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There have been notable Queens in more recent times, as well. Eleanor Roosevelt, a shy, self-conscious, and naturally retiring woman, was thrust feet first into the limelight when she became First Lady of the United States in 1933 at the age of forty-eight. Though this new role was extremely painful for her, rather than allow herself to be intimidated by living a public life, she consciously chose to use her visibility and enormous influence to further the causes of social justice in which she so firmly believed.
She became an outspoken crusader for the rights of the oppressed, a self-imposed rule that lasted long after her tenure in the White House, and she remained an active advocate for equality, peace and freedom for the rest of her life. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” she later declared. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
Following this dictum, in 1955 Rosa Parks, a forty-two-year-old seamstress, sat down in the front of the bus in Birmingham, Alabama and refused to relinquish her seat to a white man when the driver ordered her to do so. The popular legend says that she was tired after a hard day’s work, and her feet hurt.
No doubt, but surely her feet had ached for years. It seems to me that she had simply reached a now-or-never-point in her life when she was willing to accept the awesome responsibility for defending herself, for demanding to be treated with the dignity and respect that she knew she deserved — come what may.
Her life, indeed the life of the entire nation, was never to be the same. What resulted from her spontaneously courageous decision was nothing less than the legal equality of the races, which was probably the furthest thing on her mind that fateful day. But when a Queen stands up to opposition or oppression in any form and speaks Her truth out loud, She steps into Her sovereignty and there is no turning back.
They tell me nothing but lies here, and they think they can break my spirit. But I believe what I choose and say nothing. I am not so simple as I seem.
- Catherine of Aragon, Spanish Queen of England, 1485-1536
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.