Brittany Wilharm wants to bring history to life. Her creative and energetic experiments have included making documentary films, designing websites, acting, and writing old-fashioned papers. In 2012, Brittany submitted a web page to the National History Day Contest focusing on the little-known early 19th century American surgeon Ephraim MacDowell. For the project, she used text, quotes, interviews, films and pictures. In Brittany’s work, MacDowell’s remarkable story is framed in dramatic terms: a daring operation, a courageous patient, skepticism and derision from his peers, and finally success removing an ovarian tumor – an operation that contributed to a revolution in modern medicine. Her success in bringing this man’s story to life has earned Brittany the 2013 Legacy Prize representing National History Day.
Brittany is no stranger to the National History Day contest. Beginning in eighth grade she has entered five projects in five straight years. The subjects she has explored have ranged from a Civil War story, to the use of special effects in films, to women’s suffrage. Four times she rose to the State level of the National History Day Contest; and twice she made it to the National level. Her project on women’s suffrage came to the attention of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who invited her to become an intern in his office for a week. This sparked an interest in political science, and she took an on-line class on constitutional law. To sharpen her skills she became an active member of her homeschool tutorial debate team. She was the chapter winner of the George S. and Stella M. Knight Essay contest, hosted by the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, and the District winner of the American Legion Oratorical Contest. Both the speech and the essay were on the U.S. Constitution.
Brittany has been acting on camera since the age of six; today she explores the possibilities of documentary filmmaking to inform, educate and excite her audience. She has won four awards for three of her films at the Full Moon film festival. Each of these films were on a historical topic. Recently she was involved in “Flowers for Fannie”, a faith-based film, about a lonely, hardened World War I widow who accepts the compassion of a young woman in her community, resulting in hope for transformation to a new life. Brittany played one of the lead roles, designed the website and assisted with editing. She hopes that churches will use the film as a way to bridge the gap between youth and elders—and to create “Adopt a Grandparent” programs in their communities.
Brittany has been a paid intern for state Representative Joshua Evans, who represents her hometown of Springfield, Tennessee. She volunteers in her community, making videos for Vacation Bible School, and operating the powerpoint at church. She greatly enjoyed being the spotlight operator for a Christian Illusionist who did performances at her church. She is currently enrolled in the Volunteer State Community College with plans to attend Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee next year.
Brittany’s lifelong goal, and the legacy she hopes to someday leave, is to use her technology skills and her knowledge of history and politics to create documentaries that bring America’s past to life.