We define moral courage as the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. When we say a person has moral courage, we speak of things like ethics, good and evil, right and wrong. This is the kind of person who does bold things. They do these things not because they are trying to make a name for themselves or impress their peers, but because it is the right thing to do. A person with moral courage stands up in the face of adversity.
There are many examples of moral courage throughout the history of our country. Certainly, we would think that Abraham Lincoln was a man of moral courage. He was the leader of our country, and took a stance on slavery that was not popular to everybody. We would say that Lincoln was an ethical man, and he knew right from wrong. His moral courage eventually united the country in a way that it never had been before.
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American player in major league baseball. He too showed his moral courage on a daily basis. In his case, it was the right time for the color barrier to be broken, and a man of Robinson’s talent and moral courage made him the right man to do it.
Women face many challenges that men did not have to face. In the early days of our country, it was a man’s world. Women served their men. They were not offered the same opportunities that men were. To some extent, this still exists today. Women don’t always receive equal pay for equal work as their male co-workers. That was true in the 1840’s when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. That shows amounts of moral courage that many of us could never achieve.
Elizabeth Blackwell was born on Feb. 3, 1821, in Bristol, England. She was the third of nine children born to Samuel and Hannah Blackwell. They were known to be considerate people. Samuel owned a sugar refinery business and taught all of his children to be the best they could be and to make, and take, advantage of all the opportunities in life that they could. He made sure that they all got an education so that if a chance was given to them, they could use their knowledge to be successful. This was rare for girls in that time. The few girls who did receive an education were usually sent to boarding schools, where they learned to read and write, and maybe spell, but most of their time was spent in dancing, music, painting, and needlework. When Elizabeth was a child of eight years old, her father’s business was destroyed in a fire and soon he was unable to pay their taxes and the family was kicked out of their home. The Blackwells moved to New York City in 1832.
The entire Blackwell family showed moral courage when they left their home country of England and moved to America. The journey on the ship took seven weeks and four days. About two hundred passengers began the trip, but several died when cholera broke out among the passengers. All of the Blackwell family remained in good health, except for some seasickness. Elizabeth did not know it at the time, but this would not be her last long hard trek into the unknown.
Samuel Blackwell was an outspoken opponent of slavery. His family was part of the Anti-Slavery Society. It took a lot of courage to belong to this organization. Most of the leading citizens of New York, editors, lawyers, clergymen, and politicians, were against the movement. Elizabeth was shaped by her father’s beliefs that no man should own another man. She saw him stand up in the face of adversity, against public opposition, for what he truly believed in. His views were unpopular to many and, eventually, for their safety, the Blackwells moved out of the city to a country home on Long Island. The only regret that Elizabeth had when her family moved away from the city was that it was too far away from the exciting, changing world of ideas and people. She went back to the city every chance she...
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