Anna Garlin Spencer

Quotations on a variety of topics from Anna Garlin Spencer. Spencer was, at the beginning of the 20th century, one of the most recognized experts in and writers about the family. She was associated with Free Religion, the Unitarians, and Ethical Culture. She was the first woman ordained as a minister in the state of Rhode Island, where she served at Bell Street Chapel, and the first woman clergy Leader in the Ethical Culture movement.

Slowly … the truth is dawning upon women, and still more slowly upon men, that woman is no stepchild of nature, no Cinderella of fate to be dowered only by fairies and the Prince; but that for her and in her, as truly as for and in man, life has wrought its great experiences, its master attainments, its supreme human revelations of the stuff of which worlds are made.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

Can a woman become a genius of the first class? Nobody can know unless women in general shall have equal opportunity with men in education, in vocational choice, and in social welcome of their best intellectual work for a number of generations.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

To the highest leadership among women it is given to hold steadily in one hand the sacred vessels that hold the ancient sanctities of life, and in the other a flaming torch to light the way for oncoming generations.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

It is not alone the fact that women have generally had to spend most of their strength in caring for others that has handicapped them in individual effort; but also that they have almost universally had to care wholly for themselves.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

It is fair to assume that when women in the past have achieved even a second or third place in the ranks of genius they have shown far more native ability than men have needed to reach the same eminence. Not excused from the more general duties that constitute the cement of society, most women of talent have had but one hand free with which to work out their ideal conceptions.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

Anyone can see that to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the knee in the kitchen, with constant calls to cooking and other details of housework to punctuate the paragraphs, was a more difficult achievement than to write it at leisure in a quiet room.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

It is an old error of man to forget to put quotation marks where he borrows from a woman’s brain!

— Anna Garlin Spencer

Of all the wastes of human ignorance perhaps the most extravagant and costly to human growth has been the waste of the distinctive powers of womanhood after the child-bearing age.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

The universal social pressure upon women to be all alike, and do all the same things, and to be content with identical restrictions, has resulted not only in terrible suffering in the lives of exceptional women, but also in the loss of unmeasured feminine values in special gifts. The Drama of the Woman of Genius has too often been a tragedy of misshapen and perverted power.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

The earth is ready, the time is ripe, for the authoritative expression of the feminine as well as the masculine interpretation of that common social consensus which is slowly writing justice in the State and fraternity in the social order.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

The experience of the race shows that we get our most important education not through books but through our work. We are developed by our daily task, or else demoralized by it, as by nothing else.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

The essence of democracy is its assurance that every human being should so respect himself and should be so respected in his own personality that he should have opportunity equal to that of every other human being to show what he was meant to become.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

At the outstart of discussions of women’s intellectual attainments, it is well to remember how few are the men of the first rank.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

A successful woman preacher was once asked “what special obstacles have you met as a woman in the ministry?” “Not one,” she answered, “except the lack of a minister’s wife.”

— Anna Garlin Spencer

The friendship between a man and a woman which does not lead to marriage or desire for marriage may be a life long experience of the greatest value to themselves and to all their circle of acquaintance and of activity; but for this type of friendship both a rare man and a rare woman are needed. Perhaps it should be added that either the man or the woman thus deeply bound in lifelong friendship who seeks marriage must find a still rarer man or woman to wed, to make such a three cornered comradeship a permanent success.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

No book has yet been written in praise of a woman who let her husband and children starve or suffer while she invented even the most useful things, or wrote books, or expressed herself in art, or evolved philosophic systems.

— Anna Garlin Spencer, Woman’s Share in Social Culture, 1912

The failure of women to produce genius of the first rank in most of the supreme forms of human effort has been used to block the way of all women of talent and ambition for intellectual achievement in a manner that would be amusingly absurd were it not so monstrously unjust and socially harmful.

— Anna Garlin Spencer, Woman’s Share in Social Culture, 1912

And when her biographer says of an Italian woman poet, ‘during some years her Muse was intermitted,’ we do not wonder at the fact when he casually mentions her ten children.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

….Every human being may be better … We know it, because we — the human beings we know best — could be better than we are. Every human being should take advantage of his opportunity, however poor. We know this because we feel that we have failed to make the best of our opportunities. Every human being can… become a larger, finer, and fairer specimen of the human race. This is the gospel of religion and this is the gospel of personal ethics.

“To put forth all one’s strength” as the Psalmist says, to become that better creature one sees in vision — this is to “verify one’s credentials” as a spiritual being. For this end of spiritual appeal and stimulation, for this end of daring uplift even from the dregs of circumstance, the church has existed and societies like this been formed. This high function of religion has been justified by human experience. It was never more needed for conscious leadership than now….

… Be and do the best you see and can gain strength to realize, wherever life has placed you and at whatever cost of struggle!

— Anna Garlin Spencer, Philadelphia, 1908

At the outstart of discussions of women’s intellectual attainments, it is well to remember how few are the men of the first rank.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

Have Faith! Have faith in the Eternal Goodness. Believe that the core of the Universe is sound and sweet.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

It is surely imperative that maternity be not left chiefly to those who cannot make the highest success in any other craft. If marriage should become, even for a generation or two, chiefly a refuge from destitution or a harbor from the world of individual effort for those who have failed, the disastrous results would be a heavy burden for later times.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

An immigrant, living in the slums of New York City, once said of himself and others of the sweatshop community to which he belonged, “We live under America, not in America.”

— Anna Garlin Spencer

Women have but recently acquired the “pay envelope,” it is true, their compensation through unnumbered centuries being given them in “truck” or in “kind”; but that fact did not prevent their constant labor.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

We are developed by our daily task, or else demoralized by it, as by nothing else.

— Anna Garlin Spencer
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