Feminism is a belief in or work for the end of sexism, male domination, and patriarchy.

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Patriotism in the female sex is the most disinterested of all virtues. Excluded from honors and from offices, we cannot attach ourselves to the State or Government from having held a place of eminence. . . . Yet all history and every age exhibit instances of patriotic virtue in the female sex; which considering our situation equals the most heroic of yours.

— Abigail Adams

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

— Abigail Adams

It is really mortifying, sir, when a woman possessed of a common share of understanding considers the difference of education between the male and female sex, even in those families where education is attended to…Nay why should your sex wish for such a disparity in those whom they one day intend for companions and associates. Pardon me, sir, if I cannot help sometimes suspecting that this neglect arises in some measure from an ungenerous jealousy of rivals near the throne.

— Abigail Adams, Letter to John Thaxter, 15 February 1778

In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.

— Abigail Adams, Letter to John Adams, 31 March 1776

I am a feminist because I feel endangered, psychically and physically, by this society and because I believe that the women’s movement is saying that we have come to an edge of history when men—insofar as they are embodiments of the patriarchal idea—have become dangerous to children and other living things, themselves included.

— Adrienne Rich

If the preservation of the home means the enslavement of women, economically or morally, then we had better break it.

— Agnes Macphail

I do not want to be the angel of any home: I want for myself what I want for other women, absolute equality. After that is secured, then men and women can take turns being angels.

— Agnes Macphail

Some feminists feel that a woman should never be wrong. We have a right to be wrong.

— Alice Childress

[T]o speak out provoked violence; to remain silent encouraged death. It was a dilemma not at all new to people of color, or women.

— Alice Walker

Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us.

— Andrea Dworkin

Male supremacy is fused into the language, so that every sentence both heralds and affirms it.

— Andrea Dworkin

Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.

— Andrea Dworkin

The greatest need of humanity is for a fuller recognition of the divine nature of womanhood.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

There is no greater power in the world than the power of a unified womanhood.

— Anna Garlin Spencer

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

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

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

It’s important to remember that feminism is no longer a group of organizations or leaders. It’s the expectations that parents have for their daughters, and their sons, too. It’s the way we talk about and treat one another. It’s who makes the money and who makes the compromises and who makes the dinner. It’s a state of mind. It’s the way we live now.

— Anna Quindlen

Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women.

— Audre Lorde

The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.

— Audre Lorde

But the true feminist deals out of a lesbian consciousness whether or not she ever sleeps with women.

— Audre Lorde

What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?

— Audre Lorde

We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter.

— Barack Obama

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

Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women—as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement.

— Barbara Smith

What I am proud of, what seems so simply clear, is that feminism is a way to fight for justice, always in short supply.

— Barbara Strickland

We continue to put in place the anti-sexist thinking and practice which affirms the reality that females can achieve self-actualization and success without dominating one another.

— bell hooks

No Black woman writer in this culture can write ‘too much’. Indeed, no woman writer can write ‘too much’ … No woman has ever written enough.

— bell hooks

It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term ‘feminism’, to focus on the fact that to be ‘feminist’ in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.

— bell hooks, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism

As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.

— bell hooks

Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago. It was my hope at the time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.

— bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

We don’t want so much to see a female Einstein become an assistant professor. We want a woman schlemiel to get promoted as quickly as a male schlemiel.

— Bella Abzug

The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.

— Betty Ford

I believe the equal rights amendment is a necessity of life for all citizens. The cabinet sometimes felt that I shouldn’t be so outspoken.

— Betty Ford

The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women.

— Betty Ford

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.

— Betty Friedan

If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don’t blame the women’s movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.

— Betty Friedan, speech, New York City, January 20, 1974

Working to make those inequalities go away is being a feminist, but more importantly, it makes me a humanist.

— Beyoncé

If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist.

— Beyoncé

Capitalism has its weaknesses. But it is capitalism that ended the stranglehold of the hereditary aristocracies, raised the standard of living for most of the world and enabled the emancipation of women.

— Camille Paglia

I consider myself 100 percent a feminist, at odds with the feminist establishment in America. For me the great mission of feminism is to seek the full political and legal equality of women with men. However, I disagree with many of my fellow feminists as an equal opportunity feminist, who believes that feminism should only be interested in equal rights before the law. I utterly oppose special protection for women where I think that a lot of the feminist establishment has drifted in the last 20 years.

— Camille Paglia

The women’s movement is taking a different form right now, and it is because it has been so effective and so successful that there’s a huge counter movement to try to stop it, to try to divide women from one another, to try to almost foment divisiveness.

— Carol Gilligan

In the adjustment of the new order of things, we women demand an equal voice; we shall accept nothing less.

— Carrie Chapman Catt

Postmodernism is an academic theory, originating in academia with an academic elite, not in the world of women and men, where feminist theory is rooted.

— Catharine MacKinnon

When the mother of the race is free, we shall have a better world, by the easy right of birth and by the calm, slow, friendly forces of evolution.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.

— Charlotte Whitten

We are here to claim our rights as women, not only to be free, but to fight for freedom. It is our privilege, as well as our pride and our joy, to take some part in this militant movement, which, as we believe, means the regeneration of all humanity

— Christabel Pankhurst

The rebirth of feminism coincided with the use of the term “oppression.” The ruling ideology, i.e. common sense, daily speech, does not speak about oppression but about a “feminine condition.” It refers back to a naturalist explanation: to a constraint of nature, exterior reality out of reach and not modifiable by human action. The term “oppression,” on the contrary, refers back to a choice, an explanation, a situation that is political. “Oppression” and “social oppression” are therefore synonyms or rather social oppression is a redundance: the notion of a political origin, i.e., social, is an integral part of the concept of oppression.

— Christine Delphy

Feminists have emphasized for a long time the importance of each woman’s individual entity and the necessity of economic independence. Perhaps it was necessary. But now I think we need some emphasis on the instinctive side of life, sex and motherhood. … Life isn’t all earning your living. Unfortunately we fall in love and Feminism must take that into consideration.

— Dora Russell

Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women’s opportunities, not to limit them. The self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering.

— Elaine Heffner

Since the world war there has been a distinct trend in both the professional and industrial worlds . . . against woman’s place in both. Positions of trust, authority, leadership, are being taken from her and given to men.

— Eleanor Gordon, in 1937, about the post-World War I backlash against women’s rights

Just think — guns have a constitutional amendment protecting them and women don’t.

— Eleanor Smeal

If society will not admit of woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.

— Elizabeth Blackwell

It requires philosophy and heroism to rise above the opinion of the wise men of all nations and races.

— Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Feminism has led the way in demystifying personal relations, forcefully insisting they are political to the core.

— Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

People have been writing premature obituaries on the women’s movement since its beginning.

— Ellen Goodman

We’ve got a generation now who were born with semi-equality. They don’t know how it was before, so they think, this isn’t too bad. We’re working. We have our attache’ cases and our three piece suits. I get very disgusted with the younger generation of women. We had a torch to pass, and they are just sitting there. They don’t realize it can be taken away. Things are going to have to get worse before they join in fighting the battle.

— Erma Bombeck

I abhorred slavery in every form. I yearned to see all men and all women free. I detested the idea of some men being ruled by others, and of women being ruled by men. I believed that women should have all the rights men have, and I looked upon child labor as a crime. And so I became an agitator and this ruling passion of my life found larger expression.

— Eugene V. Debs

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.

— Faith Whittlesey

Countermovements among racists and sexists and nazifiers are just as relentless as dirt on a coffee table. . . . Every housewife knows that if you don’t sooner or later dust . . . the whole place will be dirty again

— Florynce Kennedy
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