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Women's History Month
12th Congressional District
Middle and High School
In honor of Women's History Month in March, I invited Middle and High School students throughout the 12th Congressional District to participate in a special essay competition in celebration of Women’s History Month. Students were invited to write about a woman in history that inspires them; whose place in history has particular meaning to them today, or whose work is connected to current issues that they care about.
Certificates of special congressional recognition were awarded to all participants who submitted an essay. One essay was selected for each grade level.
Student: Alexis Stuart – 6th grader at Birney Middle School, Southfield
Teacher – Ms. Burden
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
I chose Ida B. Wells-Barnett because she inspires me the most. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born on July 16, 1862, in Holling springs, Mississippi. Wells had to raise her siblings because her parents were slave and died from yellow fever. She began teaching at the age of 14 in Memphis, Tennessee. Wells-Barnett started to write newspaper articles on education for African American children, using her pen name Iola. Since her teaching contract wasn’t renewed she began to start journalism. In 1892, three of Wells friends were lynched by a mob. Since this happened, Wells-Barnett started an article campaign against lynching. She encouraged blacks in Memphis to move west. Later on, Wells-Barnett established Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club (the first black women’s suffrage group). From 1898-1902, she worked as a secretary of the National Afro-African Council. In 1910 she established and became the first president of the Negro Fellowship League. This league helped new migrants from the south. Wells-Barnett was one of the founders of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Ida B. Wells-Barnett continued to fight for equal rights and died March 25, 1931.
I believe that Ida B. Wells-Barnett inspired many people, including me because of her belief in equal rights. I look up to her, because she wanted to make a big change and help African Americans. She never cared about how much she was endangering herself. All she cared about was the people. I don’t think we would have ever come this far in America without Ida B. Wells-Barnett. This made me notice that she set the bar in Civil Rights.
Today, I think that Ida B. Wells-Barnett is not recognized enough for what she has done. Ida B. Wells-Barnett is a real crusader and a true leader. It is because of her that we now have the courage and strength to stand up and fight for what we believe in. Although Ida B. Wells-Barnett brought us a long way, we still have a long way to go. It is a century later, and African Americans are still dealing with racial discrimination.
On February 26, 2012 a 17 year old African American teenage boy, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman noticed Trayvon while patrolling the neighborhood and became suspicious. Zimmerman called 911 to report Trayvon. He started to follow Trayvon, although he was told not to by the police. Zimmerman approached Trayvon and shot him once, killing him. Trayvon was not carrying a weapon. This event has sparked a nationwide outrage. Leaders of the NAACP, American Civil Rights Union and the Nation of Islam called for the arrest at a town hall meeting in Sanford. Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP said, “the rules of justice in this nation have failed when an innocent teenage boy can be shot to death by a vigilante and no arrest is made for weeks.” This is what Ida B. Wells-Barnett was fighting for, and this is what we are still fighting for today.
Student: Sydni Hill – 7th grader at Brace Lederle K-8 School in Southfield
Teacher – Ms. Bozanic
Born in Chicago, Illinois Michelle Obama graduated from Princeton University and got a J.D. from Harvard Law School, she now works at a law firm in Chicago. Michelle Obama is an inspiration to people everywhere from Asia to the United States of America and a great person as a whole. This sensation works as hard as she can to make the world a better place weather it is speaking at a public school, volunteering at soup kitchens or at homeless shelters she really does meet the standards of an almost perfect human being. Even before she became famous she and her husband volunteered at soup kitchens and homeless shelters such as Miriam’s Kitchen a soup kitchen in Washington. When she is not doing volunteer work she is promoting “Let’s Move” the program Mrs. Obama is most known for. “Let’s Move” is a program were she tries to get kids to eat healthy and to be active for at least sixty minutes a day she also helps kids to find the joy of healthy living. Mrs. Obama also supports education traveling to different schools speaking about how important education is for a good future. She also has a big influence on people as a person by donating her time and heart to the children of this generation .Mrs. Obama is a true royal to the fashion universe also as she helps the world in style. The phenomenon even excelled in school as she and her brother skipped the second grade and she entered gifted class in the sixth grade where she learned French and had accelerated courses. In conclusion I wrote about Michelle Obama because I thought she was one of the best examples of what a powerful woman can do.
Student: Aliyah Thomas – 8th grader at Roseville Middle School, Roseville
Teacher – Mr. Gowen
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name Michelle Obama? Well, you may think of politics or Barack’s wife, but did you know there is more to it? Did you ever think about how inspirational she is or how much of a leader she is? No?! Well, you’re about to hear it now.
First, I just want to say she had a very interesting child hood. Michelle Obama was born January seventeenth, nineteen sixty-four. Her father worked the boiler room at Chicago’s water purification and her mother was a stay-at home-home mom. The family had lived in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment and she and her brother, Craig, shared the living room. But because her mom wanted Michelle and Craig to have a successful child hood, she was dedicated for them to focus on their school work. Fortunately, both Michelle and Craig were able to skip second grade.
In 2008, Michelle had become the first lady, but she was also focused on child obesity. She cared about children’s health and was determined to make a change. So she revamped the white house vegetable garden in order to promote sustainable eating and health diets. Later in 2010, she had accomplished her goal and worked hard to get kids to eat right. Such as replacing fries with veggies or running a fitness program.
Now, you’re probably thinking where is the fun side to Michelle Obama? Well, I can answer that for you. Michelle, as a kid, loved playing piano so much that she had to be told to stop. She was also a young lawyer and she was assigned to be Obama’s mentor when he came to her Chicago firm for a summer job. In October third, nineteen- ninety two, Michelle and Obama were engaged. Barack proposed at a fancy Chicago restaurant. Plus Michelle has also guest starred in many kid shows like ’’Sesame Street’’ or ’’I-Carly.’’
Now, you know about Michelle Obama. How her childhood was, how much she cares about children’s health, and her past. Michelle Obama is a very inspirational woman as well, when it comes to teaching kids not to care what others think. She is determined to change the way we live for a better future. And that’s why Michelle Obama is one of my heroes!
Student: Drew Metcalf - 9th grader at Southfield Lathrup High School, Southfield
Teacher - Ms. Williams
When I think of a woman who had an important place in history and still has an impact today, I instantly think of Eleanor Roosevelt. As the wife of a popular United States president, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City, October 11, 1884, and died November 7, 1962. She was an active worker for social causes and was a well known humanitarian. She was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and in 1905 she married her cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although she was extremely shy, Eleanor was a spectacular worker.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made herself a strong speaker on behalf of a wide range of social issues, and was even considered the most influential First Lady. She even served on Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees from 1949 until her death in 1962 and was Visiting Lecturer of International Relations from 1959 to 1962. Her lectures included, but weren’t limited to, youth employment and civil rights for African Americans and women. She did all of her work in self-confident, authoritative, independent, and clever ways.
Eleanor Roosevelt wanted improve the living conditions of the nation’s people. She was very vocal about her support of the American Civil Rights Movement and of African-American rights. She made multiple visits to civilian and military morale while she served on a national committee on civil defense. In 1943, Eleanor, established Freedom House, because of her concern for peace and democracy.
Last, Eleanor strongly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because it would prevent Congress and the states from passing special protective Legislation that she believed woman workers needed. She also played an important role in drafting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt served a the very first chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission.
Eleanor started new paths for women and led the battle for social justice everywhere. Today, she is still a powerful inspiration to leaders in both the civil rights and women’s movements. Eleanor broke down the usual submissive image that was cast by traditional First Ladies, and reshaped it around her own skills and commitment. She was the first woman to speak in front of a national convention, to earn money as a lecturer, to be a radio commentator, and to hold regular press conferences. She worked many hours of the day helping in whatever way she could during World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most inspiring women in history, even in this day and age.
Student: Sarah Ross – 10th grader at Sterling Heights High School, Sterling Heights
Teacher - Mr. Cutlip
Coach Willie: The Power of Willie
I met her running. She teaches me chemistry in school and about life outside of school. I’ve only known her for two years, but she has made a big impact on my life. This is Coach Willie. I met her my freshman year, in the summer when I joined cross country. She is the assistant coach for cross country and the head coach for track and field. I participate in both sports and I have a lot of fun doing it. Willie seems to always know exactly what to say and how to say it to keep me motivated and interested both in school and out. She cares a lot about what she does and encourages her athletes and students to not settle for the minimum because she knows we can give a lot more than what we sometimes want to give. She is at every meet and practice running with us, being there supporting us, giving us pointers and helping us get through the rough days and enjoy the easy days. She keeps us positive during our hard work outs, helping us to push through, because in the end we are going to feel better for making it through. She helps us become a stronger runner, a stronger student, and a stronger person. Willie pushes us because she expects us to give 110% just as she gives to us when she coaches and teaches. She only wants the best for us and for us to get the best experience we can get in the running program and in school. Even when I had an injury last season and was not allowed to run, Willie always made me feel like I was still an important part of the team. She wants to see every kid have a successful life and to never ever want give up because of being tired or because of doubting their ability to finish. Willie has that something that makes a person want to do their best, both for their own pride and happiness and to make Willie proud and happy too. Willie helps me see how this applies to my own life as well: when I am having a bad day I just need to push through it because something good is always waiting in the end. Coach Willie is also there if you need someone to talk to, she listens very well and tries to help in any way possible. She has that unique ability to know when to give advice, listen, or act, depending on the situation at hand. When I grow up, I can only hope that I turn out to be as caring and giving as Coach Willie, and I know her life lessons will help me always.
Student: Amber Schultz – 11th grader at Roseville High School, Roseville
Teacher – Ms. Jordan
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Stowe’s Influence
Every society is filled with deep dark secrets that often are overlooked because the issues, if brought to light, would be hard to accept. When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” she was aware of this, yet that didn’t stop her from publishing her controversial book on slavery. In a time when women were disenfranchised, Stowe used her writing to influence her world. In modern society, Stowe’s influence is often forgotten; school history books only give her a couple of sentences in a 500 page book. Yet when I read those few sentences, I was inspired.
Ever since I was a tyke, I have loved to write. Most of my stories took place in far away places, in lands that did not exist. Yet when I picked up my history book one regular school day I saw the name Harriet Beecher Stowe highlighted in the text. When the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin was mentioned, my teacher spoke more in depth about this woman, I became increasingly interested. The history book recalled how Uncle Tom’s Cabin had opened the eyes of many people to the brutality of slavery. The influence the publication of Stowe’s book had on society was tremendous. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the second most translated book in the world.
Stowe’s courage really struck me as powerful. She opened my eyes to the fact that I as a writer have the power to influence people’s perspectives. There are many problems in the world which need light shed upon them. In my world, I see bullying as an esculating problem. As I honed my writing skills, an idea for a book plot came to me. Just as Stowe had written about the brutality of slavery, I wanted to write a book that uncovered the mental and physical damages of the victims of bullying.
As a high school student, I feel as though I have no real power to influence the nation. I’m a child; society sees me as nothing more than a student learning the works of the world. What would I know? But Stowe had even greater odds stacked against her. Women in her time were expected to create a nurturing home for their husbands, but were hardly asked for their opinions. Stowe spread her opinion across the toast of society like melted butter. By having the confidence to publish her works, Stowe became a great influence that changed people’s perspectives, contributing to the demise of slavery.
Lately, whenever I have doubts about writing for a living, Stowe’s influence on the slave trade reminds me that words can change the world. Who knows? I might even change society’s perspective and open the doors to the damage of bullying.
Student: Michelle Rosen - 12th grader at Southfield Lathrup High School, Southfield
Teacher – Ms. Maas
Kozmic Blues: Janis Joplin’s Influence on Me, the World, and Everything Else
They called her “Pearl”. They called her “the queen of psychedelic soul”. Some even called her “Tex”. No matter what she was known as, though, one thing is certain: Janis Joplin changed the game. As one of the forerunners of the 1960s counterculture movement, Joplin was a pioneer as well as an artist, and her lasting influence served to create greater opportunities for women all over America. Though some would prefer to remember her as a drugged-up hippie whose time had come, it is an indisputable fact that her legacy made a distinct and powerful impact on popular culture – both during her time, and for years afterward.
Perhaps the most significant effect Joplin had was that of expanding the horizons of rock and roll. Other than Grace Slick, lead singer of the psychedelic-rock group Jefferson Airplane, there were virtually no female rock stars. Before Joplin’s rise to prominence, it was not socially acceptable for women to leave their domestic sphere for what was considered a radical, subversive style of music. Later female rock-and-rollers such as Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett owe their careers to the doors that Joplin opened. The rock world was essentially a blank canvas as far as women were concerned, and Janis painted it more colorfully than her iconic Porsche. Without her influence, girls today could only dream of the opportunity to play an electric guitar on stage in front of 15,000 people – now, that opportunity is open to anyone with enough talent, drive, and luck.
In addition to breaking gender barriers in the music world, Joplin hacked away at some other social stigmas as well. Early in her career, she commissioned an artist to tattoo a wristlet and small heart on her wrist. This occurred when tattoos were viewed negatively by the majority of the public, and thus she was at the very beginning of the movement to promote them as art. Obviously she was not the only celebrity with a tattoo, but there is no denying her influence in promoting her body art as just that: art. Additionally, she is known for her flamboyant style, which often included scarves, hats, beads, and Lennon-esque glasses. Through this, she promoted individualism; thus she was not only making a fashion statement, but also a social statement, asserting that people should be free to wear what they like regardless of trendiness. This has certainly motivated girls and young women to develop their own styles without harming their self-esteem.
Janis Joplin embodied everything that the 1960s counterculture movement represented: the love, the freedom, and the peace all tied into one beautiful, psychedelic soul. She opened more doors for women in music than almost any woman before or since, creating opportunities for females in rock and roll that gave us some of the greatest albums in history. Her unique individual style was a tribute to her eccentric personality, and taught women that fashion doesn’t have to be about what’s on the cover of Vogue magazine. As the first female rock and roll superstar and a pioneer of a whole new world, Janis continues to serve as an inspiration to so many people. She truly is the Queen of Rock and Roll.
The public celebration of women’s history in the United States began in 1978 as “Women’s History Week” in California. In 1981, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) co-sponsored a joint Congressional resolution announcing a national Women’s History Week. Six years later, in 1987, Congress voted to expand the celebration to a month, dedicating the month of March as Women’s History Month. Visit the Women in Congress webpage to learn more.