Friday Feminist – Freda du Faur

An eminent professor of biology has often attempted to convince me that the mental and physical strain of sixteen hours’ mountaineering is too great for a woman’s constitution. I certainly do not agree with him. The strain on a woman who is physically fit is not so heavy as he thinks it is, and is not to be compared to the nervous and mental tension which has to be endured by a trained hospital nurse who tends a difficult case for sixteen hours. I have tried both, and I know that the exercise, the invigorating air, and the healthy excitement of a big climb outweigh the nervous and physical strain. A few hours’ sleep and the latter are forgotten, while the effects of the former are in evidence in a sense of physical fitness which I never experienced until I took up mountaineering.

With nursing, which I undertook for love of the profession, as I did mountaineering, the cases were reversed. Unable to finish my training I came out of hospital a wreck, simply because the mental strain on a sensitive, highly strung nature had been too great. Many times since then I ave nursed friends and relations, and I know nothing in mountaineering so trying as being solely responsible for a delirious patient, whose very life may depend on your ability to persuade him to do the thing he does not wish to; that kind of strain, unduly prolonged and attended by want of proper sleep, air, and exercise, ends in a breakdown. Mountaineering, on the contrary, daily increases one’s strength and vigour.

Do what you will, modern life demands stress and strain; the biologist may regret it, but the time has passed when the great majority of women could, even if they would, lead the life of an animated jelly-fish. To live at all means to grow, and growth, mental, moral or physical, is not attained by floating with the current, but by fighting against it. The men and women who develop physically, mentally, and morally, are surely worth more to teh race than those that attain maturity at twenty-one, and at that advanced age settle all life’s problems, and then live in bovine placidity to a green old age.

Freda du Faur, The Conquest of Mount Cook and Other Climbs: An Account of Four Seasons’ Mountaineering on the Southern Alps of New Zealand, 1915.

Thank you to M-H, for first telling me about Freda du Faur.


6 responses to “Friday Feminist – Freda du Faur

  1. I first heard about Freda last year from my sister who works in Mt cook, what an amazing woman who did what she wanted to do in an environment that can be extremely harsh. I might have to read her book at some stage.

  2. You’re welcome. Thanks for bringing her name to wider attention.

  3. A former Dunedin woman, Sally Irwin, wrote a biography about Freda. It’s called Between Heaven and Earth and was published by White Crane in 2000.

  4. Thanks, anon non. I’ve borrowed a copy of Sally Irwin’s book too, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’m hoping to read it and maybe do a post on her… but we shall see.

    I borrowed a lovely old volume of Freda du Faur’s own book and I was flicking idly through it and reading bits here and there when I came across the piece I quoted.

  5. Thanks for this, Deborah – she’s articulated very beautifully why I have been going “pfft” at all these articles in the press at the moment about Why All the Women are So Unhappy These Days (Since they Got all these Choices the Silly Things).