Wednesday 18th May 2022

Women Of Courage Series. #42. Ann. 45/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #42. Ann. 45/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

This woman of courage, Ann who is 70, has known me longer than anyone who would be reading this blog….unless my brother or father do ….and I suspect not.

Ann and I met aged 10 when our family moved from Wollongong to the northern beaches Sydney suburb of Balgowlah Heights. I was placed in 4th class in December 1959 as Dad decided my brother and I should start school before the long summer holidays. I then went into 5th and 6th class with Ann, who had been at the school since Kindergarten. She and her family also lived in the same street as the school and I remember visiting their amazing house.

Sadly, like my parents’ house it no longer looks as it did in those years.

Ann and I also travelled by bus to Manly Girls High School as the foundation students for the 6 years of the education now known so well and we did both the School (Year 10 1965) and Higher School Certificates (Year 12 1967). By the time the senior years came we had different subject choices, friendship groups and futures planned that were tertiary education-based. I went to teaching and she went to architecture.

We lost any connections until the latter years when we found each other via facebook or maybe one of those school groups. I can’t recall. However, before we left Sydney we caught up for those decades having a morning tea together…and discovering for all those preceding years, she and I had probably passed each other quite a few times as Castle Hill’s “Towers” as she and her family, like ours, settled in the north-west of Sydney, not the northern beaches!





What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

I have never considered myself as a particularly courageous person and found myself wondering how to respond to Denyse’s request to take part in her mission, so my first reaction was to look up the meaning of courage. 

“Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery”, “strength in the face of pain or grief”.

After deliberating, I can look back at times during my 70 years of life on Planet Earth where that “ability to do something that frightens” certainly played into action, although I was oblivious of my strength of courage to work through these events at the time. 

My first need to find strength was during 3rd Grade at school, as we had a most terribly strict female teacher who delighted in the use of harsh military tactics and corporal punishment to maintain discipline. The entire class was petrified, scared stiff and united in our fear of this sadistic woman, to the point that her behaviour was a major talking point amongst us when we were out of the classroom.

I remember waking every Monday morning with dread, then thinking to myself that I made it through last week, so I would get through the coming week.

Courage? Yes, and incredibly, I now realise that I have recalled and drawn on this singular experience of that brave little eight-year old girl many, many times.


How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

I was raised by parents who drew no gender barrier in our household of six females and two males, and due to my love and abilities in the artistic and mathematical arenas, selected a career in architecture.

This was a field dominated by men back in the 1960s, but of which I was rather naively oblivious.

After graduation, I had a struggle finding employment as I had to scan the “Positions Vacant, Men and Boys” columns of the daily newspaper and often did not get beyond the receptionist, who was quick to remind me that I was “a girl”.

However, I persevered over months of unsuccessful interviews and finally did find employment with a delightful partnership of three “liberated” young men.

I still faced the difficulties of a young woman dealing with foremen and labourers on building sites and men in local councils who decided I was the receptionist, but that little girl was always there in the back of my head, pushing me to rise above them and whispering “you’ll get through this”.

I am the mother of four children, born six and a half years apart, and when the youngest was just under three years of age, I found it necessary to end my marriage.

I had since moved my design career sideways, running my own business in stage and costume design, which enabled me to work from home.

But…raising my four children, running the home and working my business, all entirely on my own, was hard, hard work.

There was no time out, apart from the school holidays when my wonderful parents and equally wonderful mother-in-law would take two each of the children for a few days, then swap.

There were times of total exhaustion, but I always remembered my 3rd Grade experience, and how I had managed, as an eight-year old, to “make it through” each week.

Over the last eight years, I have dealt with lung cancer on two occasions four years apart, occurring in each lung and requiring radical surgery both times.

I suffered greatly due to a surgical mishap during the first surgery, so when it was necessary to repeat the operation four years later, I was most fearful of the outcome.

Again, that little girl and my years of experience helped me to remain strong, particularly around my now adult children, who were as fearful of possible outcomes as me.


Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I live by the “one day at a time” adage, and it is now obvious to me that my eight-year old self survived her 3rd Grade schooling by taking one day at a time.

Yoga, yoga breathing and meditation follow on from this and both can be done anytime, anywhere.


Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

As an Elder now, I feel that I now have the advantage of many life experiences to fall back on. 

Strange, though, as I had not realised how important a landmark the courage and determination of that little 8-year old girl had become in my life, until I began to ponder upon Denyse’s questions. Thanks, Denyse!


Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

This is a crazy hectic world that we live in, and it is difficult, at times, to not become overwhelmed and fearful.

However, this is your life and you have permission to be selfish about inner peace.

Take time out during times of stress to wind down. 

Relax, breathe slowly and deeply to calm the mind, as it only takes a few minutes to realign.


Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

I give permission to anyone who reads this to use that little voice my that whispered to my 8-year old self: 

“You made it through last week, you’ll make it through this week…”



Thank you Ann. This was a big one for you to respond to and I am most grateful that you did ponder the questions and let your memory and voice through. Getting to 70 and being well is a great outcome. Let’s continue to connect and one day we will be sharing a cuppa again too! 


Here’s a little trip down memory lane which Ann and I shared. Thanks again, Ann!

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 – All rights reserved.



  1. Thankyou for sharing your story Ann. “You made it through last week, you will make it through this week.” I love that and will keep it in mind for those times that I need it

  2. Hello Ann!

    What an incredible story of digging deep on your resilience over the course of your life. That amazing 8 year old little girl has served you well. I wish you continued strength and good health Ann. Thank you for sharing.

    Sandra. Xx

    • Thanks for your kind and generous words for Ann and her story.

      It is good to know that our 8 year old self can teach us resilience.

      Sending you warm wishes!


  3. Thanks for introducing us to Ann, Denyse! How amazing is it that the strength and courage needed throughout a lifetime can be found in the 8 year old version of oneself. I think its fabulous that you’ve recognised this Ann, and drawn on it throughout your life when some courage has been needed. Thank you so much for sharing your story. xo

    • I heartily agree Min.

      We might underestimate some of inner learnings at times, but Ann has recognised and used hers since.

      It sure is a gift to remember and to acknowledge this part of her life taking her into adulthood and as a mother to 4.

      Thanks for your kind words,


  4. Love this interview with Ann! It’s funny isn’t it, we think our ‘courageous’ act needs to be something mammoth or momentous but people do brave and courageous things all of the time. Turning up to things we don’t want to do. Stepping out of our comfort zone.

    I love the fact you’ve had to reflect on a lot of those things here Ann!

    • Thanks so much Deb.

      Yes I agree, courage can be quiet and on-going. It does not always appear as a way to deal with major events. However, it IS courage.

      I loved the story of what Ann’s 8 year old self was able to do to manage back then and add to her skills in the future.


  5. Thank you for paving the way for other women to work in male dominated industries. These days women have far less resistance to them than in the past. And doing it as a single parent is even more inspiring. Thank you for sharing

    • Until I read Ann’s post I had literally forgotten that men’s and women’s jobs were advertised like that!

      Going into teaching as I did in 1970 I was part of the new changes that had just come in from men and women being paid differently and to be treated differently in employment.

      Thanks for those kind words for Ann. She certainly faced a great deal in her life and still does with courage!


  6. Well…I must say I’m quite overwhelmed by these wonderful responses, and thank you to everyone. Credit must go to my dear long-time friend Denyse, as responding to Denyse’s questionnaire became a therapeutic exercise of sorts in itself, and provided some healthy healing of the soul.
    Oh, and one thing I forget – when life becomes overwhelming, nothing like a good brisk walk, to one’s physical capabilities of course, to brush away some of those cobwebs and simultaneously absorb the beauty of our unique planet.
    Best wishes to all,

    • Thank you Ann. Yes, sometimes just getting outside is the one thing that helps more than most. I agree that responding to questions such as these has helped others too and I am glad you found them of benefit.

      Looking forward to a physical catch up when health and COVID allows!

      Take care,


  7. Hi Ann – lovely to meet you here on Denyse’s blog and to read all that you’ve overcome in life. I think raising a family as a sole parent always takes an immense amount of fortitude – and two lots of lung cancer is huge! That little 8 year old girl must have been quite a pillar of strength to be able to continue to inspire you to push through each new challenge.
    Denyse, thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM

    • Thank you Leanne and I agree that Ann sure has overcome very much in her life.

      I enjoy reading her updates on facebook about where we used to live and went to school as she has a much better memory of this than I do.

      We are hoping to catch up again soon too.


  8. How wonderful to have such a long and enduring friendship!

    This was an interesting interview to read.

    My son currently goes to Manly High. I hope he maintains some of his friendships from there for as long as you and Ann have.


    • Thanks so much Ingrid. Yes, I imagine that he could. When we were at (then) Manly Girls HS – now Northern Beaches Freshwater, Manly Boys HS – now Manly Selective HS – I think- was a sometimes of interest! Two of my boyfriends, met whilst still at school, were from MBHS!


  9. What a great read Denyse and Ann, many thanks for sharing some of your story. The lung issues are big issues and I love your mantra, you made it through last week, you can get through this week. So very true!! What an interesting time that would have been looking for work in such a ‘man’s field’ back in the day, and I’m thrilled you and Denyse have maintained contact during the years. #mlstl

    • Yes, Ann has overcome much and continues to challenge herself keeping well (and isolated) during COVID times and living in a place with some land around her.

      Sometimes we forget how far we have come in terms of equal opportunity employment. My entry year to teaching – 1970 – was in the earliest of days in NSW Education changes to public service employment – including equal pay.

      Thank you Debbie,


  10. My internet lost my comment earlier – how dare it! 🙂

    I think what I was saying is that while my experiences in male dominated industries has generally been good – there are certainly times I’ve snapped at people (sorry to say, men) for their attitudes. Thankfully they’ve generally realised and kept working together well after it.

    • Sorry about the internet.

      I have had a few issues of late with it deciding to do or not do stuff I want.

      Interesting to know how men are the ones who you have crossed paths with…and words…as need be. I have found some women can be like that too. Sigh.

      Thanks Vanessa,


    • Hi Vanessa,
      Fortunately, over the 50 years years and consequent generations since I walked out into that big wide world, there is no longer that sharp differentiation between men’s and women’s work.
      I have some humorous “man” stories, one concerning a foreman on a new school we had designed. I worked from 8am to 4:30pm, so as to avoid traffic, and this foreman called at about 8:30 one morning with a question about a small detail of one of the buildings. As I was the only one in the office, I took the call, and of course he thought I was the receptionist, but I went straight to the detail drawing in question (because I had drawn up all the 100 or so details) and solved his problem for him. The next day he rang again, with another “query”, and this went on for about 2 weeks until he realised that he couldn’t trap me. We all had a laugh!

      • Oh I smiled at this Ann. As female principal I was asked a few times by visiting workmen, could I direct them to the principal…..Nuff said!

  11. I was reading Ann’s opening paragraph and thought how common it is for us to feel we haven’t been courageous and yet that little 8 year old girl had courage in spades which built the resilience that you have today. A wonderful mantra for any age and thank you Ann for sharing your story with Denyse and here at #MLSTL. Take care and Namaste. x

    • Thank you Sue, I am glad the post Ann shared made you think…as it does for us all. To remember and to call on the little girl of 8 is indeed amazing and perhaps insightful into how even those childhood experiences can spur us on.