The courage of women

Bertrand Russell

once wrote that a

woman must conceal

her courage if she

wants a man

to like her.


Does he mean silence?

Does he mean submission?

Is he referencing war,

and other masculine views

of courage’s form?


But Russell’s analysis

is of his age,

and not even

of his age,

for he wrote this (circa 1930)

in times of danger,

and times of change,

and in the era of

shifting fortunes,

and in the knowledge of

the history of women’s

courage that didn’t fit

some masculine ideal.


He wrote this in the time

of Amelia Earhart,

who lifted to the sky

with courage unfurled,

in body and in spirit,

and in fullness of mind;

and her pioneering spirit,

and her tenacity

were admired by all,

except, it seems,

Bertrand Russell.


And on the Continent,

away from England’s

devilishly patriarchal ways,

De Beauvoir was moving

courageously bold

in the circles of

Merleau-Ponty and

Levi-Strauss, recreating

and challenging strong

the way women and men

saw themselves.


No, women and courage

have always belonged,

from the ordinary to the famous,

as mutual companions of suffering

and gain in this baffling life of trouble:

through childbirth, loss and the

terror of unrelenting war,

to new ground broken in

female strides and suffrage that

were hardly even written about.


Then on Australian soil,

the pioneers who came

were women oppressed

who became women who

could be free to

find a new spirit of

beginning here;

and so many shone

the light on another way,

such as Louisa Lawson

and her magazine

and her famous son

who shared his

mother’s dream.


No, women have never

concealed their courage

or backed away

in pitiful withdrawal,

to use a category

that is very male;

for they could never

withdraw from life

and from holding this

world together through

tragedy, in triumph

and in the crises that

men have always

brought as the

fruit of their loins.