The “why” of this site: I’m from a family of eight children, so fairness loomed large in our lives. When I began collecting women’s quotations, the 1980 edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations contained only 1/2 of 1% of quotations by women. Some 99.5% of all the quotations in the bible of quotation books were by men. Now men have said some great things. But it didn’t seem fair. One fellow kindly wrote me, “Women are not quoted because they never said anything.” Well, actually, it’s the other way around: we think women never said anything because they were never quoted. It turns out that women are responsible for thousands and thousands of witty, memorable, and thought-provoking ideas. In that 1980 Bartlett’s, when they did quote women, it was, for example, “Mary had a little lamb.” Now that’s sweet, and I’m happy to know who said it. But really … ! On the few occasions women were quoted, it was on prayer but not on theology, on service to others but not on leadership, on thrift but not on economics, on quarrels but not on war, on shopping but not on business. I’d like to see women and men quoted in equal numbers, and that’s the simplest “why” of this site.
Who might find this site useful: People who love words, ideas, and wicked cool writing. Readers who want to see what else their favorite author has said. Anyone looking for an apt quotation to spice up a speech, a homework assignment, a newspaper article, an essay, today’s journal entry, an original T-shirt slogan, epigrams for your book chapters, or a sympathy card that finds you lost for words. Researchers and those in women’s studies programs will find treasure here. Browsers will need to forcibly remove themselves from the site as they check out just one more topic, one more writer. Idea generators can become inspired by others’ phrasings, thoughts, and conclusions. Teachers might post a quotation a day to present new ideas to their students. Conference or workshop posters can entertain and instruct with a meaningful quotation. Holiday or other letters that start off with a relevant quotation offer your recipient the small gift of words. Obituary writers will find a quote that illuminates a woman’s wisdom or humor.
If you are one of the authors included here: Are you quoted correctly? If not, please let me know. If some others of your words are quotable or are already quoted elsewhere, I would like to know about them. If you feel a quotation no longer represents you, contact me and I’ll take it down. I don’t like censorship, but I support self-censorship when it’s a decision thoughtfully taken. If your brief description or birth year is missing, I’d appreciate including that information.
What the ellipses means: As a former editor, I blush to have done such a thing, but for private reasons I have reduced all ellipses to three dots. On this site, ellipses always mean that some material is missing from the original. If a quotation constitutes a complete sentence or a complete paragraph, there will be no ellipses. If even one word is missing — or sometimes up to several sentences might be missing — you will see this: … I apologize to style mavens, academics, editors, and those knowledgeable about the correct use of ellipses.
Missing sources: I like to know where every quotation comes from, and I like to see it on the page with my own eyes to make sure everything is correct. The majority of the quotations on this website are like that. However, some are still missing sources. If you know the source of a quotation that has none — and if you have a generous nature and can spare the time — I would be grateful to be able to add that information.
Corrections and additions: Although you are looking at 25 years’ worth of work, this collection is imperfect. If you see errors, let me know. If I’ve omitted a woman whose words you admire, send me her name.
Permissions: Do not contact me for permission to use any of these quotations. They are not mine. I cannot give you permission to use them. This is important. The quotations belong to the women who wrote them. This means that if you want to use more than 1 or 2 quotations or if you’re putting them in a book or if you’re making a profit in any way by using them, you need to familiarize yourself with the Fair Use doctrine. Start with the Internet, e.g., http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use .
Men’s names: You will see some quotations over men’s names. Be assured that these are all women, using pseudonyms for one reason or another. For example, there are quotations under “Ralph Irons” and also under “Olive Schreiner” because she wrote books under both names. At the bottom of each woman’s quotations, you will generally find information about her, including her real name, the name she was born with, or any pseudonyms she used. I use whatever name is listed as author of that book. If a woman refers to herself as “Mrs. Molesworth,” I leave it (but you will find her complete name at the end of the quotations by her).
Sexist language: With a longtime interest in biased language (Talking About People, The Bias-Free Word Finder, The Nonsexist Wordfinder, Unspinning the Spin, “Liberating Language” by Casey Miller, Kate Swift, and Rosalie Maggio, Ms.), I am aware of the sexist language you will find in many quotations. All sexist language (for example, “he” being used as a pseudogeneric pronoun) has been left. I do not re-write history. If that’s the way it appeared then, that’s the way you get it now. Just as you may see “thee” or “thou” or “wouldst” in some older quotations, so too you will see language that is obsolete by today’s inclusive standards. A comment of Madame de Staël’s is a good example of how ambiguous (as well as incorrect) sexist language is: “The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.” We don’t know whether she meant men/males in particular or men/human beings in general. We still don’t.
How to use a quotation containing sexist language: If you prefer your quotations without sexist ideas (and who wouldn’t?), you can do several things: (1) Put only part of the quotation in quotation marks, rewriting the rest. Agnes Repplier: “The vanity of man revolts from the serene indifference of the cat.” Suggested adaptation: Agnes Repplier tells us that our vanity “revolts from the serene indifference of the cat.” Jane Austen: “One man’s way may be as good as another’s, but we all like our own best.” Suggested adaptation: When Jane Austen says that one person’s way may be as good as another’s she adds, “but we all like our own best.” (2) Use brackets or ellipsis dots to replace or omit sexist material. Vita Sackville-West: “Ambition, old as mankind, the immemorial weakness of the strong.” Suggested adaptation: “Ambition … the immemorial weakness of the strong.” (3) In certain cases, you may want to use “[sic]” to indicate that the material was sexist in the original and to draw your audience’s attention to the inaccuracy. Helen Rowland: “The dollar sign is the only sign in which the modern man appears to have any real faith.” Suggested adaptation: “The dollar sign is the only sign in which the modern man [sic] appears to have any real faith.” (4) When a quotation is tightly woven with sexist words, credit the writer for the idea, omitting the quotation marks and rephrasing the words. Mary Renault: “In all men is evil sleeping; the good man is he who will not awaken it, in himself or in other men.” Suggested adaptation: Mary Renault says that evil sleeps in all of us. The good among us will not awaken it, in ourselves or in others.
How NOT to use this site: I obviously want you to quote women so I want you to help yourself to the riches here. However, this website represents an extraordinary number of new quotations — the majority do not appear anywhere else on the Internet. I know from personal experience that this bounty will tempt a few people to lift hundreds of quotations and make a book of them or create their own website with them. Please don’t do that. I’ve spent decades finding (reading over 12,000 books), verifying, and organizing these quotations. I offer this site without ads and without charge. I hope all users will profit from it. But not literally. Thank you.
Many thanks to: fast, efficient Shane C., who input most of this material; trail-blazer Elaine Partnow, who published the very first — and still impressive — collection of quotations by women; Jill Zahniser, an early and vigorous collector; Ralph Keyes, brilliant writer and thinker, responsible for correcting many long-gone-wrong quotes; astonishingly prolific writer Mary Ellen Snodgrass who sends good quotations my way; Leonard Roy Frank who has compiled one of those most accurate collections of quotations in print. Susan Worst furnished a number of quotations during the writing of the 1992 and 1996 Beacon women’s quotations books, and I’m still grateful. Others who remember that I collect quotations and have supplied me with materials over the years are Mary Maggio, Sandy Berman, Esther & Wally Pereira, Susan Berkson, R.J. Middleton, and Bonnie Goldsmith. If you enjoy the elegant simplicity of this website, know that it is due to its talented and creative designer, Milan Polak (PMCDS.ca).
Who am I? Writer and wordsmith. For more information, see my website (URL below). When it comes to quotations, I can’t decide if I’m a museum curator, gathering marvels for the world to enjoy — or a parasite, feasting on the dazzling words of other people.