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Heroines Yesterday, Heroines Today, and Heroines Tomorrow

Bessica Raiche (1875-1932) Pioneer Pilot, Aviation Inventor, Dentist, Doctor

Bessica or Bessie Raiche was an American woman who distinguished herself shortly after the turn of the 20th century in terms of versatility.

She was not only a dentist and a doctor, but is also accredited by the Aeronautical Society as being the first woman to fly an airplane in a solo flight.  She had no flight instruction or experience before taking to the sky alone. Bessie was  a woman before her time who loved to shoot guns and drive fast cars right alongside the boys.

Her and her husband built their airplane in their living room and assembled it in the yard. She flew the biplane in 1910. Bessie would live another 22 years, most of which she devoted to women’s health care as a distinguished specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology in the US.

Heroine Caregivers

Rosalynn Carter

The former First Lady of the U.S. and a pioneer of the caregiving movement, Rosalynn cared for her father after he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia when she was 12.

She also supported several other relatives and her mother after she left the White House, and brought awareness and support through her Institute of Caregiving.

As the eldest of four children, Rosalynn is the wife of the 39th President of the USA, Jimmy Carter. She served as First Lady from 1977 to 1981, and has been leading and supporting advocacy programs for decades. She was elected to the board of directors of the National Association of Mental Health, honored by the National Organization for Women with an Award of Merit for her vigorous support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Services.

Rosalynn also created and serves as the chair of The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force, which is an advisory board of experts, consumers and advocates promoting positive change in the mental health field. The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism provide stipends to journalists to report on topics related to mental health or mental illness. The one-year fellowships are designed to promote public awareness of mental health issues, as well as erase the stigma that are associated with them.

In January 2016, Jimmy Carter said of Rosalynn: “Her support has helped me through the last 69 years since we’ve been married in everything I’ve tried. Of course, when I was ill and thought I might die at any time, she was there for me.” Rosalynn has cared for many members of Jimmy’s family who have died of cancer, and helped care for her mother until she died in 2000. “At a time when more and more Americans are called on to give care, it is critically important that we do all we can to support both family and professional caregivers,” says Rosalynn.

Joan Lunden

Joan Lunden is an American journalist, author and TV host who cared for her brother and father before she became her mother’s primary caregiver.

Joan was the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America for seventeen years, and has authored eight books. Born in California, she earned a Liberal Arts degree from California State University, Sacramento and then went on to study Spanish and anthropology at the former Mexico City campus of Universidad de Las Americas.

Joan suffered from triple negative breast cancer in June, 2014, and chose to appear publicly without a wig. She has dedicated a whole section of her website to caregiving, where you can find recipes for people who are living with dementia, who to prepare for your parents to move in with you, and other important topics.

Holly Robinson Peete

This actress cares for both her father, who has Parkinson’s disease, and her son, who has autism. Her HollyRod Foundation offers help and hope through compassionate care to families living with autism and Parkinson’s disease.

Holly is an American actress and singer. After studying psychology and French, she considered working in languages for the U.S. State Department, but eventually decided she would like to give acting a chance. Within a short time, she found roles in a TV series and two films.

Holly went on to have a successful career as an actress, and in March, 2016, a reality series debuted called For Peete’s Sake, which documents the everyday life of her family.

Holly and her husband Rodney have four children. A daughter called Ryan and a son called Rodney, Jr., who are twins and were both born in 1997; Robinson, born in 2002 another son and Roman, born in 2005.

After Rodney Jr. was diagnosed with autism age 3, and her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease during the 90s, so Holly decided to launched the Foundation—a project which began in 1997 and was directed towards Parkinson’s, and later encompassed autism, too. In an interview with Caregiver magazine, Holly said she started the Foundation when her husband told her to stop feeling sorry for herself because her dad was sick and feel blessed that they had the resources to take care of him when so many others did not.

Anne Sullivan

Anne Sullivan was an American teacher and the instructor and lifelong companion of Helen Keller.

Anne took a leap of faith and broke through the sensory walls around a six-year-old deaf, dumb and blind girl named Helen Keller. She spelled the word “doll” into the child’s open hand, and the work of miracles began.

At the age of five, Anne contracted trachoma, a highly-contagious eye disease, which left her blind and took away her reading and writing skills. She then attended the Perkins School for the Blind, where she became a teacher and began to teach Helen.

Raised in a family of illiterate, unskilled and impoverished immigrants from Ireland, she had a very challenging time at the beginning of her life. Her mother died when she was eight, and her father abandoned her and her younger brother Jimmy two years later for fear that he couldn’t raise them alone. Her brother then died after they were sent to an overcrowded almshouse in Tewksbury, M.A.

However, after graduating, she was recommended by the director of the Perkins Institution, Michael Anagnos, and began working with the seven-year-old Helen. They began a 49-year relationship, in which Anne evolved from being her teacher, to her governor, to her companion and friend. Thanks to Anne, Helen learned 575 words, some multiplication tables, and the Braille system during just the first six months of tuition. Anne later encouraged Helen to study at the Perkins School, where Helen became famous for her remarkable progress. Helen earned a degree from Radcliffe College. In 1932, both Anne and Helen were awarded honorary fellowships from the Educational Institute of Scotland and honorary degrees from Temple University. In 1955, Ann was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard University, and the Perkins School named their director’s cottage after Helen in 1956.

Anne died in 1936 after a coronary thrombosis that caused her to fall into a coma. Helen was holding her hand when she passed. Helen also passed away in 1968, when her ashes were placed in the Washington National Cathedral next to Anne’s.

The two have been portrayed in various works for film and television, as well as on the stage.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre cares for her childhood friend, Helen, in the book Jane Eyre, who dies of consumption, and then for her dying aunt.

The book’s eponymous and individualistic heroine has great moral and spiritual sensibility and a strong belief in women’s independence. The author revolutionized the art of fiction with this work, though it was considered “an anti-Christian composition” by The Quarterly Review in an 1848 review. In 2003, the novel was ranked number 10 in the BBC’s survey The Big Read, is widely studied in secondary schools and is now common accepted in the canon of exceptional English literature.