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Ida M. Tarbell

  • The theory that the man who raises corn does a more important piece of work than the woman who makes it into bread is absurd. The inference is that the men alone render useful service. But neither man nor woman eats these things until the woman has prepared it.

  • Ripe old age, cheerful, useful, and understanding, is one of the finest influences in the world.

  • It is not alone that justice is wounded by denying women a part in the making of the civilized world — a more immediate wrong is the way the movement for a fuller, freer life for all human beings is hampered.

  • You cannot settle a new country without suffering, exposure, and danger. Cheerful endurance of hardships and contempt of surroundings become a virtue in a pioneer. Comfort is a comparatively new thing in the United States.

  • Life is but a collection of habits.

  • Sacredness of human life! The world has never believed it! It has been with life that we settled our quarrels, won wives, gold and land, defended ideas, imposed religions. We have held that a death toll was a necessary part of every human achievement, whether sport, war, or industry. A moment's rage over the horror of it, and we have sunk into indifference.

  • ... the economic advantages of sobriety have never been doubtful.

  • The surprise of the fight on the long day, of the experiments with the shorter one, has been not only that the business could stand it, but that the business thrived under it as surely as the man did. It is but another of the proofs which are heaping up in American industry to-day that whatever is good for men and women — contributes to their health, happiness, development — is good for business.

  • Many men ridicule the idea that it can be scientifically handled. They tell us the unemployed have always been with us, and always must be. It is the oldest reason in the world for tolerating injustice and misery.

  • A mind which really lays hold of a subject is not easily detached from it.

  • There is no more effective medicine to apply to feverish public sentiments than figures.

  • It's always a revolution, you know, when things occur of which you have never happened to hear!

  • A mind truly cultivated never feels that the intellectual process is complete until it can reproduce in some medium the thing which it has absorbed.

  • Speculation in oil stock companies was another great evil ... From the first, oil men had to contend with wild fluctuations in the price of oil. ... Such fluctuations were the natural element of the speculator, and he came early, buying in quantities and holding in storage tanks for higher prices. If enough oil was held, or if the production fell off, up went the price, only to be knocked down by the throwing of great quantities of stocks on the market.

  • To Mr. Rockefeller this feeling was a weak sentiment. To place love of independent work above love of profits was as incomprehensible to him as a refusal to accept a rebate because it was wrong! Where persuasion failed then, it was necessary, in his judgment, that pressure be applied — simply a pressure sufficient to demonstrate to these blind or recalcitrant individuals the impossibility of their long being able to do business independently. ... He applied underselling for destroying his rivals' market with the same deliberation and persistency that characterized all his efforts, and in the long run he always won. ... there seemed to be no end to the way of making it hard for men to do business, of discouraging them until they would sell or lease, and always at the psychological moment a purchaser was at their side.

  • Very often people who admit the facts, who are willing to see that Mr. Rockefeller has employed force and fraud to secure his ends, justify him by declaring, 'It's business.' That is, 'it's business' has come to be a legitimate excuse for hard dealing, sly tricks, special privileges.

  • Now, if the Standard Oil Company were the only concern in the country guilty of the practices which have given it monopolistic power, this story never would have been written. Were it alone in these methods, public scorn would long ago have made short work of the Standard Oil Company. But it is simply the most conspicuous type of what can be done by these practices. The methods it employs with such acumen, persistency, and secrecy are employed by all sorts of business men, from corner grocers up to bankers. If exposed, they are excused on the ground that this is business.

  • [On dishonest business methods:] ... frequently the defender of the practice falls back on the Christian doctrine of charity, and points out that we are erring mortals and must allow for each other's weaknesses! — an excuse which, if carried to its legitimate conclusion, would leave our business men weeping on one another's shoulders over human frailty, while they picked one another's pockets.

  • One of the most depressing features of the ethical side of the matter is that instead of such methods arousing contempt they are more or less openly admired. And this is logical. Canonise 'business success,' and men who made a success like that of the Standard Oil Trust become national heroes!

  • There is no gaming table in the world where loaded dice are tolerated, no athletic field where men must not start fair. Yet Mr. Rockefeller has systematically played with loaded dice, and it is doubtful if there has ever been a time since 1872 when he has run a race with a competitor and started fair.

  • We are a commercial people. We cannot boast of our arts, our crafts, our cultivation; our boast is in the wealth we produce. As a consequence business success is sanctified, and, practically, any methods which achieve it are justified by a larger and larger class.

  • Buy cheap and sell high is a rule of business, and when you control enough money and enough banks you can always manage that a stock you want shall be temporarily cheap. No value is destroyed for you — only for the original owner.

  • When the business man who fights to secure special privileges, to crowd his competitor off the track by other than fair competitive methods, receives the same summary disdainful ostracism by his fellows that the doctor or lawyer who is 'unprofessional,' the athlete who abuses the rules, receives, we shall have gone a long way toward making commerce a fit pursuit for our young men.

  • How defeated and restless the child that is not doing something in which it sees a purpose, a meaning! It is by its self-directed activity that the child, as years pass, finds its work, the thing it wants to do and for which it finally is willing to deny itself pleasure, ease, even sleep and comfort.

    • Ida M. Tarbell,
    • "Work," in Cosmopolitan ()
  • One of the permanent possessions of the human heart is the memory of its noble enthusiasms.

    • Ida M. Tarbell,
    • in Alice Hegan Rice, My Pillow Book ()
  • In walking through the world there is a choice for a man to make. He can choose the fair and open path, the path which sound ethics, sound democracy, and the common law prescribe, or choose the secret way by which he can get the better of his fellow man.

  • ... I came then to a conviction that has never left me: that there is too much for me to attend to in this mortal life without overspeculation on the immortal, that it is not necessary to my peace of mind or to my effort to be a decent and useful person, to have a definite assurance about the affairs of the next world.

  • The quest of the truth had been born in me — the most tragic and incomplete, as well as the most essential, of man's quests.

  • ... she was one of those who always see spring in a single sparrow.

  • A popular disturbance never remains long in the full control of those who start it.

  • [As author of a biography on Abraham Lincoln:] The more people who knew about Lincoln, the more chance democracy had to destroy its two chief enemies, privilege and militancy.

  • Those long rides, these night waits, brought unforgettable looks into human lives. Strange how travelers will confide their ambitions, unload their secrets, show their scars to strangers.

  • My whole theory for the improvement of society is based on a belief in the discipline and the education of the individual to self-control and right doing, for the sake of right doing. I have never seen fundamental improvements imposed from the top by ordinances and laws.

  • ... standardization is the surest way to destroy the initiative, to benumb the creative impulse above all else essential to the vitality and growth of democratic ideals.

  • I have never had illusions about the value of my individual contribution! I realized early that what a man or a woman does is built on what those who have gone before have done, that its real value depends on making the matter in hand a little clearer, a little sounder for those who come after. Nobody begins or ends anything. Each person is a link, weak or strong, in an endless chain. One of our gravest mistakes is persuading ourselves that nobody has passed this way before.

  • ... we were raising our standard of living at the expense of our standard of character.

  • The only reason I am glad I am a woman is because I will not have to marry one.

    • Ida M. Tarbell,
    • in Mary E. Tompkins, Ida M. Tarbell ()

Ida M. Tarbell, U.S. journalist, writer, investigative reporter

(1857 - 1944)

Full name: Ida Minerva Tarbell.