From the NFRW Armed Services Committee
By Rebekah Bibb, Virginia
From pioneer women to the women of today, America has been home to some of the most innovative and fearless heroines in modern history. Though many go unrecognized for their actions, we will look at three American heroines who forged through trials to inspire generations of young women. These women are Sybil Ludington, Grace Hopper, and Ellen Ochoa.
Sybil Ludington: Female Paul Revere (1761–1839)
In 1777, Sybil Ludington, who was only 16 years old, learned that the British were planning to loot a stockpile of provisions meant for the Continental Army near Danbury, Connecticut. Her father, Col. Henry Ludington, was commanding 400 militia men nearby and news had not reached him about the imminent attack. Sybil mounted her horse, and on April 26, 1777, rode forty miles through a rainstorm while avoiding capture to warn her father. She rode more than double the distance Paul Revere did on his famous ride.
Young Sybil successfully rode from 9 PM until dawn with nothing more than a stick to ward off bandits. While her father’s militia was too late to save Danbury, they eventually drove the British back to their ships. General George Washington thanked Sybil for her important role. However, it wasn’t until 1935 in Carmel, NY, that a statue was erected in honor of her bravery and patriotism.
Grace Hopper: Rear Admiral “Amazing Grace” (1906–1992)
At 37 years old, Grace Hopper barely made the cut-off age for enlisting in the Navy during WWII. Before her surprise enlistment, she was an associate professor at Vassar, having earned her Ph. D. in mathematics from Yale University. Upon her enlistment, the Navy decided to use her talents to build the Mark I, the first computer in the country. It was here the term “debug” was coined by Grace when a moth short-circuited the Mark II. In 1952, her team created the first computer that translated source code from one computer language to another. Grace was adamant that this technology would give computers the ability to do more than basic arithmetic, and she was right.
In 1983, Grace was promoted to Rear Admiral, and upon retirement, was awarded the highest level of distinction for non-combat personnel. At the young age of 79, Grace was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the Navy and enjoyed giving lectures to young people until she passed away. Her love of country and sacrifice during her many years of service leaves a legacy few can match.
Ellen Ochoa: Space Pioneer (1958- Present)
Ellen Ochoa is an American engineer, former astronaut, and former director of the Johnson Space Center. As a second-generation American, hard work was instilled in her at a young age as she went on to earn her B.S. in physics, Master of Science degree, and Ph. D. in engineering. Ellen spent her early career as a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories and the NASA Ames Research Center. Eventually, she became the Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch overseeing 35 engineers and scientists in their research for aerospace missions.
In 1993, Ellen became the first Hispanic woman to go to space. Her mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery lasted for 9 days where she studied the earth’s ozone layer. She logged nearly 1,000 hours in space and four space missions in total. After her missions, Ellen became the Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center before becoming the first Hispanic and second female director of the Johnson Space Center in 2013.