The sobering news that Olympic medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen had been severely injured in an accident, caused me to think about she-roes through American history who overcame adversity and changed America.
Let's test your knowledge of these courageous women. Match the woman with her accomplishment (answers at the end):
____ 1. A famous artist who took up painting in her seventies after arthritis forced her to give up needlework
____ 2. Overcame polio to become the fastest woman in the world at the Summer Olympics
____ 3. Never let deafness, back problems or cancer defeat her founding and nurturing of the Girl Scouts
____ 4. Helped create the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
____ 5. Although deaf, mute and blind, she became a role model for all of us.
A. Wilma Rudolph
B. Grandma Moses
C. Jo Waldron
D. Helen Keller
E. Juliette Gordon Low
We know the story of Helen Keller popularized by the play and movie The Miracle Worker. Struck with acute congestion of the stomach and brain at the age of 19 months, Helen Keller survived the illness, but emerged deaf, mute and blind. In 1887, teacher Anne Sullivan (who had formerly been blind) was able to reach the wild and destructive child, whose native intelligence was evident. Later, Keller went to Radcliffe College with her teacher by her side and became internationally famous and an advocate for blind and disabled. Keller and Sullivan were featured on a U.S. postage stamp. She-roes in overcoming adversity, both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan have been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Juliette Gordon Low was searching for her life's mission when she met Sir Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. She brought the concept of Girl Scouts to the U.S. and founded the first troop in Savannah, Georgia in 1912. Low (whose nickname was Daisy), who had become partially deaf in one ear as a result of an ear infection in her youth and in the other ear from a piece of rice entering her ear on her wedding day, never let her deafness, back problems or cancer deter her from nurturing and cultivating what became the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., the largest organization for girls in the U.S. Determined that girls were going to learn self-reliance, resourcefulness and confidence (before women had the right to vote!), Low sold her pearls when money was needed to fund the Girls Scouts. Low has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses had a different type of disability. In her seventies, the arthritis in her hands made it too difficult for her to do needlework, so she took up painting. The paintings of Grandma Moses, as we know her, were discovered by an art collector in 1938. The exhibit of her paintings that resulted -- at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City -- was so popular that she had a solo exhibit in 1940. After an exhibit at the Gimbel's department store for Thanksgiving in New York City, her paintings became collector's items. Her paintings have been featured on a U.S. postage stamp.
Wilma Rudolph was the twentieth child in a family of 22 children. A sickly child, she contracted polio at an early age. Doctors told her parents that she would not be able to walk. With the dedication of her mother and family, Rudolph was able to walk with a metal leg brace. By age 12, she no longer needed corrective shoes, a brace or crutches. Because of her frail constitution, Rudolph was home schooled until high school. After she enrolled in public schools, she discovered her athletic abilities. At age 16, she won a bronze medal as a member of the relay team at the 1956 Olympics. At the 1960 Olympics, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals. A she-roe who overcame significant adversity, Wilma Rudolph has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Another woman who never let deafness impede her in any way is Jo Waldron. Waldron, the President and Founder of the Able Kids Foundation, spent over a decade working with the U.S. Congress to fashion the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Deaf since birth, Waldron was selected by President Ronald Reagan to receive The President's Trophy and was appointed Disabled American for the Nation. She has worked with the Federal Communications Commission on the technology section of the Telecommunications Act and the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act. In addition to her advocacy, Waldon has patents pending for a variety of hearing access technologies, which have received national and international design and engineering awards.
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These outstanding women are among the more than 850 profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We can learn so much from their passion, determination and persistence in overcoming adversity. I am proud to stand on their shoulders.
(Answers: 1-B, 2-A, 3-E, 4-C, 5-D)
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