10 Middle Children Who Really Stood Out
By Suzanne Raga
They say that eldest children are more likely to be high achievers and youngest children are more likely to be rebellious, where does that leave middle children? Despite the fact that studies have shown that birth order has no bearing on personality or intelligence, the stereotype of the middle child as continually ignored, invisible, or inadequate persists. But not all middle children supposedly stay in the shadows of their older and younger siblings. Here are 10 middle children—from the worlds of literature, politics, philanthropy, sports, music, and acting—who really stood out.
1. ERNEST HEMINGWAY
Best known for writing A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and The Sea, Ernest Hemingway is one of the most acclaimed authors of the 20th century. With his one older and four younger siblings, Hemingway grew up immersed in nature—often fishing and hunting—which heavily influenced his writing. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
2. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE
Author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Connecticut in 1811. Besides novels, she wrote short stories, travel memoirs, textbooks, biographies, and religious works. As the sixth of 11 children, she was smack dab in the middle of her siblings. Although some of her siblings became notable in their own right—her brothers were ministers while her sisters worked to get women the right to vote and the opportunities for education—Beecher Stowe stood out for her contribution to the antislavery movement with her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
3. LARRY BIRD
February 1988. Getty
Born in Indiana in 1956, Larry Bird, along with his three older and two younger siblings, grew up poor. In high school, he focused on honing his basketball skills but later dropped out of college to drive a garbage truck. After his father committed suicide, Bird returned to school and began playing basketball for the Boston Celtics in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, his consistency, diligence, and skill on the court impressed fans, earning him the nickname Larry Legend. According to the former commissioner of the National Basketball Association, "Larry Bird has helped define the way a generation of basketball fans has come to view and appreciate the NBA." After retiring in 1992, Bird became a basketball coach and consultant.
4. WARREN BUFFETT
As one of the world’s wealthiest people, investor Warren Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha. Born in 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska, Buffett had one older and one younger sister. As a teenager, he worked a paper route, sold soft drinks, and rented out land to make money. Although he’s now in his mid eighties, he’s still the chairman and CEO of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, and the billionaire contributes large sums of money to charities such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
5. PRINCESS DIANA
Diana Frances Spencer—who later became Diana, Princess of Wales—had two older sisters and a younger brother. She used her power as a royal figure to work for humanitarian organizations around the world. Notably, throughout the 1980s and '90s, she raised awareness of the dangers of landmines, helped AIDS patients, and supported children’s hospitals. To honor her legacy, her younger brother, Charles Spencer, recently announced the Diana Awards, which will be given to London kids and teens who campaign for anti-bullying and other social causes.
6. SOFIA VERGARA
Although she’s now famous around the world for her starring role as Gloria on Modern Family, Sofia Vergara grew up in Barranquilla, Colombia as one of five kids. In the 1990s, she hosted Spanish-language TV shows for Univision, but a thyroid cancer diagnosis in 2000 forced her to pause her career. After treatment, she beat the cancer and has since campaigned to raise awareness for hypothyroidism, and has served as a spokeswoman for Synthroid, a thyroid medication.
7. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s older sister, Christine King Farris, is an author and teacher at Spelman College, and his younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King, was a minister and civil rights activist. But middle child MLK Jr. (born Michael King Jr.) will forever be remembered for his work to achieve racial equality and civil rights for all Americans. King led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, advocated for nonviolent forms of protest, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
8. BILL GATES
Like his friend Warren Buffett, Bill Gates grew up with an older and a younger sister. Born in Seattle in 1955, Gates started programming as a teenager and ultimately started Microsoft with Paul Allen. With his wife, Gates established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to focus on philanthropy. The foundation works to improve educational opportunities and global health.
9. AVRIL LAVIGNE
Growing up with one older brother and one younger sister in a small Canadian town, Avril Lavigne said "see ya later boy" to her hometown and signed a record deal at age 16. She has since sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. In 2010, she established the Avril Lavigne Foundation to partner with nonprofits that focus on children and health. Her foundation has supported music therapy for sick children, sponsored Special Olympics athletes, and provided treatment for kids and young adults with Lyme disease.
10. THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Theodore Roosevelt, the second of four siblings, and was the youngest person ever to become president. A hero in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt served as New York’s governor and the country’s vice president before becoming president in 1901. He broke up monopolies, participated in the Panama Canal’s construction, won a Nobel Peace Prize, conserved lands for public use, and, hilariously, popularized a number of still-used phrases, such as square deal and pussyfooting.