To commemorate 100 years since women first gained the right to vote in New York, The Main Street WIRE sponsored an essay contest for Island children, asking them to write about a woman, from the past or present, who inspires them. The entries were then judged by Assembly Member for the 76th District, Rebecca Seawright; Island activist and RIRA Vice President Lynne Shinozaki; and our managing editor, Kelly Turner. (Names were removed from the entries prior to judging.) Entries were judged by originality, technical skill, and the emergence of a personal vision or voice.
The first two essays we received highlighted Rosa Parks’ bravery and determination, which helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement. We read about a Pakistani mom who struggled to receive an education and whose hard work and devotion now inspires her daughter. The Night Witches, an all-women aviator regiment the Russian military employed against the Nazis, inspired one of our writers. PS 217 second grade teacher Ms. Weinberg was an inspiration to another writer, as was opera singer Maria Callas.
Take-away: there are a lot of creative, inspired, and technically skilled young writers on the Island! (If you ever want to write for us, we’re always looking.)
Unfortunately, because it was a contest, we had to narrow it down to two winners; one for entrants in kindergarten through third grade, and the other for fourth graders through eighth graders.
Eight-year-old Mariam Khelashvili, winner for the younger group, submitted a well-written, thoughtful piece on Marie Curie that drew us in with its great introduction.
Saki Imamura, a fifth grader, led the older group with a powerful piece about Umeko Tuda, a Japanese education advocate for women. The essay’s emotional center touched everyone who read it.
You can read both winning essays below. Thank you to all who took the time to share your stories of inspirational women.
Here Is Marie Curie – An Amazing Woman
by Mariam Khelashvili, age 8
Most people might render the term “amazing women” as people like Harriet Tubman or Susan B. Anthony, women who created the term “women’s rights” and spread it around the world. But some amazing women, hidden in the tall, wide pages of history books, changed the world in a different field… Here is Marie Curie, winner of two Nobel Prizes, and founder of two elements of the periodic table.
Marie Curie was a scientist when most women wouldn’t even dream to be one. Her life was full of obstacles from women’s rights to working conditions, and from newspaper reporters to husband death. But she overcame them all and achieved huge scientific fame. As a result of her hard work and important discoveries she made, Marie Curie became the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes in different fields!
During her life, Marie Curie made many important discoveries unmatched by any man. But she couldn’t show it. Why? Why was such an amazing woman blocked from showing her talents? She was a woman. There were almost no universities for women at that time. Even when she had already discovered the new element Polonium, she wasn’t allowed in a science association all because she was a woman!
But she still walked on. She never gave up. She still climbed on to the top of the science mountain.
But when she broke through those bars, she met another wall: her home. Every day, she and her husband Pierre woke from a hard bed, rode on the top of the bus to work, studied in a foul old building, and came home to a meager meal. But with hard work and dedication, she passed through that challenge too, all for the sake of her beloved science, and she still won the Nobel Prize. I believe she is a very strong icon for all women and all scientists, whether a female businesswoman or a male scientist. Without her, women would not have been scientists even now. They wouldn’t even be properly educated! I believe that not only did she change the world of science, but also she changed the world in general!
Her bravery and dedication make Marie Curie truly amazing. Her actions are close to supernatural. Her situations are almost exactly shown in fairy tales. Her life is awe-inspiring to all little girls like me aspiring to be famous scientists.
Umeko Tuda: Fighting for the Right to an Education
by Saki Imamura, age 11
First, I am introducing myself.
I came to U.S.A from Japan due to my father’s research when I was 6 years old.
I have started to go to kindergarten but I didn’t understand what teachers and my classmates said to me. I was crying every Sunday night because I didn’t want to go to school on Monday.
Just then, my grandfather sent me many books from Japan. One of them was a biography about Umeko Tuda. I have already read it more than 60 times. This book encouraged me to work harder and stop crying.
Umeko Tuda is one of the first Japanese who went abroad to study in 1871. She came to Washington D.C when she was 6 years olds like me. Her parents didn’t come with her and she lived with American family alone. Why do you think she came to U.S.A even though she was so young? Because her father had a prospect sight and wanted her to be a great woman who played a significant role in the future.
She felt lonely and disappointed because she didn’t understand English for a first few months. However she was brilliant and had a strong passion to study English and other subjects.
It was common that women studied and worked like men when she was in America. But when she started to live in Japan 11 years later, she was so shocked because Japanese men, even her father, treated women as servants.
She was so surprised that Japanese women couldn’t receive high level educations or get jobs. She was also disappointed that there was no opportunity in Japan to make the best use of her knowledge and thinking she learned in America.
She decided to devote her life to build school for Japanese women with her American teachers and friends. It was a long way but finally her school was established in Tokyo in 1900.
It was to educate students for English teachers. It had a big success and became famous.
Although she passed away at 64 years old when three years before her new school was completed, many women who studied there have played active roles in society.
I thought it was natural for anyone to go to school and have education until I read the book.
I appreciate that I can go to school and play with my friends who come from all over the world.
Education is the equal right for all of us! It is not fair if a person’s level of education is determined by where they were born, gender, their races, or how wealthy their family is. I believe that education brings us spiritual richness.
Even now women in America, Japan and other countries haven’t broken the glass ceiling yet.
I want to study very hard and become the first prime minister in Japan to make women live more comfortable.