DARIEN — When 10-year-old Kiley Liddell got home and told her mother she wanted to take part in the local Daughters of the American Revolution’s annual American history essay contest, Nancy Liddell had no doubt her daughter would win.

“Being new to the school, we didn’t know anything about this competition at all,” Nancy said. “She came home determined to write and determined to do the best she could. She’s extremely determined.”

Kiley ended up taking first place in the essay contest, which prompted fifth-grade students to think about the impact of World War I on society by writing an essay where they imagined themselves living in Connecticut during that time and describe how the war impacted their daily lives. On Feb. 5, the DAR Good Wife’s River Chapter honored Kiley, along with the runners-up, at an award ceremony and reception.

“I think it’s great,” Kiley said. “I haven’t really won a formal competition with writing before. I feel great about it.”

Though Kiley and her twin sister, Brooke, only moved to Darien last summer, Kiley’s interest in writing began when she was in first grade at Northeast Elementary School in Stamford.

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Essay contest winners

First place: Kiley Liddell, Ox Ridge School

Second place: Beatrice Anne Schlein, Ox Ridge School

Third place: Lauren Zhang, Hindley School

Honorable mention: Lily Keehlwetter, Royle School

Honorable mention: Sadie Grey Murphy, Tokeneke School

Kiley Liddell’s essay

World War I: Remembering the War to End All Wars

The Great War, the war to end all wars, or the war between nations — those are all names that sound like they must belong to the greatest, most brutal war of all time, and they do. The Great war was so large and vicious that it was almost impossible not to be impacted by it. That means America, my own country, has had a lot of change.

I am Kiley Liddell, a girl growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1918, at the end of the Great War. With all the changes this war has brought to the country, it can be hard to count them. One example has to do with female rights. When all the men left for war, women had to take over for them and do their jobs. This could help with the women’s suffrage movement because people could see that a woman could do any job a man can. For example, my mother went to work at the submarine factory, along with other women in New Haven. Multiple states have already granted women the right to vote, including New York, Michigan, and Oklahoma. If I am able to vote when I’m older, I will consider that a huge step towards women’s rights.

Even though I believe the fact that many men left for war will help the women’s suffrage cause a great deal, the problem starts when they come back. With women doing all the jobs now, returning soldiers don’t have as many job opportunities as they used to. Ever since my father came back from serving in the Navy, he has been unemployed, and I am sure other men from the Navy have had the same problem. I hope all men who served in the war end up employed, because if they risked their lives for this country, they deserve the opportunity to make a living.

Another bad thing to come of the war is the fear of communism, or the Red Scare. Ever since the communist party took over the Russian government, many people I know have been afraid that the same thing will happen to America. People were afraid of attacks from the Russian communists during the war, like bombings, shootings, or raids. Even though the war is over, they are still scared about the possibility of it happening. There are groups that believe in communism in our country, but to be honest, I personally don’t think the same thing that happened to Russia will happen to us. Our country has a lot of security with the Secret Service, immigration security, the FBI, and police departments. Plus, I’m sure President Wilson will do all he can to keep it from happening.

Overall, the Great War has brought a lot of change to the United States, some for the better, and some for the worse. Even though there has been a lot of change, our country is still the land of the free, and the home of the brave. That is what matters.

“My first-grade teacher encouraged me to write and she encouraged me to write screenplays cause I act sometimes, so I read screenplays,” said Kiley, who has appeared in TV shows and film before. “The whole class would put on the production and I’d cast everyone. That’s where I started to like writing. I’ve liked to write ever since.”

Now a fifth-grader at Ox Ridge School, Kiley said she’s continued to enjoy writing historical screenplays, inspired by the American Girls books she read, about topics like colonial Williamsburg and the Pony Express. She also likes writing fantasy as well. This, however, was her first foray into historical nonfiction.

“Screenplays, it’s all dialogue and mostly that,” she said. “This was research and actually talking about what happened. I liked it cause it was different from essays I’ve written for school because I had to write it like I was someone living in that time, like I was a 10-year-old girl living in 1918. I liked that part of it. I thought that was different from anything else I’ve written. It was from my point of view, but it was different.”

In her essay, Kiley wrote from the perspective of a 10-year-old living in New Haven in 1918 at the end of World War I. She discusses how women’s rights, unemployment and a fear of communism all changed after the war ended.

Kiley said she was able to come up with a backstory and decide what issues would affect a 10-year-old’s life by doing research. She said it was a struggle, because many of the available resources only talked about life during the war.

“Instead of an essay where you research and write facts in essay way, I had to make up a partial story background of me because I had to talk a bit about my life and how my life was kind of affected by the problems and good stuff from World War I,” she said. “It was a challenge because I had to come up with that. I couldn’t just make up anything. I had to do research and come up with something like that.”

Nancy said her daughter really dedicated herself to getting started on her research right away when she decided to participate in the voluntary contest. However, her hard work paid off when she won the top prize: first place, along with a winner’s certificate and a gift certificate to Barrett’s Bookstore in Noroton Heights.

Nancy said her daughter really tapped into her acting skills when reading her essay aloud at the awards ceremony.

“When they read them aloud, Kiley had memorized most of the essay,” her mother said. “It was kind of a unique delivery. Her principal said ‘I knew she was an actress, but I’d never really seen it in full effect until today.’”

Kiley’s essay will also go on to the state DAR competition, which Darien students have won the past two years.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata