Womens History Month Essay Ideas For Othello

When I think of a woman who had an important place in history and still has an impact today, I instantly think of Eleanor Roosevelt. As the wife of a popular United States president, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City, October 11, 1884, and died November 7, 1962. She was an active worker for social causes and was a well known humanitarian. She was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, and in 1905 she married her cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although she was extremely shy, Eleanor was a spectacular worker. 

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made herself a strong speaker on behalf of a wide range of social issues, and was even considered the most influential First Lady. She even served on Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees from 1949 until her death in 1962 and was Visiting Lecturer of International Relations from 1959 to 1962. Her lectures included, but weren’t limited to, youth employment and civil rights for African Americans and women. She did all of her work in self-confident, authoritative, independent, and clever ways. 

Eleanor Roosevelt wanted improve the living conditions of the nation’s people. She was very vocal about her support of the American Civil Rights Movement and of African-American rights. She made multiple visits to civilian and military morale while she served on a national committee on civil defense. In 1943, Eleanor, established Freedom House, because of her concern for peace and democracy. 

Last, Eleanor strongly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because it would prevent Congress and the states from passing special protective Legislation that she believed woman workers needed. She also played an important role in drafting the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt served a the very first chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission. 

Eleanor started new paths for women and led the battle for social justice everywhere. Today, she is still a powerful inspiration to leaders in both the civil rights and women’s movements. Eleanor broke down the usual submissive image that was cast by traditional First Ladies, and reshaped it around her own skills and commitment. She was the first woman to speak in front of a national convention, to earn money as a lecturer, to be a radio commentator, and to hold regular press conferences. She worked many hours of the day helping in whatever way she could during World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most inspiring women in history, even in this day and age. 

Student: Sarah Ross – 10th grader at Sterling Heights High School, Sterling Heights
Teacher - Mr. Cutlip 

I met her running.  She teaches me chemistry in school and about life outside of school.  I’ve only known her for two years, but she has made a big impact on my life.  This is Coach Willie.  I met her my freshman year, in the summer when I joined cross country. She is the assistant coach for cross country and the head coach for track and field.  I participate in both sports and I have a lot of fun doing it.  Willie seems to always know exactly what to say and how to say it to keep me motivated and interested both in school and out.  She cares a lot about what she does and encourages her athletes and students to not settle for the minimum because she knows we can give a lot more than what we sometimes want to give.  She is at every meet and practice running with us, being there supporting us, giving us pointers and helping us get through the rough days and enjoy the easy days.  She keeps us positive during our hard work outs, helping us to push through, because in the end we are going to feel better for making it through.  She helps us become a stronger runner, a stronger student, and a stronger person.  Willie pushes us because she expects us to give 110% just as she gives to us when she coaches and teaches.  She only wants the best for us and for us to get the best experience we can get in the running program and in school.  Even when I had an injury last season and was not allowed to run, Willie always made me feel like I was still an important part of the team.  She wants to see every kid have a successful life and to never ever want give up because of being tired or because of doubting their ability to finish.  Willie has that something that makes a person want to do their best, both for their own pride and happiness and to make Willie proud and happy too.  Willie helps me see how this applies to my own life as well:  when I am having a bad day I just need to push through it because something good is always waiting in the end.  Coach Willie is also there if you need someone to talk to, she listens very well and tries to help in any way possible.  She has that unique ability to know when to give advice, listen, or act, depending on the situation at hand.  When I grow up, I can only hope that I turn out to be as caring and giving as Coach Willie, and I know her life lessons will help me always.

Student: Amber Schultz – 11th grader at Roseville High School, Roseville
Teacher – Ms. Jordan

Harriet Beecher Stowe: Stowe’s Influence

Every society is filled with deep dark secrets that often are overlooked because the issues, if brought to light, would be hard to accept.  When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” she was aware of this, yet that didn’t stop her from publishing her controversial book on slavery.  In a time when women were disenfranchised, Stowe used her writing to influence her world.  In modern society, Stowe’s influence is often forgotten; school history books only give her a couple of sentences in a 500 page book.  Yet when I read those few sentences, I was inspired.

Ever since I was a tyke, I have loved to write.  Most of my stories took place in far away places, in lands that did not exist.  Yet when I picked up my history book one regular school day I saw the name Harriet Beecher Stowe highlighted in the text.  When the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin was mentioned, my teacher spoke more in depth about this woman, I became increasingly interested.   The history book recalled how Uncle Tom’s Cabin had opened the eyes of many people to the brutality of slavery.  The influence the publication of Stowe’s book had on society was tremendous.   Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the second most translated book in the world.  

Stowe’s courage really struck me as powerful.  She opened my eyes to the fact that I as a writer have the power to influence people’s perspectives.  There are many problems in the world which need light shed upon them.  In my world, I see bullying as an esculating problem.  As I honed my writing skills, an idea for a book plot came to me.  Just as Stowe had written about the brutality of slavery, I wanted to write a book that uncovered the mental and physical damages of the victims of bullying.   

As a high school student, I feel as though I have no real power to influence the nation.  I’m a child; society sees me as nothing more than a student learning the works of the world.  What would I know?  But Stowe had even greater odds stacked against her.  Women in her time were expected to create a nurturing home for their husbands, but were hardly asked for their opinions.  Stowe spread her opinion across the toast of society like melted butter.  By having the confidence to publish her works, Stowe became a great influence that changed people’s perspectives, contributing to the demise of slavery.

Lately, whenever I have doubts about writing for a living, Stowe’s influence on the slave trade reminds me that words can change the world.  Who knows?  I might even change society’s perspective and open the doors to the damage of bullying.        

Student: Michelle Rosen - 12th grader at Southfield Lathrup High School, Southfield
Teacher – Ms. Maas

Kozmic Blues: Janis Joplin’s Influence on Me, the World, and Everything Else

They called her “Pearl”. They called her “the queen of psychedelic soul”. Some even called her “Tex”. No matter what she was known as, though, one thing is certain: Janis Joplin changed the game. As one of the forerunners of the 1960s counterculture movement, Joplin was a pioneer as well as an artist, and her lasting influence served to create greater opportunities for women all over America. Though some would prefer to remember her as a drugged-up hippie whose time had come, it is an indisputable fact that her legacy made a distinct and powerful impact on popular culture – both during her time, and for years afterward.

Perhaps the most significant effect Joplin had was that of expanding the horizons of rock and roll. Other than Grace Slick, lead singer of the psychedelic-rock group Jefferson Airplane, there were virtually no female rock stars. Before Joplin’s rise to prominence, it was not socially acceptable for women to leave their domestic sphere for what was considered a radical, subversive style of music. Later female rock-and-rollers such as Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett owe their careers to the doors that Joplin opened. The rock world was essentially a blank canvas as far as women were concerned, and Janis painted it more colorfully than her iconic Porsche. Without her influence, girls today could only dream of the opportunity to play an electric guitar on stage in front of 15,000 people – now, that opportunity is open to anyone with enough talent, drive, and luck.

In addition to breaking gender barriers in the music world, Joplin hacked away at some other social stigmas as well. Early in her career, she commissioned an artist to tattoo a wristlet and small heart on her wrist. This occurred when tattoos were viewed negatively by the majority of the public, and thus she was at the very beginning of the movement to promote them as art. Obviously she was not the only celebrity with a tattoo, but there is no denying her influence in promoting her body art as just that: art. Additionally, she is known for her flamboyant style, which often included scarves, hats, beads, and Lennon-esque glasses. Through this, she promoted individualism; thus she was not only making a fashion statement, but also a social statement, asserting that people should be free to wear what they like regardless of trendiness. This has certainly motivated girls and young women to develop their own styles without harming their self-esteem.

Janis Joplin embodied everything that the 1960s counterculture movement represented: the love, the freedom, and the peace all tied into one beautiful, psychedelic soul. She opened more doors for women in music than almost any woman before or since, creating opportunities for females in rock and roll that gave us some of the greatest albums in history. Her unique individual style was a tribute to her eccentric personality, and taught women that fashion doesn’t have to be about what’s on the cover of Vogue magazine. As the first female rock and roll superstar and a pioneer of a whole new world, Janis continues to serve as an inspiration to so many people. She truly is the Queen of Rock and Roll. 

Theodore Spencer wrote of Shakespeare's Othello, “In presenting the character of Othello to his audience, Shakespeare emphasizes very strongly his grandeur, self-control, and nobility” (Spencer 127-28). This observation demonstrates that these three main traits—grandeur, self-control, and nobility—are key to understanding Othello's complex character, and even more helpful in understanding the contrasts between him and his subordinates. Most notably in this comparison is young Michael Cassio, a beautifully written foil character to the general in the fact that where Othello possesses these three qualities (and others), Cassio either lacks them entirely or enhances them to the betterment of those around him.

Othello is one of the most dignified and sumptuous characters in Shakespeare’s writings, rivaling such men as Henry V or King Lear in his superiority and aloof grandeur in both mind and body. Harold Bloom goes so far as to say that “Othello has a touch of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in him…there is an authentic nobility in the language of his soul” (Bloom 445). His first entrance on the stage presents him as a wise man, a leader whose experiences have made him all the more observant and patient with the world around him. The hardships of his enslavement and the experiences of war have made him a calculating, reserved leader who looks at a situation from every angle, who never acts rashly or without understanding all sides. Indeed, the Venetian council acknowledges his masterful approach to the battlefield as they call him to take command of their fleets against the Turks: “…though we have a substitute of most allowed sufficiency, yet opinion, a more sovereign mistress of effect, throws a more safer voice on you” (I, iii, 222-224).

Cassio, on the other hand, is a young pup by comparison. Iago acknowledges to Roderigo that Cassio knows not “the division of a battle” (I, i, 23), is “without practice [in] all his soldiership” (27), and is in, the opposite vein, a philosophizer, “a great arithmetician” (19). Both men serve as loyal soldiers of the Venetian crown, but Cassio seems to represent the impishness of youth, the suave, debonair, and eye-catching gallantry that attracts lady folk to military men, whilst Othello represents the wisdom, experience, and backbone - both the brains and brawn - of any army’s foundation. Cassio has physical beauty and grace; Othello has calculating finesse and wisdom. Both men deserve and attain recognition for their individual strengths…as they also lose it at various times and in different ways throughout the play.

Othello’s is also a very self-controlled character. While some would argue that his murder of Desdemona is anything but self-controlled, the attack on his wife is an extremely calculated and planned one, as Othello seeks to rationalize his decision, slanting the proposition in the form of an execution of a strumpet, instead of the murder of an innocent. As Spencer says, “Othello appears to all the world as a man who is not passion’s slave (128). Even when his reputation is at stake, Othello remains calm and calculating, even to the detriment of his wife; when accused of betraying Branbantio’s trust and stealing away Desdemona, Othello reacts calmly and without question to the interrogation of the Venetian council: “Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it / Without a prompter. Where will you that I go / To answer this charge?” (I, i, 83-85). When Iago first hints at Desdemona’s unfaithfulness, Othello first seeks out “ocular proof” before making any judgments or broaching the subject with his wife.

Cassio on the flip side is a slave of passion. Not always a negative trait to possess, the passion he exhibits is a passion for life, of enjoying every moment and living in the present, as evinced by his rollicking romance with Bianca, his cajoling with Iago, Montano, and the men of the watch, and his overall pleasantry with his superiors and the ladies around him. Othello, seemingly, must admire him for this appreciation for life that Cassio possesses, perhaps one of the reasons he promotes Cassio over his long-faithful right hand, Iago. His character also balances the morality and tone of the play in a negative aspect: while Othello shows a genuine respect for his wife, Desdemona, Cassio - though for the most part, a gentleman - displays a lack of true respect and commitment to women as a whole, especially his mistress Bianca, revealing the one major flaw in his character. His treatment of women depicts a slovenly attitude with romance, one that thinks of women as more of a plaything or passing fancy; this is highly contrasted with Othello’s legitimate love and appreciation for women on the whole.

One final trait, though hardly the last legitimate, comparable characteristic, is the background and heritage of each of these men. Othello is a king, no argument. In his opening speech to the Venetian court, he reveals his ancestry and his original state as the king of the Moors. His presence and bearing, as previously noted, denote a majesty and nobility that is unfound in the common man, as noted by his subjects and subordinates. Cassio’s heritage and background, by contrast, remain a mystery; all one knows of him is gained from Iago’s description of him as a Florentine who knows little of his trade and who holds a mistress (I, 1, 20). Cassio is as mysterious as Othello is reserved. The fact that he is a soldier in a high court suggests that he is not of a royal or noble bloodline but a man who had to earn his reputation and favor in the eyes of those he served.

Both men, too, have wounded reputations, but the different ways they choose to handle their situation shows the foil technique playing beautifully. Like Othello, Cassio finds himself pitted against a slight on his reputation, but unlike Othello, Cassio pleads only the truth: that he never intentionally injured his beloved captain. Cassio serves as a foil to Othello in this manner because though each man has an  injured ego and position in the Venetian world, Othello remains focused on the injury itself, no matter how valid it is, dwelling only on the hurt that Desdemona’s faithlessness caused him; Cassio, comparatively, is quick to forgive the injury of Othell’s dismissal and instead pleads his case only as a loyal servant of his general. His emotional “Dear general, I never gave you cause,” (V, iii, 209) reveals his true heart despite the boyish immaturity that marks his character.

With these opposite characteristics presented, Cassio might, at this point, seem more of a second antagonist to the hero. But he slips into the role of a foil character through his similarities as well as his differences. Cassio’s moral line serves as an expansion, a continuation of Othello’s when the general has been confronted with a breakdown in his own understanding of justice. Othello questions what evil his sense of duty and justice will lead him to, whereas Cassio remains determined to keep a good and wholesome reputation amongst the Venetian court, and especially in the eyes of his “dear general” (V, ii. 209). Like Othello, Cassio offers himself as a loyal countryman, “never anything but your servant” (III, iii, 9). Cassio’s main motivation is for the honest truth of his loyalty to be known and the general’s love for him won back.

Cassio then acts as an expansion of this similarity to Othello in the final scene; Othello’s sense of justice has been manipulated and disintegrates into a desperate sacrifice of the one he loves to a perverted justice that has been twisted by the evil Iago. Cassio, another nonce t victim in this strange perversion of Iago’s hatred, has a chance - unlike the poor Desdemona - to redeem himself in Othello’s eyes. As Cassio is allowed to reveal the truth, one sees Othello’s admirable traits being transferred to the young lieutenant who is now granted full supremacy over the region in Othello’s place. Cassio, ever the complement to Othello’s characteristics and personality, has the final victory in the twisted lie of Iago’s making, resulting in a victory of good over evil.

Cassio, in the end, seems to represent the better man, the higher sophisticate in Othello’s mind than his own self. He presents a moral balance, both positively and negatively, to the Moor’s own morality and sense of duty and justice, ultimately providing the audience with an exceptional character whom they can identify with and admire for his loyalty and steadfastness to his beloved leader and friend.


Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Spencer, Theodore. Shakespeare and the Nature of Man. 2nd ed. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1949.

Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Spencer, Theodore. Shakespeare and the Nature of Man. 2nd ed. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1949.

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