Quotations by Women
From Golda Meir to Whoopi Goldberg
Compiled by Ann Marie Imbornoni
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I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.
Diane Ackerman (1948-present) quoted in Newsweek, September 22, 1986
Deliver me from your cold phlegmatic preachers, politicians, friends, lovers and husbands.
Abigail Adams (1744-1818) Letter to John Adams, August 5, 1776
Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation.
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) on the campaign for divorce law reform, 1860
She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older - the natural sequence of an unnatural beginning.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) Persuasion (1818)
One is not born a woman, one becomes one.
Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) The Second Sex (1949-1950)
I've been a woman for a little over 50 years and have gotten over my initial astonishment. As for conducting an orchestra, that's a job where I don't think sex plays much part.
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) on becoming the first woman to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra, recalled on her death, International Herald Tribune, October 23, 1979
Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President's spouse. I wish him well!
Barbara Bush (1925-present) remarks at Wellesley College Commencement, June 1, 1990
I am neither a man nor a woman but an author.
Charlotte Bront (1816-1855) Letter to William Smith Williams, August 16, 1848
No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by popular opinion.
Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) Speech at the Senate hearing on woman's suffrage, February 13, 1900
We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily difference we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.
Marian Wright Edelman (1939-present) Families in Peril (1987)
Feminism's agenda is basic: It asks that women not be forced to 'choose' between public justice and private happiness.
Susan Faludi (1959-present) Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991)
Toughness doesn't have to come in a pinstripe suit.
Dianne Feinstein (1933-present) on women's role in government, quoted in Time magazine, June 4, 1984
Parents can only give good advice or put them [children] on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.
Anne Frank (1929-1945) Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1952) entry for July 15, 1944
The problem that has no name - which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities - is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.
Betty Friedan (1921-2006) The Feminine Mystique (1963)
I now know all the people worth knowing in America, and I find no intellect comparable to my own.
Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli (1852)
show me someone not full of herself and i'll show
you a hungry person
Nikki Giovanni (1943-present) "Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like" (1970)
An actress can only play a woman. I'm an actor, I can play anything.
Whoopi Goldberg (1949?-present) quoted on the Today show, 13 January 1986
Is it too much to ask that women be spared the daily struggle for superhuman beauty in order to offer it to the caresses of a subhumanly ugly mate?
Germaine Greer (1939-present) The Female Eunuch (1970)
I am gradually approaching the period in my life when work comes first. . . . No longer diverted by other emotions, I work the way a cow grazes.
Kaethe Kollwitz (1867-1945) diary entry, April 1910
The king was pregnant.
Ursula Le Guin (1929-present)The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
None of you [men] ask for anything - except everything, but just for so long as you need it.
Doris Lessing (1919-present) The Golden Notebook (1962)
By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) Gift from the Sea (1955)
I decided it is better to scream. . . . Silence is the real crime against humanity.
Nadezhda Mandelstam (1899-1980) Hope Against Hope (1970)
If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.
Margaret Mead (1901-1978) Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935)
We only want that which is given naturally to all peoples of the world, to be masters of our own fate, only of our fate, not of others, and in cooperation and friendship with others.
Golda Meir (1898-1978) Address to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, March 25, 1946
The usual masculine disillusionment in discovering that a woman has a brain.
Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) Gone With the Wind (1936)
I know what every colored woman in this country is doing. . . . Dying. Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I'm going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.
Toni Morrison (1931-present) Sula (1973)
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk. . . .
My boy, it's your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) "The Applicant" (1963)
I came to explore the wreck.
Adrienne Rich (1929-present) "Diving into the Wreck" (1973)
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) You Learn by Living (1960)
One's prime is elusive. You little girls, when you grow up, must be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.
Muriel Spark (1918-present) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1962)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) Declaration of Sentiments, First Women's Rights Convention, Seneca Falls, New York , July 19-20, 1848
Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.
Gloria Steinem (1934-present) Speech at Yale University, September 1981
I've given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can't divorce a book.
Gloria Swanson (1899-1983) quoted in the New York Times, March 10, 1979
I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together.
Margaret Thatcher (1925-present) on their meeting, December 17, 1984
I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.
Eudora Welty (1909?2001) One Writer's Beginnings (1984)
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is. I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.
Rebecca West (1892-1983) "Mr. Chesterton in hysterics," The Clarion, November 14, 1913
Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)
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