Pennington wins essay contest by highlighting Revolutionary-era icon

Published 10:06 pm Monday, March 11, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – Emily “Jasper” Pennington, a Montevallo High School senior, recently discovered how hard work and resolve can pay off following her penning of an essay that won two stages of the Alabama Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), George S. and Stella M. Knight Essay Contest.

On March 4, Pennington was presented with victories in both the chapter and state levels of the essay contest, an accomplishment that netted them the reception of an Olympic-sized medal, two reward checks and a great deal of clout during the University of Montevallo’s Upward Bound/TRIO program that served to host the event.

Pennington‘s winning essay, titled “Deborah Sampson, The Determined Soldier,” is now qualified to compete on the national stage of the contest. There, Pennington stands to potentially win as much as $6,000 in cash rewards and an expense-paid trip to the SAR National Congress in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this summer.

“I was shocked and amazed,” Pennington said.

Deborah Sampson, who is known in American history for disguising herself as a man, and serving in the Continental Army under the name Robert Shirtliff during the American Revolutionary War. Sampson famously fought in the war for 17 months before having her secret revealed when she required medical treatment after contracting a fever in Philadelphia in 1783. Sampson has long been utilized as an icon for equal rights when it comes to gender and is one of the earliest examples of American feminist icons.

To award Pennington for the winning essay, members of the local, Cahaba-Coosa Chapter of the Alabama Society Sons of the American Revolution stood in attendance and took part in the ceremony as Michael Martin, who teaches for Upward Bound at Montevallo High presented the award.

Martin was recently awarded the state Dr. Tom & Betty Lawrence American History Teacher Award and was also nominated for consideration toward The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History National History Teacher of the Year award.

“Pennington has always been a pleasure to teach,” Martin said. “She heard about SAR education contests several years ago and is as determined as Deborah Sampson (was). With youth like her, the future for our country is very bright.”

Martin further expounded on Pennington’s successes by highlighting on their presence with the group. While the achievement may have come as a shock to Pennington, to those like Martin, it was merely another step in a long march of their successful display of acumen and love for history.

“(Pennington) has consistently been winning different levels of the Sons of the American Revolution essay contests for years,” Martin said. “This year, her essay on Deborah Sampson won her not only the Cahaba-Coosa Chapter Award but also the State SAR Award with an Olympic Medallion, substantial monetary award and qualified to compete for National SAR Award.”

The Sons of the American Revolution has multiple youth contests for elementary, middle and high school students. Those interested in learning more about the Sons of the American Revolution and those contests are encouraged to visit for more information.