"Courage calls to courage..."

I am moved by the words of Millicent Fawcett - not so much by the words themselves, but their context.

Millicent Fawcett was a suffragist.  She campaigned for equal rights for women, but shunned violence as a way of achieving it.  In particular she advocated higher education for girls and women as well as arguing for women's enfranchisement. She wanted to ensure women were equipped to wield the power of the vote and to represent themselves and their wants.

But it's her words in response to the death of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davidson, at the Epsom Derby in June 2013, that have been chosen to be incorporated into her statue in Parliament Square:

"Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied."

Emily Davidson was a teacher and a passionate Christian and socialist.  And she believed that violence was justified to further the campaign for women's suffrage, which led to multiple arrests and detention. (One of her fellow suffragettes described her as reckless in her militancy.)

In contrast Millicent Fawcett, widow to a Liberal MP and herself a political campaigner for women's right to vote since before Emily was born, did not support violent protest: "I can never feel that setting fire to houses and churches and litter boxes  and destroying valuable pictures really helps to convince people that women ought to be enfranchised," she said.

So, two women campaigning for the same end from two very different points of view and using very different methods. Emily the passionate militant.  Millicent the political activist.  One fighting from outside the political establishment and one working from within.

And it's their differences that make Millicent's response to Emily's death all the more striking.  Millicent recognised a resonance with the courage shown by Emily and the power of her sacrifice. 

Historians will debate the strength of the impact of their respective positions and activities. Millicent's view was simple - Emily's courage could not be denied.  And I have no doubt that Millicent was emboldened to persevere for the first (albeit limited) suffrage of women in 1918, the same year in which (some) women were permitted to stand for parliament.  

As a country we have much to thank the suffragettes and the suffragists for.  They saw an injustice and sacrificed years of their lives campaigning to overturn it.


What are you passionate about? What do you pour your time and energy into?  What stirs your courage? Where will you speak out and not be denied a voice? Where will you make a difference?

I pray that you find your courage and that you hear the call of others with the same courage and passion and that you take strength from them.