Audacity and tenacity go hand-in-hand (and I don’t just say that because they sound good together). If there was ever a woman who was both audacious and tenacious, it was Clara Barton.
Audacious: Recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like. [source]
Tenacious: Pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate. [source]
I first read her story in Do Hard Things. As a teen, she devoted herself to nursing her brother, who was recovering from a severe injury, back to health. She went on to teach, serve as a nurse in the Civil War, and start the American Red Cross.
Clara’s tenacity and audacity were displayed early in her teaching job. Fighting for her place in a world dominated by men, she started New Jersey’s first public school, turning societal expectations upside down and attracting 200 students in her first year.
Officials were so impressed that they built a larger school and then hired a man to lead the school Clara started. She resigned and moved to a government position instead. The Civil War began, and Clara did everything she could to assist her country.
After learning of the lack of medical attention on the battlefield, Clara began gathering supplies. She spent a year petitioning the government to allow her to serve the wounded and dying.
Her audacity meant that she would be one of the first women nurses on the battlefield.
Her tenacity caused government leaders to cave.
While on the battlefield, she continued to be tenacious. She brought supplies and relief to doctors and soldiers alike. She refused to give up, even with bullets flying around her. Clara’s willingness to venture into the unusual and unsafe allowed her to change lives.
That’s what it takes to be a hero. We must be audacious, not settling for, “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it.” We must take risks and push for the unconventional. And we must be tenacious. We cannot afford to give up.
Audacity and tenacity are hard because they often go unnoticed. But they’re what change lives. They give us permission to speak up and make our voice credible. We can’t be heroes without them.
For more on Clara Barton: