Nellie McClung was one of the most important leaders of Canada’s first wave of feminism, and she is still remembered for her role in the famous “Person’s Case” which saw Canadian women declared persons in 1929.
How astounding…Canadian women were declared persons just over 80 years ago. Can you imagine then, how much courage it took for Nellie McClung to make the following statement in 1890?
Never retreat, never explain, never apologize–get the thing done and let them howl.
Nellie McClung, 1873-1951
Never apologize? How cutting edge of Nellie.
Women do have a socialized tendency to over-apologize. My sister, mom and I have had many comical conversations over the years, unconsciously competing with one another to see who can apologize most and last. We have even apologized for things we have absolutely no control over…like the weather. It reaches ridiculous proportions. After all, what have we done that requires 20 minutes of apologizing to each other?
And then there’s the propensity we have to hide our opinions and insight:
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer in our souls.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, speech to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1890
How many passions do women ignore because they worry that someone will question their motives, challenge their skill level, or consider them too bold? After all, if we step forward and speak our truth, we could be branded too loud. Or too confident. Or too presumptuous. Or wanting too much.
So we shrink down, hide our gifts, and suppress our ideals so that we won’t attract too much attention. What if we fail miserably, publicly, and have to apologize for thinking that we could aim so high? Or, what if we become the target of resentment because our large thinking makes everyone around us uncomfortable?
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us.
I decided a few years ago that I was going to start trying to do what my heart and soul told me to do, regardless of what others might think or say. It took practice, but Nellie’s “Let them howl…” was a pretty effective call to action for me. It reminded me that whatever I felt called to do, whatever I was passionate about, I needed to stop with the explanations and retreating and just get “the thing done.”
Want to know a secret? This once very shy young girl kind of likes being a revolutionary like Nellie.
Especially when there’s the sound of howling in the background.