Quotations about women and their place in the world. What men and women think about women: sometimes humorous, sometimes insightful, sometimes outrageous. (And no, I don’t agree with all of these!)

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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

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

Life on the planet is born of woman.

— Adrienne Rich

When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.

— Adrienne Rich

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

Whatever is dirty, it is women’s job to clean up, or drive some man to clean up, and that goes for everything from cellar to senate.

— Agnes Macphail

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

— Alice Childress

There is a woman at the beginning of all great things.

— Alphonse de Lamartine

Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.

— Amelia Earhart

Had I been a man, I might have explored the Poles or climbed Mount Everest, but as it was, my spirit found outlet in the air.

— Amy Johnson

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 notion of a universality of human experience is a confidence trick and the notion of a universality of female experience is a clever confidence trick.

— Angela Carter

To understand how a society functions, you must understand the relationship between the men and the women.

— Angela Davis

A lot of guys think the larger a woman’s breasts are, the less intelligent she is. I don’t think it works like that. I think it’s the opposite. I think the larger a woman’s breasts are, the less intelligent the men become.

— Anita Wise

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

— 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

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

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

Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? ‘Keep her,’ I replied…. The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me.

— Anna Quindlen

A woman can say more in a sigh than a man can say in a sermon.

— Arnold Haultain

Black women are programmed to define ourselves within this male attention and to compete with each other for it rather than to recognize and move upon our common interests.

— Audre Lorde

I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.

— Audre Lorde

Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. The head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves — along with the renewed courage to try them out.

— Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, 1984

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

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

— Audrey Hepburn

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.

— Audrey Hepburn

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

She was the cornerstone of our family and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances.

— Barack Obama, with his sister, on the death of his grandmother Madelyn Dunham just before the November 2008 election

Most people who meet my wife quickly conclude that she is remarkable. They are right about this. She is smart, funny and thoroughly charming. Often, after hearing her speak at some function or working with her on a project, people will approach me and say something to the effect of, you know, I think the world of you, Barack, but your wife, wow!

— 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

Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.

— Barbara De Angelis

I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He’s just incapable of it.

— Barbara Jordan

All too often women believe it is a sign of commitment, an expression of love, to endure unkindness or cruelty, to forgive and forget. In actuality, when we love rightly we know that the healthy, loving response to cruelty and abuse is putting ourselves out of harm’s way.

— bell hooks

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

Today whenever women gather together it is not necessarily nurturing. It is coalition building. And if you feel the strain, you may be doing some good work.

— Bernice Johnson Reagon

When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.

— Bette Davis

I have an independent streak. You know, it’s kind of hard to tell an independent woman what to do.

— Betty Ford

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

— Betty Ford

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

— Betty Ford

Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.

— Betty White

Not only is women’s work never done, the definition keeps changing.

— Bill Copeland

No woman has less temptation to seek matrimony from sordid motives of selfishness or convenience. The actress is an absolutely independent wage-earner, and better compensated than the great majority of women who make their own livelihoods. She need not marry for money, or social position, for these are her natural possessions.

— Billie Burke

An ideal wife is any woman who has an ideal husband.

— Booth Tarkington

I would like it if men had to partake in the same hormonal cycles to which we’re subjected monthly. Maybe that’s why men declare war — because they have a need to bleed on a regular basis.

— Brett Butler

You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.

— Brigham Young

In the different voice of women lies the truth of an ethic of care, the tie between relationship and responsibility, and the origins of aggression in the failure of connection.

— Carol Gilligan

The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.

— Charles Malik
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