In my blog for International Women’s Day on 8th March, I asked which woman had inspired you. There were lots of nominations, from Jane Austen to the late Princess of Wales. They were all great, but one entry really stood out. Congratulations to Dorinda Cass, who nominated the English nun Mary Ward.
Mary was an exceptional woman. Born around the time when Sir Walter Raleigh was setting up the first colony in North America, she was incredibly brave to travel as far and wide as she did, and all on foot. Her later life proves there was at least one still, small voice of calm in England, despite the turmoil of the Civil War.
Here’s Dorinda’s winning entry:
I find Mary Ward (1585 – 1646) an inspiration. She was born in Yorkshire during the English Reformation when Roman Catholics were persecuted and even executed for their faith. In time she was called to the religious life, regardless of the danger. She entered a monastery in France but found she wanted to be active in the community rather than living a secluded life. Travelling throughout Europe, on foot, she founded schools for girls.
In 1631 she was imprisoned in Munich as a heretic. Eventually, she returned to the north of England with her own religious community where she established a convent in Heworth near York. She survived the siege of York but died the following year in Heworth.
She is buried in the churchyard at Osbaldwick, near York. Her tombstone is now inside St Thomas’ church in the village. During her life she said that “There is no difference between men and women that women may not do great matters…and I hope in God it will be seen that women in time to come will do much.”
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI conferred the title of ‘Venerable’ on her. Although not a Catholic, or even especially religious, I think it is inspirational the way, against all odds and difficulties, one of which was simply being a woman, she was determined to do what she thought right. And she succeeded. Her view on women and what they are capable of was ahead of its time. It remains inspirational and relevant in the twenty-first century.
Contact me with your address, Dorinda, and I’ll put your signed copy of Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol into the post.
Thanks again to everyone for their suggestions!