tried to invent a flare, but
it didn't work. She wanted to make it work.
This was a brave choice because she chose to do work that men
usually did, and the flares would be difficult to make. They had
to go high in the sky, be easy to use, and be different colors.
Martha and some men working for her used fireworks to make the
flares work. She patented the flares called Pyrotechnic Night
Signals in 1859, just before the Civil War. The Secretary of the
Navy really liked Martha's flares and paid $5,000.00 for them.
The U.S. Navy later paid her $20,000.00 for the patent rights.
That was a lot of money.
She was a true inventor, because she didn't stop after she got
all that money. She invented a better flare that would ignite
when twisted in 1871. Her invention was made so well, it was
shown at the U.S. Centennial Exhibition in 1876 in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. The governments of France, Italy, Denmark, the
Netherlands, and Haiti bought it too.
It was hard work making and selling the flares, and Martha said she
had to be ready to fight like a lioness because men didn't want to
listen to her or pay her for her work. Because of her diligence,
she took care of her family and helped our safety on the water.
Thank you Martha Coston for inventing the flare and saving so
Samuel Wayne Santiago, Age 8
Linda Mar School
Jemima Parry-Jones, An Unsung Heroine
Jemima Parry-Jones is a heroine to the bald eagle, other birds
of prey, and to all people who love birds. Mrs. Jones is the
director of the National Birds of Prey Center…Jemima Parry Jones
has always loved birds, probably as much as I do... In college,
Mrs. Jones learned that hundreds of years ago there may have been
a half a million eagles in the world. As time passed, there were
more people living in our world and they weren't being very careful
about taking care of the land, the water, or the air. Mrs. Jones
learned that the bald eagle and other birds of prey were suffering.
Many birds died from gunshots from hunters. Many were poisoned
and some even starved. People bothered the birds' nesting areas
and this caused a lot of bald eagles and other birds to die.
Mrs. Jones made a choice and decided to help the eagle and other
birds because she knew they could not stand up for themselves.
Mrs. Jones has helped the bald eagle and other birds of prey by
trying to teach people how to take better care of them. She talks
to many people about different bird habits, and how to feed them.
She helps birds who are injured, too. She takes care of them
until they are ready to fly free again. . . . .
When I grow up, I want to be an ornithologist. That is a person
who studies and takes care of birds. I want to have the courage
to stand up for others who cannot help themselves.
Nicholas Lege, Age 9
The Rover Queen! Life of Donna Shirley
My unsung hero is not stopped at earth. She explores more than
you and I will ever do. She is Donna Shirley and she is an
Aerospace Engineer. She managed the team who made the Sojourner.
The Sojourner is a small, cheap Mars rover that took pictures and
samples on Mars in 1997. Donna Shirley also held a naming contest
to name the Mars rover they made. They decided to name it after
a woman in history. They chose "Sojourner" for Sojourner Truth.
Sojourner Truth was a black woman who worked hard to save slaves
and helped women get their rights.
When she was a girl my age, she touched the clouds in the sky.
She made model airplanes and learned to fly real ones. She loved
animals and she was very outgoing and sure of herself. As she grew
up, some people told her she would not be a good engineer because
she was a girl. Donna Shirley ignored them and finished her degree.
She was the only woman of 2000 employees at NASA in the 1960s.
Donna told me that the greatest thing she did at work was help
make the Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner. I think if I had done
that I would beam with pride. I would want to tell everybody.
I think that any woman - or man for that matter ---who can explore
that many planets with their own creations is a hero. I would
like to touch the sky just like Donna Shirley.
Haleigh Kent-Bryant, Age 9
Grand Blanc, MI
Indian Hill Elementary
Winners for the 2002 Contest
[13 to 15 category]
[10 to 12 category]
[7 to 9 category]
[2000 Winning Essays]
[1999 Winning Essays]