"Courage Calls to Courage"

The explosion of anger toward sexual predators and the pervasive culture that allows, if not encourages,  sexual harassment, (see my post “The Silence Breakers” https://www.riseupleadershipcoaching.com/blog/2017/12/7/j826uc5u2pg2nlhs9py6l3tbw46evo) has reminded me of the brave women who paved the way for women’s rights.

But when I recently came across this quote, “Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied,” I discovered that I didn’t know anything about its author, Millicent Garrett Fawcett. This year, the centenary of the law granting women over 30 the right to vote in England (which was extended to women over 21 in 1928), a statue of Fawcett will be erected in Parliament Square. She will be holding a placard with this quote. It will be the first statue of a woman, joining men such as Benjamin Disraeli, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. Many of the men memorialized on the Square opposed the vote for women.

Perhaps I never learned about Fawcett because she was overshadowed by the more militant suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst and the Women’s Social and Political Union. Fawcett opposed violence as a strategy. She was the head of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, the largest organization of its kind. In addition to the vote, Fawcett advocated for higher education for women and opposed double standards in the laws about prostitution.

Each generation benefits from the courage of the generation that preceded it, often without knowing much about them. When my daughter began playing in Little League, she asked me what position I had played. I told her that girls weren’t allowed to play when I was her age. “That’s stupid,” she said. She was too young to even imagine a time when the rules were so illogical, or understand the courage it took to change them.

It was inspiring to see generations marching together in Washington D.C. and all over the world last year. Today, we are surrounded by brave women. They are speaking out and running for office. They are taking personal and professional risks.

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When they prevail, succeeding generations may take their hard-won rights for granted. But for many of us, it is our daughters and granddaughters, and our sons and grandsons, for whom we fight.

Barbara ViniarComment