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Words of Wisdom


"The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that...
women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves."

- Louise Otto, (Luise Otto-Peters),  German feminist, 1849

Otto was a novelist writing about class prejudice, and an idealist concerned with the emancipation of women. In the 1848 revolution, she demanded full equality for women, including the vote.

"History...tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome."

- Jane Austen (1775-1817), from her book: Northanger Abbey

If Jane Austen were alive today,
she'd see that history is finally changing!

Aparna Basu
- Professor of History at the University of Delhi, India, says:

"History is no longer just a chronicle of kings and statesmen, of people who wielded power, but of ordinary women and men engaged in manifold tasks. Women's history is an assertion that women have a history."

"If it is true that men are better than women because they are stronger, why aren't our sumo wrestlers in the government?"

Kishida Toshiko

Kishida Toshiko, 19th Century Japanese Feminist

"Now that you have touched the
women you have struck a rock,
you have dislodged a boulder,
you will be crushed."

Women's Freedom Song, August, 1956

Women's Freedom Song, South Africa, 1956

"When women are seen with pen in hand, they are met immediately with shrieks commanding a return to that life of pain which their writing had interrupted, a life devoted to the women's work of needle and distaff."
Archangela Tarabotti, writer and nun
1654, Venice, Italy

"My wish is to ride the tempest, tame the waves, kill the sharks. I will not resign myself to the usual lot of women who bow their heads and become concubines."
TrieuThi Trinh, Peasant who led an insurrection against Chinese invaders
240 A.D. Vietnam

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."
Marie Curie

"Today the two hundred million men in our country are entering into a civilized new world...but we, the two hundred million women, are still kept down in the dungeon."
Qui Jin, writer, revolutionary
1907, China

"Men have singled out women of outstanding merit and put them on a pedestal to avoid recognizing the capabilities of all women."
Huda Shaarawi, writer and women's rights organizer
1924, Egypt

"The most sure, but at the same time the most difficult expedient to mend the morals of the people, is a perfect system of education."
Catherine the Great
1767, Russia

"There is nothing new except what has been forgotten,"
Marie Antoinette
1755-1793, France

"I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too."
Elizabeth I, Speech at Tilbury
1588, England

"Women have always struggled with their men-folk for the abolition of slavery, the liberation of countries from colonialism, the dismantling of apartheid and the attainment of peace. It is now the turn of men to join women in their struggle for equality."
Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania
Secretary General of US Fourth Conference on the World's Women, 1995

"We deny the right of any portion of the species to decide for another portion what is and what is not their 'proper sphere.' The proper sphere for all human beings is the largest and highest which they are able to attain to."
Harriet Taylor Mill
(with John Mill created a marriage based on equalitarian principals)
1850, England

"Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us."
Christabel Pankhurst, Suffragette
1880-1950, Britain

Helmer: "Before all else you are a wife and a mother. Nora: That I no longer believe. I believe that before all else I am a human being."
Ibsen, The Dolls' House
1879, Norway

"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction"
Virginia Woolf
1929, England

"Who has forbidden women to engage in private and individual studies? Have they not a rational soul as men do?...I have this inclination to study and if it is evil I am not the one who formed me thus - I was born with it and with it I shall die."
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz - Letter to Father Nunez
1681, Mexico

"To follow without halt, one aim; there is the secret of success. And success? What is it? I do not find it in the applause of the theater; it lies rather in the satisfaction of accomplishment."
Anna Pavlova
1885-1931, Russia

"The myth that men are the economic providers and women, mainly, are mothers and care givers in the family has now been thoroughly refuted. This family pattern has never been the norm, except in a narrow middle-class segment."
Gro Harlem Brundtland
Prime Minister of Norway, 1995

"The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured. It must not be destroyed!"
Hildegarde of Bingen
1098-1178, Germany

"Women have the right to mount the scaffold; they should likewise have the right to mount the rostrum."
Olympe de Gouges, author of Declaration of Rights of Women
1791, France

"Although they are only breath, words which I command are immortal"
c. 610-640 B.C. Greece

"For a king, death is better than dethronement and exile."
Empress Theodora
c.532, Byzantine Empire

"Pay heed to the word of your Mother as though it were the word of a God."
3,000 B.C. Mesopotamia

"Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honors, the commands, the state craft for which you contend?"
Hortensia, Speech before the Roman Triumvirate
42 B.C. Italy

"If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman."
Margaret Thatcher
1989, England

"Although I am a woman and young, I have more than enough courage to suffer this death and a thousand more."
La Pola, statement before execution in wars of independence
1817, Colombia

"It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts,"
Aung San Suu Kyi
1991, Burma (Myanmar)

"Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; - that is if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers!"
Mary Wollstonecraft, author A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
1792, England

"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."
Rebecca West, The Clarion
1913, England

"Roman lust has gone so far that not even our own persons remain unpolluted...If you weigh well the strengths of our armies, you will see that in this battle we must conquer or die. This is a woman's resolve. As for the men, they may live or be slaves."
1st century A.D., England

"The liberated woman is not that modern doll who wears make-up and tasteless clothes. ....The liberation woman is a person who believes that she is as human as a man. The liberated woman does not insist on her freedom so as to abuse it."
Ghada Samman, writer
1961, Syria

The following twelve quotes were complied by Karen Offen,
a scholar at the Institute for Research on Women at Stanford University.

"Is it not a sentient being, capable of reason, having moral ideas, that men have right? Then women should have exactly the same rights, and yet never, under any free constitution, have women exercised the right of citizenship....The facts prove that men have or believe they have interests that are very different than those of women, because everywhere they have made oppressive laws against them, or at least have established a great inequality between the two sexes."

The Marquis de Condorcet - France, 1787

"We are aware that it is said, that woman is virtually represented in Parliament, her interests being the same as those of man; but the many laws, which have been obliged to be passed to protect them from their nearest male relatives, are a sufficient answer...They are evidently the production of men legislating for their own most obvious interest...without the slightest reference to the injustice they were committing against women."

Marion Kirkland Reid - England, 1843

"...it is not only the general principles of justice that are infringed, or at least set aside, by the exclusion of women, merely as women, from any share in the representation; that exclusion is also repugnant to the particular principles of the British Constitution. It violates one of the oldest of our constitutional maxims...that taxation and representation should be co-extensive. Do not women pay taxes?"

John Stuart Mill - England, 1867

"How long are women to remain a wholly unrepresented body of the people? This is a question that has of late been agitated in England, and women in this colony read, watch, and reflect...Why should not New Zealand also lead?...Why has a woman to power to vote, no right to vote, when she happens to possess all the requisites which legally qualify a man for that right?"

Femmina (Mary Muller) - New Zealand, 1869

"Because man and woman are the complement of one another, we need woman's thought in national affairs to make a safe and stable government...Whiter is a nation tending when brains count for less than bullion, and clowns made laws for queens?'

Elizabeth Cady Stanton - USA, 1869

"For me the beginning of all true progress in the woman question lies in women's right to vote...The strong the emphasis on the difference between the sexes, the clearer the need for the specific representation of women."

Hedwig Dohm - Germany, 1873

"Ladies, we must remind ourselves that the weapon of the vote will be for us, just as it is for man, the only means of obtaining the reforms we desire. As long as we remain excluded from civic life, men will attend to their own interests rather than to our."

Hubertine Auclert - France, 1879

"The miracle has happened! On May the 29th the Finnish Diet agreed to an Imperial proposal from the Czar concerning changes in the constitution of Finland, which changes also include political suffrage and eligibility to the Diet for Women, married and unmarried, on the same conditions as for men."

Baroness Alexandra Gripenberg - Finland, 1906

"Women's suffrage is the correlate of the economic emancipation of women from the household and of their economic independence from family owing to their professional work...With the sharpening of the class struggle, the question of women's suffrage rises in importance."

Resolution of the International Socialist Women's Conference
- Stuttgart, Germany, 1907

"...the Government must not think that they can stop this agitation. It will go on...We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in out efforts to become law-makers."

Emmeline Pankhurst - WSPU, England, 1908

"Parliaments have stopped laughing at woman suffrage, and politicians have begun to dodge! It is the inevitable premonition of coming victory."

Carrie Chapman Catt - International Woman Suffrage Association, 1913

"Extending over more than a century and including most nations of the globe, the cause of woman suffrage has been one of the great democratic forces in human history."

Ellen Carol DuBois - USA, 1989

Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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Women in World History Curriculum