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Contest Winners for 2002

7 to 9 Age Category

Dorthea Dix

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 said yes.

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 her life.

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 have said

Thus has died and been laid to rest, in the most quiet, unostentatious way, the most useful and distinguished woman America has produced.

Dorthea Dix was a wonderful unsung heroine.

Sarah O'Sell, Age 9
Bothell, WA
Arrowhead Elementary School

Stephanie Kwolek

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 University).

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 every seen!

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
Pacifica, CA
Linda Mar School

Martha Coston

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 many lives.

Samuel Wayne Santiago, Age 8
Pacifica, CA
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
Jacksonville, AL
Home School

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]

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