Inspiring People

Rosa Parks

Rosa is known as “the mother of the civil rights movement.”

Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Alabama, on February 4, 1913, later marrying Raymond Parks. Rosa and Raymond lived in a time and place where segregation was law. These laws meant that there were ‘whites only’ and ‘blacks only’ schools, drinking fountains, libraries, toilets, clubs and so forth. To frequent the ‘wrong’ facility meant breaking the law. There were also segregation laws on public buses. 

On a rainy day in 1943, Rosa boarded a bus and paid her fare. She then tried to take a seat, but the driver instructed her to follow city rules. Due to her race, it was prescribed that after paying her fare, Rosa should leave the bus and enter again via the back door. Rather than complying with these demeaning rules, Rosa left the bus, waiting instead, in the rain, for the next bus.

12 years later, on 1st December 1955, Rosa climbed aboard a bus to travel home after work. The bus driver was the same driver as she had encountered 12 years earlier. The seating on the bus was also segregated. The front was reserved for ‘whites’. Rosa took a seat in the front row of the ‘coloured section’. As the bus continued on it’s way, the ‘whites’ section filled, and the bus driver noticed a few white people standing. Therefore, he decided to extend the ‘whites’ section of the bus to include the row Rosa occupied, along with 3 other people. Rosa, and the 3 other people in her row were instructed to give up their seats for the standing ‘whites’. Although the other 3 people complied, Rosa moved only to the window seat in the row in which she was sitting. The bus driver threatened to call the police. Rosa remained seated. The police were called, and Rosa was arrested.

Although Rosa lost her case when she went to court, the Montgomery bus boycott was organised for the day of her trial. Rather than catching the bus to school or work that day, thousands of people stayed home, or found other means of transportation, many walked up to 30km to their place of work. Rosa appealed her conviction and formally challenged the racial segregation laws.

This inspired the people of the community to the “Montgomery Improvement Association”, to organise further boycotts in protest of the segregation laws. The reverend Martin Luther King Jr., was elected as the group president.

The black residents of Montgomery continued the bus boycott for 381 days. This severely affected the bus company’s finances. The city of Montgomery then overturned segregation on public buses. (The US Supreme Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle found that it was unconstitutional).

Unfortunately, it did not end here, for Rosa or for the community. Both Rosa and her husband lost their jobs. Rosa also received many death threats, and the family left the city.

Rosa became windowed, and lost her only sibling in 1977. Her last living blood relative, her mother, died in 1979. Rosa continued to experience hardships throughout her life.

She died of natural causes on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92.

I admire Rosa, not just for what she did, but for what she didn’t do.

She didn’t give in. The laws surrounding segregation were passed before Rosa was born. She hadn’t known any other way of life. But she knew that nobody deserved to be treated, or should be expected to behave as a second class citizen, least of all because of her race.

This is a very simplified account of her life and actions. I urge you to read more. She has written accounts of her own life, which I hope you will find interesting reading.

Nancy Wake

Nancy Wake was born in New Zealand on the 30th August 1912. Her parents moved the family to Australia while Nancy was a toddler, and raised their children here.

Nancy had a rebellious streak, and as a teenager ran away to the U.K where she trained as a journalist. She later married a wealthy man, and they were enjoying life together, until he was called up to serve in WW2. Nancy decided to sign up as an ambulance driver. 

Nancy, however, soon became a part of resistance organisations in Europe. She quickly gained the respect of the men and women she fought with, and she helped to  save hundreds of lives. The Nazi’s gave her the nickname ‘The White Mouse’, due to the way she continually managed to evade them. She was one of the ‘most wanted’ by the gestapo; and became one of the most heavily decorated allied service persons. 

Nancy not only evaded the gestapo, and survived the war, but lived until she was 98 years of age. 

She lived her life her way. Nancy saved hundreds of lives during WW2, and inspired, and continues to inspire many with her life story.

I, for one as immediately inspired by Nancy, on hearing her story. Growing up, I had many influences around me, telling me that females could not and would not be allowed to enter this ‘man’s world’, and would not be successful if they tried. And yet, here was one of many inspiring women who had done exactly that. Nancy didn’t wait for permission to be who she wanted to be. She took hold of her life by both hands and became who she wanted to be.

“I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.” – Nancy Wake

Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn’t matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living. – Nancy Wake (‘The White Mouse’. WW2 heroine).

We are very lucky living in Australia. We have our freedom. Unlike a number of countries, whose people may be jailed, or simply ‘disappear’ if they are known to dislike their government, or seek some change. 

We can (& do) say what we like, giving our opinions freely in relation to our PM, other politicians, political parties, public figures; and how they handle various situations. If we want to make a change, we are not afraid to say so. Or even to take action to try and implement these changes.

Our freedoms are only restricted where we impinge on the freedoms of others.

Don Bradman

Donald Bradman was born 27th August 1908.

Don Bradman is still heralded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. His cricketing career spanned decades. He represented Australia from 1928- 1948. He captured the hearts of the nation when there was little else to look forward to. Don Bradman gave Australians something positive to grasp onto, in the otherwise bleakness of the world situation. The Australian economy had suffered greatly in the early 1920s, largely due to the oversupply of Australia’s primary exports. Australia experienced a harsh recession, and high levels of unemployment. When the stock market crash occurred in 1929, it led to the Great Depression, affecting the global community.

World War 2 was declared in September 1939. Australians were sent overseas to fight, and to care for the wounded.  Husbands, fathers, and sons and daughters were sent overseas leaving wives, children, parents and sweethearts at home to worry over them, miss them terribly and not know when or even if they would be coming home. The people left at home were trying to carry on, many hearing the devastating news of the loss of loved ones, killed as a result of the war. But also, making do. Rationing was brought in. Daily life involved scrimping and saving, nothing was to be discarded. Wastage was a distant memory.

Don Bradman brought a glimmer of hope to Australia & Australians. He gave them something to smile about, to be proud of, and to unite them in jubilation. 

Cricket ball in the foreground with cricketers playing in the background.

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