Elizabeth Blackwell and Aretha Franklin

by Nina from Mill Valley

I believe a hero is someone who perseveres against tremendous odds. Unique ideas and courage also make up a true hero. Two people who I think of as heroes are Aretha Franklin and Elizabeth Blackwell.

5912Elizabeth BlackwellUnknown photographer (National Library of Medicine) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsElizabeth Blackwell was a women’s rights activist in medicine. She is a hero to me because she helped advance the role of women in the medical field. She was denied by 29 colleges before being accepted to one in Geneva, New York, and was constantly prejudiced against because of her gender. She became the first woman doctor ever in the United States. Through hard work and determination, she earned trust from other doctors and patients. She lectured widely on the importance of sanitation and personal hygiene.

Dr. Blackwell opened a New York hospital with her sister, Emily who was also a doctor, called The New York Infirmary for Women and Children. This started out as a clinic for the poor and then added a school for women wanting to study medicine. Thirty-nine years after her death in 1910, the American Medical Women’s Association remembered her by making an Elizabeth Blackwell medal. This medal is given out annually to honor contributions to medicine and science by women.

122186Aretha FranklinRyan Arrowsmith [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia CommonsAretha Franklin is an activist for blacks’ and women’s rights in music and expression. Her strong voice, and even stronger lyrics, inspire many women and African Americans. Her fusion of soul, gospel, R&B, and pop was a new concept in music and many of her major hit songs were written or co-written by her. She wasn’t passive or heart-broken like the other female musicians of the era. Ms. Franklin proved through her music that women could be strong and demand respect! Aretha sang for the same reasons that the earliest black music was made - to get through challenging times. The diva’s life wasn’t always glamorous; she divorced twice and her father was fatally shot by burglars, both leaving her heartbroken. However, she won 17 Grammys and was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Aretha Franklin sang at numerous events, including Martin Luther King’s funeral and Bill Clinton’s Inaugural gala. Her reign continues.

“Women were no longer just going to stand around and sing about broken hearts; they were going to demand respect, and even spell it out for you if there was some part of that word you didn’t understand.” Christopher John Farley in TIME magazine; June 8, 1998 Aretha Franklin and Elizabeth Blackwell are both key figures in women’s rights. Both of these amazing women stood up for what they believed and never gave up. They have persevered, whether it be in the medical field, or expression of beliefs through singing. In my mind, they are invincible heroes.

Page created on 12/18/1998 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 8/25/2018 11:45:10 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.