This being Women's History Month, three American women come to mind immediately -- Clara Barton, Anne Sullivan and Eleanor Roosevelt
Clara Barton became known as "The Angel of the Battlefield" for good reasons. She convinced Union commanders that treatment of wounded soldiers had to begin on the battlefield instead of only at a hospital hours later. She also rushed onto battlefields herself, often under fire, doing what she could to aid and comfort the fallen.
At Antietam, the worst one-day battle of the war, she once sat cradling a wounded soldier when she felt a bullet flick her dress and then strike the wounded man in the head, killing him. Later, at the Battle of Fredericksburg, she crossed a bridge and hurried up a hillside to get to fallen Union soldiers, trusting that Confederates on the hill above would not fire at a woman. And perseverance with top commanders enabled her to acquire a mule and wagon complete with supplies and men to wheel first aid right onto battlefields. A very brave woman!
After the Civil War, she went to Europe where, during the Franco-Prussian War, she learned the International Red Cross was operating similarly. Arriving back in the United States, she founded the American Red Cross and expanded it beyond times of war to aid any disaster, including floods and hurricanes.
Anne Sullivan should be considered the most outstanding teacher of all time. To bring a blind, deaf and mute little girl out of the loneliness of her dark and silent world must have seemed nearly impossible. How does anyone get started with someone so badly handicapped? She began by associating certain finger presses with the feel of water. From that patient start, lesson after lesson eventually taught young Helen Keller all the way into Radcliffe College, from where she went on to write a dozen books and go on national and European speaking tours.
And few people are aware that Anne Sullivan was handicapped herself. Born to illiterate and nearly penniless parents, she was eventually sent to an almshouse along with her brother and went totally blind until an operation restored partial sight a few years later. The next time slings and arrows come your way, think of Anne and Helen and what they overcame.
Eleanor Roosevelt has to be regarded as our nation's greatest first lady. It was her urging that kept her husband, Franklin, pursuing a political career despite being condemned to a wheelchair by polio in 1922. As first lady, she wrote a daily newspaper column and pushed civil rights for minorities and women.
She seemed to go everywhere -- lunching with sharecroppers, visiting our troops in the South Pacific and Europe during World War II and later chairing the U.N. Human Rights Commission. President Truman once called her "first lady of the world."
Finally, judging from what they said and how they said it, the two best presenters at last Sunday's Academy Awards were both women -- Meryl Streep and Michelle Obama.
Contact Joe King at firstname.lastname@example.org.