Uppity Only Children of the Past

Well, maybe “Uppity” isn’t the best description of only children who have made an impact on the world stage, but it got your attention! Other words that may best describe famous and/or notorious only children are polar opposites. In other words, only children are complex at the very least, and for the most part extraordinarily hard to pin down. They can be audacious, driven, industrious, ambitious, precocious, outspoken, sensitive, empathetic, generous, loyal, selfless, etc., etc. Simply put they can be a complete contradiction of themselves.

A Kick Out of Cole – Cole Porter

Cole Porter was an only child prodigy whose life was filled with both privilege and adversity. He had all the money necessary to launch a career, but he also had a mother who was so controlling it’s a wonder he was ever able to establish his own identity. Perhaps that is why Cole had difficulty(…)

Hernan Cortes (1485 – 1547) 

Cortes can be considered to represent the whole lot of conquistadors who can be considered responsible for wiping out whole civilizations. Cortes’ conquest of Mexico lead to the downfall of the Aztecs and the devastation of Mesoamerica. The story of Cortes’ arrival in the Aztec Empire and his dealings with Montezuma are almost legendary. Cortes(…)

The Chairman of the Board – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra was an only child who often seemed fearless. He could be as abrasive as he was brilliant, and he wasn’t always happy. Because Frank was brought up in a neighborhood where his was the rare small family, being an only child was sometimes uncomfortable. But it defined Sinatra and gave him opportunities his(…)

An Early Computer Programmer – Ada Byron

Lord Bryon’s only child, Ada, was a mathematics whiz and one of the first computer programmers. Born 1815, the only child of Lord Byron, Ada Byron grew up in a time when women were not encouraged to pursue education. Ada was an exception. Perhaps because there were no other children who needed attention, her mother(…)

A Force of Nature: Lillian Hellman

“A defeat for an only child can always be turned into a later victory,” writes Lillian Hellman in An Unfinished Woman. Born on June 20, 1905, defeat simply wasn’t part of Hellman’s world. She was a woman of singular talent and courage who became one of the most eminent playwrights of the 20th century. The(…)

Mario Capecchi Profile in Courage

by Carolyn White A few months ago a journalist from Newsweek Magazine interviewed me for a story about only-child stereotypes. She wanted to know if it’s true that only children have trouble standing on their own two feet and making it in the real world. As I was talking with the reporter, the story of(…)