Women behaving bravely

Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Blog, News, Women's equality issues | 8 comments

International Women’s Day One million signatures/Hugo/flickr

I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery recently, particularly the bravery of women. Wherever I look I find examples of women who have stood their ground against some rather unpleasant odds.

This year’s 100th anniversary of the first British women to get the vote is an obvious starting point.  The more I read and learn about women facing arrest, imprisonment, force feeding and general shaming, the more I am astounded by their insistence and  persistence in the light of such treatment.

It takes guts to speak out against sexual harassment; whatever you think about #MeToo, it’s not easy to go public with this sort of information.

Then there are all the extraordinarily courageous black women who fought slavery and oppression in the US. February 4th was Rosa Parks’s birthday. We have featured her on damesnet before – take a look at: https://damesnet.com/?page_id=961. In 1955 Ms Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery,  Alabama, to a white man; the rest is history, but what gave her the strength to defy a status quo that seemed so much more powerful than a single person?

On holiday in the US a few years ago, I visited Memphis, host to a wealth of musical and political history. One of the key attractions is the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 50 years ago. One of the exhibits is a bus, which you board from the back. As you move towards the front, a voice is triggered that barks at you to move to the back of the bus. It is loud, shocking and momentarily scary, and it’s just a museum exhibit …

It’s also brave to stand up against a small group of right-wing hard Brexiteers who seem incapable of accepting that their vision of the future of the UK might not be the best for the majority of the population. The Conservative MP Anna Soubry has been greatly vilified for voicing her views on Brexit from the back benches – views that do not concur with those of the Prime Minister and her Cabinet. Ms Soubry has received threats in the mainstream press and online, yet she won’t ‘calm down, dear’, as ‘Dave’ once said so memorably to MP Angela Eagle.

Over in Iran, a country not well known for human rights, there are some very brave women currently protesting at the state’s insistence on the wearing of the hijab in public.  All they want is the right to choose what they wear, rather than have the ‘morality police’ decide for them.

I haven’t done anything nearly as brave as any of these people. I was trying desperately to think of my bravest act to date, and one event came to mind. My best friend when I was a child was a year older than me. She was bigger and more fearless when it came to physical exploits, and was always suggesting scary things that we might do, such as jumping off that high wall, or climbing up a tree in the nearby woods. There was never an option for me to refuse or admit to being frightened.

One day she surpassed herself: we were playing in the garden of her house, and our task was to step out of a low window, creep along the ledge and jump on to the roof of the garden shed, conveniently situated nearby. I was completely terrified but somehow managed it.

Thank goodness for people like my friend and the Rosa Parkses of this world who embolden us to go where we might not have dared to on our own..



  1. i think my bravest deed was refusing further chemotherapy, but the courage to do this was inspired by the courage i managed to muster up when my husband was fatally ill, when i managed to take hold of the family finances and do them myself in spite of his aphasia rendering him unable to tell me any of his online passwords. after seeing him through illness and death and moving from California to Oregon, where i knew no one, i realized that i was done with being a good little soldier, and went very much against doctor’s orders. not out of despair, as i would love a few more years, but out of the need to feel a sense of agency that these blows of fate had denied me. what does not kill me makes me stronger…until it does kill me. which thought amuses me greatly.

    • That’s bravery Valerie!

  2. Another thought provoking article and one that I was anticipating! I watched the film ‘Suffragette’ last night which although fictional shows the immense bravery of working class women who gave up everything for the cause. Did they really believe it would change their lives? An interesting film.

    Now Rosa Parks, there was a brave lady. I too visited the museum and boarded the bus and was similarly affected. It sticks in my memory .
    As Barbara says, hats off to these women. I don’t think I’m that brave.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I haven’t yet seen the film, so will be looking out for it.

  3. I don’t see it as being brave standing up to the authorities about my son being institutionalized yet again. The quality of attitude I’d recommend is to be fearless. Love sends fear away, love rocks and gives you a great feeling. Loved the above by the way thanks x

    • I guess being fearless and brave cross over sometimes, but not always…

  4. I’m awestruck when I hear about these brave acts…and fascinated by the difference between fearlessness and courage…apparently only people who ‘feel the fear but do it any way’ can be called courageous. One of my all time favourite books is ‘The courage to create’ by Rollo May, it’s only a short book but full of wise and original ideas.
    Yes, love gives enormous strength and so does faith …and sometimes we are much braver defending others than ourselves.Thanks for all the inspiring stories, dames….

    • Thanks for the feedback, and for the follow up reading suggestion!

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