'After all, we're women. We do things'

When Anna Bligh lost government in March this year I wrote to her. I'd been in Banff during the Brisbane floods in 2011, and I had been so proud of my State's Premier. Even my Canadian friends noticed her fierce love and intellect, her command of the dreadful situation the city faced.

In my letter, I told Anna Bligh I thought she'd been a wonderful role model of leadership in difficult times, particularly for women who are still marginalised from leadership in the world. And anyone who doesn't believe that only needs to see reports this week of a child in Pakistan shot for believing women have a right to an education.

Although I didn't say so in my letter, I was moved to write Anna Bligh at least in part because I had seen social media pages so dedicated to hating her. I will not repeat the names she was called, the comments about her body, things about her personally, even threats of violence, that had nothing to do with governing the state of Queensland. These comments came not from one or two people but from hundreds. They shocked me. I couldn't put them together with something as ordinary as voting. Even a Queensland Premier charged in the seventies with terrible crimes wasn't vilified like Anna Bligh was vilified, and like Julia Gillard has been vilified. And if these women dare to say, as Gillard did this week, that any of this is because they are women, someone jumps down their throats and accuses them of playing the gender card.

I wanted a way to make public what I thought about Anna Bligh, so I asked her if she might launch my new novel, In Falling Snow, which is also about women in leadership in difficult times. She agreed and did the novel proud last week, offering a thoughtful and positive reflection on writing, women and courage. It made me love her even more and would have been enough to re-dedicate me to my craft of writing if the current state of the world were not enough to make anyone want to write.

The Scottish women doctors took their hospital to France in World War I, battling first their own British War Office - "Go home and sit still," they were told, then the French medical establishment, which didn't think women could be surgeons, and then the dreadful treatment of soldiers which the women would not stand for. With not much more than the clothes on their backs and a canny gift for fundraising, in a rundown old abbey these Scottish women set up one of the best hospitals in the Sommes region. They were extraordinary.

In the novel, Miss Frances Ivens who ran the hospital is a lot like the wonderful women who dare to be leaders in the current climate. In response to just about any difficulty life throws at her, Miss Ivens looks squarely at the questioner and says. "After all, we're women. We do things." I love her almost as much as I love Anna Bligh, for her courage and fierce determination. It gives me hope for the world.

 
Transient