Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, has attracted some ridicule for suggesting that there should be a cabinet composed entirely of women, the better to deal with Brexit.
Anyone who was educated in a convent boarding school would see nothing whatsoever to ridicule in a governing body entirely composed of women.
Some of those old-style nuns could have commanded a battlefield without moving a muscle. I have known Mother Superiors who could quell a regiment with just one stern look.
Cabinet government would have been no trouble to them at all.
Nuns come in for a fair amount of flak these days – and, as in any community, there would be flawed characters in any sisterhood – but they were often remarkably capable women who, in effect, ran great estates.
Those who founded religious orders – from St Bridget of Sweden to Mother Mary Aikenhead, from Mary Ward to the formidable Mother Teresa of Calcutta – were women of iron will and a driving sense of purpose.
A witness who watched Mother Teresa encounter Margaret Thatcher remarked: “It was steel meets steel!”
Mary Martin, who founded the dynamic Medical Missionaries of Mary, set out to deliver medical care to all of Africa, and arranged for nun-doctors to fly their own aircraft in that endeavour.
So us convent girls would say to Ms Lucas: “You want a cabinet of women? Bring it on!”
However, when we get down to the detail, you’d still have to select the right candidate – as you would with any bunch of chaps.
In Northern Ireland, three women were entrusted to run the province in recent times: Arlene Foster, Michelle O’Neill and Karen Bradley. They ended up barely on speaking terms, and Ms Bradley, appointed by Theresa May, earned herself a reputation for cluelessness, after admitting she didn’t realise Nationalists and Unionists voted differently.
So first off, Ms Lucas: choose your women!
A recent report claimed that “Facebook” friends can be better than real neighbours. Surely not: a good neighbour is a godsend – we are enjoined to “love our neighbour”, since we often need them.
But electronic media can keep people in touch, and bring old friends together. An 82-year-old pal told me that she is now in contact with friends and acquaintances she hadn’t seen in years – because Facebook has linked them up.
Sometimes social media can also facilitate actual reunions too. Thus I joined a lunch last week of a group of feminists I had known forty years ago, which was fun.
In our youth we had many differences: the Marxists versus the Catholics, the “ameliorists” versus the revolutionaries. But in the senior years, so much of these adversarial stances just slip away.
We agreed that we get more tolerant with age. Maybe because we have seen that everyone has their private struggles, their crosses, their challenges – and you don’t always know what personal anguish any other person may be going through.
And I guess that realisation only comes with experience.
During the month of August, I’m offering a weekly poem short enough to accord with the age of Twitter. Adam Lindsay Gordon wrote his philosophy of life, “Life is Mostly Froth and Bubble”, in just 38 words: the last four lines entered the English language as a counsel of kindness.
Question not, but live and labour
Till yon goal be won,
Helping every feeble neighbour,
Seeking help from none;
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
Lindsay Gordon led an adventurous, troubled and finally tragic life, dying by his own hand in 1870 aged 36.
He was born of Scottish parents and went to Australia to join the mounted police, but quit a steady career to become a horse-breaker, steeple-chaser and sheep-farmer.
He admitted to a streak of “fecklessness” in his character but he also had bad luck: he met with accidents, loss of fortune, his wife left him and his only child died.
His poetry didn’t sell in his lifetime, but he gathered followers after his death and is accorded a place at Westminster Abbey.
Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4
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