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The Perils of the Schoolroom

One of my hobbies is historical re-enactment of several women from American history, including Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first woman to attend and graduate from a medical college in 1848.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I performed her in schools. One class was almost my undoing! Their teacher prepared them with readings from several books. Right away, I was in trouble when a boy asked where my medical bag was. That I could handle. I asked, “Are you sick?” Upon his denial, I responded that I usually did not carry the bag unless I was tending the sick.

But that was nothing compared to the girl who asked, “Did you get seasick on the trips across the ocean?” I couldn’t remember any mention of that in the material I had studied, so I responded, “No, I was a good sailor.” “But,” she retorted, “the book said you got seasick!”  Thirty-one heads nodded in agreement with her.

“Well,” I said, “you know that when people write books, they talk to the people who know the person who is being written about. Right? Well, you’ll remember my older sister Marian? The one I didn’t get along with very well?” They all nodded. “Well,” I continued, “she always tried to make me look bad. She played tricks on me and everything. I think she told the writer I was seasick to make me look bad. Do you have brothers and sisters who give you a bad time?”  Every head in the room was nodding, and many looked ready to rat out someone in their families.

Whew! I made it out intact.

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