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Olive Schreiner

  • I said to God, 'What are they doing?' / God said, 'Making pitfalls into which their fellows may sink.' / I said to God, 'Why do they do it?' / God said, 'Because each thinks that when his brother falls he will rise.'

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • Dreams
    • ()
  • The thought would never come to us as women, 'Cast in men's bodies, settle the thing so.' For woman 'knows the history of human flesh; she knows its cost; man does not.'

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • Dreams
    • ()
  • I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreamt Life stood before her, and held in each hand a gift — in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And she said to the woman, 'Choose!' And the woman waited long: and she said, 'Freedom!' And Life said, 'Thou hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, "Love," I would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. In that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand.' I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • Dreams
    • ()
  • God said, 'When one man and one woman shine together, it makes the most perfect light.'

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • Dreams
    • ()
  • The nations which have received and in any way dealt fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered, and the nations that have tortured and oppressed him have written out their own curse.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • A Letter on the Jew
    • ()
  • There is no door at which the hand of woman has knocked for admission into a new field of toil but there have been found on the other side the hands of strong and generous men eager to turn it for her, almost before she knocks.

  • We have always borne part of the weight of war, and the major part ... Men have made boomerangs, bows, swords, or guns with which to destroy one another; we have made the men who destroyed and were destroyed! ... We pay the first cost on all human life.

  • No woman who is a woman says of a human body, 'it is nothing' ... On this one point, and on this point alone, the knowledge of woman, simply as woman, is superior to that of man; she knows the history of human flesh; she knows its cost; he does not.

  • Men's bodies are our women's works of art. Given to us power of control, we will never carelessly throw them in to fill up the gaps in human relationships made by international ambitions and greeds ... War will pass when intellectual culture and activity have made possible to the female an equal share in the governance of modern national life; it will probably not pass away much sooner; its extinction will not be delayed much longer.

  • For those of us who have a ground of knowledge which we cannot transmit to outsiders, it is perhaps more profitable to act fearlessly than to argue.

  • We are a race of women that of old knew no fear and feared no death, and lived great lives and hoped great hopes; and if today some of us have fallen on evil and degenerate times, there moves in us yet the throb of the old blood.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • in "Rebel Thoughts," The Woman Rebel ()
  • I am always thirsting for beautiful, beautiful, beautiful music. I wish I could make it. Perhaps there isn't any music on earth like what I picture to myself.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1878, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • Love, smoke and a cough cannot long be hid!

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1878, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • ... the brain works better if the hand works too.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1884, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • A word may become so defiled by bad use that it will take a century before it can be purifed, and brought into use again.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1884, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • My feeling is that there is nothing in life but refraining from hurting others, and comforting those that are sad.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1884, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • I object to anything that divides the two sexes. My main point is this: human development has now reached a point at which sexual difference has become a thing of altogether minor importance. We make too much of it; we are men and women in the second place, human beings in the first.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1884, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • ... I think if I was dying and I heard of an act of injustice, it would start me up to a moment's life again.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1912, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • ... genius has no limit of sex or race.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1913, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • One has no right to form ideals of people, and then, because they don't justify them, become bitter.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1920, in S.C. Cronwright-Schreiner, ed., The Letters of Olive Schreiner 1876-1920 ()
  • No good work is ever done while the heart is hot and anxious and fretted.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1884, in Richard Rive, ed., Olive Schreiner Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • Love that has been given to you is too sacred a thing to be talked of to anyone ... except just to the person who is like part of you and who will feel it as you do.

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1885, in Richard Rive, ed., Olive Schreiner Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • ... marriage has been a very rich and beautiful development of my life. Month by month as we live together we seem to come nearer to each other; and to feel a more complete fellowship. I do not feel that it in any way fetters or narrows my world: — it seems rather to enlarge it ...

    • Olive Schreiner,
    • 1895, in Richard Rive, ed., Olive Schreiner Letters, vol. 1 ()
  • It is the swimmer who first leaps into the frozen stream who is cut sharpest by the ice; those who follow him find it broken, and the last find it gone. It is the men or women who first tread down the path which the bulk of humanity will ultimately follow, who must find themselves at last in solitudes where the silence is deadly.

Olive Schreiner, South African novelist, pacifist, social critic

(1855 - 1920)

Full name: Olive Emilie Albertina Schreiner. She also wrote as Ralph Iron (see quotations under that name)..