Quotations by and about women,
from inspirational to distressing
"History is herstory too."
"I was told that whistling wasn't ladylike, but I knew even then that
women were simply not supposed to be that happy."
"To tell a woman everything she may not do is to tell her what she can
do." Spanish proverb."
"Sometimes the best man for the job isn't."
"It starts when you sink in his arms and ends with your arms in his
"Sexism is a social disease."
Bella Abzug, first Jewish female member of Congress; feminist, peace and
civil liberty activist:
"They used to give us a day--it was called International Women's Day. In
1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they
gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if
we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn't behave and
here we are."
"We are coming down from our pedestal and up from the laundry room. We
want an equal share in government and we mean to get it."
Diane Ackerman, poet: "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."
Louisa May Alcott, author: "I asked for bread, and I got a stone in
the shape of a pedestal."
Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), suffragist & women's rights advocate:
"There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to
make laws and elect lawmakers."
"A woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught
to protect herself."
Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist:"Love comes when
manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his
or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare
to be vulnerable."
Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the U.S.: "Sensible
and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be
assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned
long ago by a higher intelligence than ours."
Marian Wright Edelman, activist: "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."
Jerry Falwell, fundamentalist Christian leader: "I listen to
feminists and all these radical gals - most of them are failures. They've
blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper
Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need
a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to
tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and
they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men -
that's their problem."
Susan Faludi, journalist: "Feminism's agenda is basic: It asks that
women not be forced to 'choose' between public justice and private happiness."
Matthew Fox, Episcopalian priest and theologian: "Evil is the
shadow of angel. Just as there are angels of light, support, guidance, healing
and defense, so we have experiences of shadow angels. And we have names for
them: racism, sexism, homophobia are all demons - but they're not out there."
Anne Frank, author:"How wonderful it is that nobody need
wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
Betty Friedan, activist:
"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
"Men weren't really the enemy - they were fellow victims suffering from
an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate
when there were no bears to kill."
Justin Fulton, writer & opponent of universal suffrage: "Who demand
the ballot for woman? They are not the lovers of God, nor are they believers
in Christ, as a class. There may be exceptions, but the majority prefer an
infidel's cheer to the favor of God and the love of the Christian community."
Helen Hayes, actress: "Rest and you rust."
Cynthia Heimel, author: "During the feminist revolution, the battle
lines were again simple. It was easy to tell the enemy, he was the one with
the penis. This is no longer strictly true. Some men are okay now. We're
allowed to like them again. We still have to keep them in line, of course, but
we no longer have to shoot them on sight."
Erica Jong, novelist, poet, & essayist: "Women are the only
exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness."
Helen Keller,inspirational writer:
"It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If
they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men,
the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui."
"What I am looking for is not out there; it is in me."
Florynce Kennedy, lawyer, feminist civil rights activist: "There
are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs
should be open to everybody."
Sally Kempton, teacher of meditation and tantric philosophy:
"I became a feminist as an alternative to becoming a masochist."
"It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head."
Timothy Leary, philosopher and psychologist: "Women who seek to be
equal with men lack ambition."
Rosa Luxemburg, activist:"Freedom is always and exclusively
freedom for the one who thinks differently."
Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist: "Every time we liberate a
woman, we liberate a man."
Robert Mueller, FBI director: "I asked a Burmese why women, after
centuries of following their men, now walk ahead. He said there were many
unexploded land mines since the war.
Nora Roberts, novelist: "If you don't go after what you want,
you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't
step forward, you're always in the same place."
Pat Robertson, fundamentalist Christian leader: "[Feminism is] a
socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave
their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism
and become lesbians."
Harriet H. Robinson, author: "By the English common law, her husband was her lord and master. He had the custody of her person, and of her minor children. He could 'punish her with astick no bigger than his thumb,' and she could not complain against him."
Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady, civil rights activist:
"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."
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Activist: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men and women are created equal."
John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop: "The problem with the
Old and New Testaments is that they are both dated pieces of literature that
reflect the values and mores of those who wrote them between 1000 BCE and 135
CE. Many passages in the Old Testament reflect a tribal mentality that
portrays God as hating everyone the people of Israel hated. It also portrays
God as killing the firstborn male in every household in Egypt on the night of
the Passover; justifies the institution of slavery (except for fellow Jews)
and defines women as the property of men. Note that even the Ten Commandments
exhort us "not covet our neighbor's house, his wife, his slaves, his ox, his
ass, etc." The neighbor is clearly a male, and the things that we are
forbidden to covet are all male possessions. These Hebrew Scriptures, however,
also define God as love, justice and as a universal being. In the portrait of
the "Servant" in Isaiah 40-55 the Hebrew Scriptures portray human life as
capable of giving itself away and even of acting in such a way as to draw the
pain out of others, absorb it and return it as love. The New Testament
portrays Paul as believing that slavery is good if it is kind. Paul also
reveals attitudes toward women that are today deeply embarrassing: "I forbid a
woman to have authority over a man." "Women should keep quiet in church."
Starhawk (Miriam Simos), Wiccan, writer and activist:
"Spirituality leaps where science cannot yet follow, because science
must always test and measure, and much of reality and human experience is
"In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess â€" we connect with her;
through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals,
through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us
"On some deep cosmic level, we are all one, and within us we each
contain the potential for good and for destruction, for compassion and hate,
for generosity and greed..."
Marlo Thomas, actress: "One of the things about equality is not
just that you be treated equally to a man, but that you treat yourself equally
to the way you treat a man."
Rebecca West, novelist and critic: "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 door mat
or a prostitute."
James McNeill Whistler, painter & graphic artist: "My advice to the
women's clubs of America is to raise more hell and fewer dahlias."
Mary Wollstonecraft, writer:
"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."
"Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's scepter, the mind shapes
itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its