Four Brave Women

This article contains a brief synopsis of four books written about the lives of six ladies who demonstrated great bravery and courage in their lives.  These women endured hardship and danger well beyond the experiences of most women, yet they didn’t give up on the principles they believed in.   The women featured in these books showed great resolve in doing what they recognized as the “right thing to do.”

 1.  “The Girl from Botany Bay” - by Carrolly Erickson:

This is the true story of a young English girl named Mary Broad (Bryant), who was very poor and was forced to live a life of thievery.  In 1786 she was caught and convicted of highway robbery.   

 After her conviction, she was sent to a penal colony in Australia enduring a treacherous 15,000 mile voyage to get there.  A baby daughter was born to her on the way to Australia and a son was born shortly after her arrival.  After being imprisoned for a time, Mary, her husband, her two small children along with seven other prisoners escaped, stole a ship, and headed for Indonesia.

 While in Indonesia their true identity was discovered, and they were sent back to England for execution. Their voyage back to England was worse than the first trip. They experienced wild storms, a near drowning, thirst and hunger, and disease that killed her two children.  Her bravery and courage got her through many dangerous situations.

 Upon returning to England, she gave a great performance in front of the judge, who then felt that she had paid for her crime. James Boswell, her attorney, agreed and later paved the way for her freedom and the beginning of a new life.  This book is also a commentary on the life of the times - starving conditions in England and the difficult conditions of penal life in Australia.

 2. “Ice Bound: A Doctor’s Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole” - by Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers:

 In the first part of the book, Jerri Nielsen, explains how she became a research physician at the South Pole in 1999.  She had been working as an emergency room physician, and was going through an upsetting divorce involving abuse. She decided that she needed to “get away.”

 Answering an ad for a physician to care for a team of research scientists, she headed for the Antarctic. Her description of the austere atmosphere and the isolated life of the team are breath-taking.  Nielsen and the research team were to spend the winter at the South Pole, where there was no way in or out during the winter.

 In the second part of the book, Nielsen finds a lump in her breast, does a biopsy on herself, and discovers it was a very fast-growing form of cancer.  She used resilience, calmness and clear thinking to try to teach her team-mates to help with treatment.  She used what resources she had to communicate with the outside world - e-mail and satellite.  Finally, with the unselfish efforts of many, she was rescued.  The author takes her readers through many emotions of self-discovery and shows just how much a human is capable of when faced with tremendous challenges.

 3.  “Yankee Women:  Gender Battles in the Civil War” - by Elizabeth D. Leonard:

 The author tells the stories of three women who struggled to take part in the Civil War. They attempted to gain a new status for women, despite the barriers put up by many of the soldiers.  Letters and journals, as well as historical documents, were used to authenticate her account. 

 Sophronia Bucklin was a volunteer nurse, Annie Wittenmyer worked as a soldier’s activist, and Mary Walker was a licensed physician.  They worked tirelessly on the front lines without any pay.  Their co-workers and superiors were constantly “on their case” for their unwomanly behavior.  They were criticized for wearing clothing unfitting for a woman, and for not staying in their place – at home. Mary Walker, the doctor, after working all through the Civil War with no compensation had her application for a Congressional Medal of Honor rejected several times. She finally received the well-deserved medal some years later.

 After the war, these women’s steadfastness, bravery and courage as women paved the way for changes in attitudes toward women’s roles and recognition for their work.

 4. “Iran Awakening:”   A Memoir of Revolution and Hope -by Shirin Eads with Azadeh Moaveni:

 Shirin Ebadi, of Iran, was brought up in a loving, middle class family in Iran, until  the turmoil of the 1979 Revolution. Then her life changed – her marriage ended and as a lawyer, she struggled to help the oppressed, and raised her family alone. Becoming the first female judge in her country was a triumph, but ended in defeat when she was demoted to courtroom clerk.  Eventually earning her right to be a lawyer again, she worked hard defending women and children in difficult cases involving human rights.  She hated the injustice of the system.  She was arrested and faced the possibility of assassination.  Despite all, she remained strong to the cause of change in an oppressive society.   She became the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

 All these women were willing to step out of their comfort zone.  By doing so they strengthened their own character, but also led the way for other women to follow in their footsteps.