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Activism

  • It is a truism that one person who wants something is a hundred times stronger than a hundred who want to be left alone.

    • Barbara Ward,
    • "The First International Nation" (1968), in William Kilbourn, ed., Canada: A Guide to the Peaceable Kingdom ()
  • Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "The Star of Happiness" (1920), vaudeville performance, in Dorothy Herrmann, Helen Keller: A Life ()
  • The blessed work of helping the world forward, happily does not wait to be done by perfect men.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Alone, no one wins freedom.

  • In any politics worth the name, 'I' can do infinitely less than 'we.'

    • Joanna Russ,
    • Clara Fraser, Revolution, She Wrote ()
  • ... public work brings a vicarious but assured sense of immortality. We may be poor, weak, timid, in debt to our landlady, bullied by our nieces, stiff in the joints, shortsighted and distressed; we shall perish, but the cause endures; the cause is great.

    • Winifred Holtby,
    • "The Right Side of Thirty" (1930), Pavements at Anderby ()
  • ... you cannot do good work if you take your mind off the work to see how the community is taking it ...

  • It's still easier to take a blow from outside than it is to be disgusted with myself for not taking a stand. I don't know how people can live and not fight back but apparently millions do. They must hate themselves.

  • If you can't raise consciousness, at least raise hell.

  • ... all big changes in human history have been arrived at slowly and through many compromises.

  • It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.

  • ... we know that our world is corrupt and diseased but we're tired of being cynical and feeling helpless. What the hell, tilt at a windmill.

  • The hand of benevolence is everywhere stretched out, searching into abuses, righting wrongs, alleviating distresses, and bringing to the knowledge and sympathies of the world the lowly, the oppressed, and the forgotten.

  • ... art is not advocacy and advocacy is not art.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Lolita Turns Thirty," What Do Women Want? ()
  • The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day. After all, a movement is only people moving.

  • ... if I had one wish for the feminist movement worldwide, for the democratic movement worldwide, for the humanist movement worldwide, it would be a kind of revolutionary AA, a network consisting of small groups that one could easily find, small enough so that everyone can speak and everyone can listen. We need these kinds of revolutionary cells. It's the soul of the Chinese revolution. It's the soul of the Civil Rights movement. It's the soul of the feminist movement. We need these groups of diverse people with shared purpose, who meet regularly, support each other, and create another reality because right now we're swimming in someone else's reality much of the time.

  • When a just cause reaches its flood-tide ... whatever stands in the way must fall before its overwhelming power.

    • Carrie Chapman Catt,
    • speech at the Stockholm convention of the International Woman Suffrage Association ()
  • To the wrongs that need resistance, / To the right that needs assistance, / To the future in the distance, / We give ourselves.

    • Carrie Chapman Catt,
    • speech at the Stockholm convention of the International Woman Suffrage Association ()
  • ... living for a high purpose is as honorable as dying for it.

  • My linguistic protest / has no power. / The enemy is illiterate.

  • Cultures of resistance are not simply adaptive mechanisms; they embody important alternative ways of organizing production and reproduction and value systems critical of those of the oppressor.

    • Mina Davis Caulfield,
    • "Imperialism, the Family, and Cultures of Resistance," in Socialist Revolution ()
  • I am the voice of the voiceless; / Through me the dumb shall speak; / Till the deaf world's ear be made to hear / The cry of the wordless weak. / ... / And I am my brother's keeper, / And I will fight his fight, / And speak the word for beast and bird, / Till the world shall set things right.

  • The human race / Has climbed on protest.

  • In order to fight any issue, it is necessary to fight for something, not merely against something.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1972, in Michael Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • So keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy cat, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.

    • Molly Ivins,
    • "The Fun's in the Fight," Mother Jones ()
  • It doesn't pay well to fight for what we believe in.

  • The most disappointing feature of working for a cause is that so few people have a philosophy of life. We used to say, in the suffrage movement, that we could trust the woman who believed in suffrage, but we could never trust the woman who just wanted to vote.

    • Jeannette Rankin,
    • in Kevin S. Giles, Flight of the Dove: The Story of Jeannette Rankin ()
  • We found that during the period of 1900 to 2006, nonviolent resistance campaigns were about twice as effective as violent ones in achieving their immediate goals ...

    • Erica Chenoweth,
    • on studies by her and Maria J. Stephan, in Street Spirit ()
  • ... the average nonviolent campaign is something like four times larger than the average violent campaign, and, in general, we can see in our data that the nonviolent campaigns are far superior at eliciting active participation.

    • Erica Chenoweth,
    • on studies by her and Maria J. Stephan, in Street Spirit ()
  • When civil resistance campaigns prevail, they tend to enshrine norms of consent. Whereas, with an armed struggle, the norms that are being generated during the campaign generally tend to be more martial values. So when armed campaigns win, usually if they win by the sword they rule by the sword. ... how you fight determines in large part how you're going to rule when you win.

    • Erica Chenoweth,
    • on studies by her and Maria J. Stephan, in Street Spirit ()
  • But my belief is growing that our political and social evils are remediable, if only all of us who want a change for the better just get up and work for it, all the time, with as much knowledge and intelligence as we can muster for it. Half the wrongs of human life exist because of the inertia of people who simply will not use their energies in fighting for what they believe in. And finally the wrongs roll up into world catastrophes and millions of deaths and a terrible set-back for all mankind ...

  • For you'll ne'er mend your fortunes, nor help the just cause, / By breaking of windows, or breaking of laws.

    • Hannah More,
    • speech (1817), in H. Thompson, The Life of Hannah More ()
  • We know that the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.

    • Angela Davis,
    • "Tribute to George Jackson," Daily World ()
  • Happy are all free peoples, too strong to be dispossessed. / But blessed are those among nations who dare to be strong for the rest!

  • In the unceasing ebb and flow of justice and oppression we must all dig channels as best we may, that at the propitious moment somewhat of the swelling tide may be conducted to the barren places of life.

  • ... social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.

  • Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.

    • Jane Addams,
    • in Charnan Simon, Jane Addams: Pioneer Social Worker ()
  • This is an amazing country, for all of its faults. My feeling is, dig in and let's try to change the world. Dissent is not only your right, it's your duty.

    • Susan Sarandon,
    • in Meg Grant, "Speaking Her Mind," Reader's Digest ()
  • Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.

  • Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth's sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.

    • Louisa May Alcott,
    • letter to Lucy Stone (1885), in Elizabeth Keyser, The Portable Louisa May Alcott ()
  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

    • Margaret Mead,
    • in Nancy C. Lutkehaus, Margaret Mead: The Making of an American Icon ()
  • I fought windmills with such heavy weapons that I risked dislocating my arm ...

    • Fanny Lewald,
    • in Hanna Ballin Lewis, trans., The Education of Fanny Lewald ()
  • How can one not speak about war, poverty, and inequality when people who suffer from these afflictions don't have a voice to speak?

    • Isabel Allende,
    • in Marie-Lise Gazarian-Gautiez, Interviews with Latin American Writers ()
  • Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.

    • Nora Ephron,
    • speech to Wellesley graduating class ()
  • ... anything that becomes a cult, or a mass movement, loses its moral and spiritual value. The crusade has to be personal, individual. As soon as it becomes collective it loses its purpose.

  • [On the Internet and activism:] The danger of the Internet is cocooning with the like-minded online — of sending an email or twitter and confusing that with action — while the real corporate and military and government centers of power go right on. In a way, the highest purpose of the Internet is to bring us together for empathy and action. After all, the reflector cells and empathy-producing chemicals in our brains only work when we're physically together with all five senses. You can't raise a baby online.

    • Gloria Steinem,
    • in Marianne Schnall, "Interview With Gloria Steinem," The Huffington Post ()
  • All progressive legislation has always had its genesis in the mind of one person. ... One can do much. And one and one and one can move mountains.

  • You have much more power when you are working for the right thing than when you are working against the wrong thing.

  • All the movements in the world, all the laws, the drives, the edicts will never do what personal relationships can do and must do.

    • Lillian Smith,
    • 1943, in Margaret Rose Gladney, ed., How Am I to Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith ()
  • Rebels and dissidents challenge the complacent belief in a just world, and, as the theory would predict, they are usually denigrated for their efforts. While they are alive, they may be called 'cantankerous,' 'crazy,' 'hysterical,' 'uppity,' or 'duped.' Dead, some of them become saints and heroes, the sterling characters of history. It's a matter of proportion. One angry rebel is crazy, three is a conspiracy, 50 is a movement.

  • 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.

  • Over the years, I've found that I either live life or write about it. I can't seem to do both simultaneously — I have to do it sequentially. When I write incessantly, I lose touch with the issues and passions that fuel the work. But when I get too involved in organizations or movement endeavors, I almost forget that I'm a writer. It's a constant struggle to find a balance between these two worlds — the solitary writing life and the life of a social justice activist.

  • I live to the rhythm of my country and I cannot remain on the sidelines. I want to be here. I want to be part of it. I want to be a witness. I want to walk arm in arm with it. I want to hear it more and more, to cradle it, to carry it like a medal on my chest. Activism is a constant element in my life, even though afterwards I anguish over not having written 'my own things.' Testimonial literature provides evidence of events that people would like to hide, denounces and therefore is political and part of a country in which everything remains to be done and documented.

  • ... real change can come about only from the margins of power.

  • If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room.

  • [On Barbara Cartland:] She has campaigned against water fluoridation, pornography, television violence, low pay for midwives, poor conditions for old people, discrimination against gypsies and ugly gym-slips for school girls.

  • Never feel too small or powerless to make a difference.

  • To resort to power one need not be violent, and to speak to conscience one need not be meek.

    • Barbara Deming,
    • "On Revolution and Equilibrium," Revolution and Equilibrium ()
  • ... even if I do not see the fruits, the struggle has been worthwhile. If my life has taught me anything, it is that one must fight.

  • ... the wrongs of society can be more deeply impressed on a large class of readers in the form of fiction than by essays, sermons, or the facts of science.

  • When you've written to your president, to your congressman, to your senator and nothing, nothing has come of it, you take to the streets.

  • Movements are not radical. Movements are the American way. A small group of abolitionists writing and speaking eventually led to the end of slavery. A few stirred-up women brought about women's voting. The Populist movement, the Progressive movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the women's movement — the examples go on and on of 'little people' getting together and telling the truth about their lives. They made our government act.

  • Change depends on people knowing the truth. Change depends on people speaking that truth out loud. That's what movements do. Movements educate people to the truth. They pass along information and ideas that many others do not know, and they cause them to ask questions, to challenge their own long-held beliefs. ... Movements are the way ordinary people get more freedom and justice. Movements are how we keep a check on power and those who abuse it.

  • It is my feeling that as we grow older we should become not less radical but more so. I do not, of course, mean this in any political-party sense, but rather in a willingness to struggle for those things in which we passionately believe. Social activism and the struggle for social justice are often thought of as the natural activities of the young but not of the middle-aged or the elderly. In fact, I don't think this was ever true.

  • Disturbers are never popular — nobody ever really loved an alarm clock in action, no matter how grateful he may have been afterwards for its kind services!

  • Mistrust must be acted on, and effective action by the ruled is not solitary and singular, but joint and repeated.

  • The happiest excitement in life is to be convinced that one is fighting for all one is worth on behalf of some clearly seen and deeply felt good, and against some greatly scorned evil.

  • All demonstrations ... say, 'You are rich and therefore powerful, we are very numerous and therefore potentially powerful. If we unite, our weakness and your power may cease.'

  • You never win freedom permanently. You have to win it time after time ... whether it's union rights, civil rights or equality for women. We have to keep at it and at it.

  • Life is a hard battle anyway. If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier. I will not allow my life's light to be determined by the darkness around me.

    • Sojourner Truth,
    • in Carleton Mabee, Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend ()
  • I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring. Because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again.

    • Sojourner Truth,
    • speech, American Equal Rights Association Convention ()
  • As a cause becomes more and more successful, the ideas of the people engaged in it are bound to change ...

  • Though we march in demonstrations, / Write checks to fight injustice and disease, / Defend the wetlands, ozone layer, and whales, / The whole world's in a terrible mess. / Yet we persevere nevertheless because / We can't let it get any worse, / And the world would become even worse, / The world would be a lot worse / If we stopped trying.

    • Judith Viorst,
    • "If We Stopped Trying," I'm Too Young to Be Seventy ()
  • The struggle which is not joyous is the wrong struggle. The joy of the struggle is not hedonism and hilarity, but the sense of purpose, achievement and dignity.

  • We always need to remember that behind almost every great moment in history, there are heroic people doing really boring and frustrating things for a prolonged period of time.

    • Gail Collins,
    • "My Favorite August," in The New York Times ()
  • The political writer, then, is the ultimate optimist, believing people are capable of change and using words as one way to try and penetrate the privatism of our lives.

    • Cherríe Moraga,
    • in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • May we comprehend that we cannot be stopped. / May I learn how to survive until my part is finished. / May I realize that I / am a / monster. I am / a / monster. / I am a monster. / And I am proud.

  • If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it, one step at a time.

  • You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.

  • Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.

    • Susan B. Anthony,
    • 1860, in Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony ()
  • ... we are not afraid to rock the boat. Making waves. This is what Asian American women have done and will continue to do.

    • Asian Women United of CA,
    • in Asian Women United of California, ed., Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings By and About Asian American Women ()
  • Standing out is okay. Standing up is okay. Doing both at once, well, that's activism.

  • Just as there are no little people or unimportant lives, there is no insignificant work.

  • The Administration pinned its faith on jail — that institution of convenience to the oppressor when he is strong in power and his weapons are effective. When the oppressor miscalculates the strength of the oppressed, jail loses its convenience.

  • Social movements are frequently characterized by gaps between the lives of the theorists who lead the movements and those of the followers who try to practice the theorists' ideas.

  • The 'flatfoot mentality' insists that any individual or organization that wants to change anything in our present system is somehow subversive of 'the American way,' and should be under continuous surveillance ...

  • Many whites, even white Southerners told me that even though it may have seemed like the blacks were being freed (by my actions) they felt more free and at ease themselves. They thought that my action didn't just free blacks but them, too.

    • Rosa Parks,
    • in Delorese Ambrose, Leadership: The Journey Inward ()
  • People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. ... No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

    • Rosa Parks,
    • in Jeanne Theoharis, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks ()
  • There is work to do; that is why I cannot stop or sit still. As long as a child needs help, as long as people are not free, there will be work to do. As long as an elderly person is attacked or in need of support, there is work to do. As long as we have bigotry and crime, we have work to do.

    • Rosa Parks,
    • in St. Joseph's HOPE Community News ()
  • When we think of what it is that politicizes people, it is not so much books or ideas, but experience.

  • Channel your outrage ... Do that which you are able to do.

  • ... as my hair turns white / my anger moves, a storm into the sunlight / where women and men fight alongside each other / in the battles against degradation, poverty, manipulation, fear / where anger is pure as the love I have for freedom / where desire is the catalyst for action / where the possibilities are rice and flowers and children / growing stronger everywhere.

    • Nellie Wong,
    • "For an Asian Woman Who Says My Poetry Gives Her a Stomachache," in Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Margarita Donnelly, eds., The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women's Anthology ()
  • I know we will create a society where there are no rich or poor, no people without work or beauty in their lives, where money itself will disappear, where we shall all be brothers and sisters, where every one will have enough.

    • Sylvia Pankhurst,
    • speech (1921), in David Mitchell, The Fighting Pankhursts ()
  • Never be discouraged from being an activist because people tell you that you'll not succeed. You have already succeeded if you're out there representing truth or justice or compassion or fairness or love. You already have your victory because you have changed the world; you have changed the status quo by you; you have changed the chemistry of things. And changes will spread from you, will be easier to happen again in others because of you, because, believe it or not, you are the center of the world.

    • Doris Haddock,
    • with Dennis Burke, Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year ()
  • I'll have to, as you say, take a stand, do something toward shaking up that system. ... Despair ... is too easy an out.

  • If you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm. As you get older, you must remember you have a second hand. The first one is to help yourself, the second one is to help others.

    • Audrey Hepburn,
    • in Diana Maychick, Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait ()
  • [On her UNICEF work:] I'm glad I've got a name, because I'm using it for what it's worth. ... I do not want to see mothers and fathers digging graves for their children.

  • ... I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

    • Fannie Lou Hamer,
    • in Jerry DeMuth, "Tired of Being Sick and Tired," in The Nation ()
  • Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought! Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!

  • For the love of a tree, / she went out on a limb. / For the love of the sea, / she rocked the boat. / For the love of the earth, / she dug deeper. / For the love of community, / she mended fences. / For the love of stars, / she let her light shine. / For the love of spirit, / she nurtured her soul. / For the love of a good time, / she sowed seeds of happiness. / For the love of the Goddess, she drew down the moon. / For the love of nature, / she made compost. / For the love of a good meal, / she gave thanks. / For the love of family, / she reconciled differences. / For the love of creativity, / she entertained new possibilities. / For the love of her enemies, / she suspended judgment. / For the love of herself, / she acknowledged her worth. / And the world was richer for her.

  • Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!

    • Mother Jones,
    • in Mary Field Parton, ed., The Autobiography of Mother Jones ()
  • One monkey don't stop no show. Not one, not six. The struggle continues.

  • Foolish modesty lags behind while brazen impudence goes forth and eats the pudding.

  • When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.

  • Don't agonize. Organize.

    • Florynce R. Kennedy,
    • in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. ()
  • Unity in a Movement situation can be overrated. If you were the Establishment, which would you rather see coming in the door: one lion or five hundred mice?

    • Florynce R. Kennedy,
    • in Gloria Steinem, "The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.," Ms. ()
  • I know we're termites. But if all the termites got together, the house would fall down.

  • Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.

  • I believe it is the responsibility and duty of those in high-profile positions to give a voice to people whose voices cannot be heard.

  • We criticize and separate ourselves from the process. We've got to jump right in there with both feet.

  • How do I stop eleven million people from buying the grape?

    • Dolores Huerta,
    • in Barbara L. Baer, "Stopping Traffic: One Woman's Cause," The Progressive ()
  • Social activism is all about optimism, even when you lose.

    • Urvashi Vaid,
    • "Action Makes It Better," in Dan Savage and Terry Miller, eds., It Gets Better ()
  • In the long run there is no more liberating, no more exhilarating experience than to determine one's position, state it bravely and then act boldly.

  • #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething

  • ... an activist is someone who cannot help but fight for something. That person is not usually motivated by a need for power, or money, or fame, but in fact driven slightly mad by some injustice, some cruelty, some unfairness, so much so that he or she is compelled by some internal moral engine to act to make it better.

    • Eve Ensler,
    • in foreward to Jody Williams, My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl's Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize ()
  • if you have never / stood with the oppressed / there is still time.

    • Rupi Kaur,
    • "Lift Them," The Sun and Her Flowers ()
  • ... to be an advocate you are persistent, dissatisfied, and relentless.

    • Nancy Pelosi,
    • in Tessa Stuart and Jann S. Wenner, interview, Rolling Stone ()
  • The first people a dictator puts in jail after a coup are the writers, the teachers, the librarians — because these people are dangerous. They have enough vocabulary to recognize injustice and to speak out loudly about it. Let us have the courage to go on being dangerous people.