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  • There are no such things as divine, immutable or inalienable rights. Rights are things we get when we are strong enough to make good our claim to them.

    • Helen Keller,
    • "Why Men Need Women Suffrage," New York Call ()
  • There is but one honest limit to the rights of a sentient being; it is where they touch the rights of another sentient being.

  • It is not that you set the individual apart from society but that you recognize in any society that the individual must have rights that are guarded.

  • Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

  • ... the fundamental right of freedom of thought and expression is essential. If you curtail what the other fellow says and does, you curtail what you yourself may say and do.

  • Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political being.

  • Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority.

  • The impulse to make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free is an old one ... When we are badly frightened, we think we can make ourselves safer by sacrificing some of our liberties. We did it during the McCarthy era out of fear of communism. Less liberty is regularly proposed as a solution to crime, to pornography, to illegal immigration, to abortion, to all kinds of threats.

  • The law, in our case, seems to make the right, and the very reverse ought to be done — the right should make the law.

  • The notion of obligations comes before that of rights, which is subordinate and relative to the former. A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds ...

  • A right which goes unrecognized by anybody is not worth very much.

  • Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice?

  • Food for all is a necessity. Food should not be a merchandise, to be bought and sold as jewels are bought and sold by those who have the money to buy. Food is a human necessity, like water and air, and it should be as available.

  • What a man does in his own house cannot concern the nation.

  • ... stop spying on the lawful citizenry. Democracy and dossiers go ill together. It is all right for God but all wrong for the State to keep its eye on sparrows.

  • Once the state is looked upon as the source of rights, rather than their bound protector, freedom becomes conditional on the pleasure of the state.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • "The Contagion of Ideas" (1952), On the Contrary ()
  • The belief that if the meanest man in the republic is deprived of his rights, then every man in the republic is deprived of his rights, is the only patriotism.

    • Jane Addams,
    • speech to the Union League club, Chicago ()
  • Women's rights are human rights.

  • ... most people, no doubt, when they espouse human rights, make their own mental reservations about the proper application of the word 'human.'

  • ... where no individual in a community is denied his rights, the mass are the more perfectly protected in theirs; for whenever any class is subject to fraud or injustice, it shows that the spirit of tyranny is at work, and no one can tell where or how or when the infection will spread ...

  • Each person born into this world has a right to everything he needs. His right, however, is bound up with that of every other creature and gives him no license to grab everything he can without allowing a share for others.

    • Dorothy Richards,
    • in Dorothy Richards with Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Beaversprite ()
  • Here's the thing about rights. They're not supposed to be voted on. That's why they call them rights.

  • The Canadians have declared that domestic violence is not a feminist issue but a matter of human rights.

  • The investigation of the rights of the slave has led me to a better understanding of my own. I have found the anti-slavery cause to be ... the school in which human rights are more fully investigated and better understood and taught than in any other.

  • I recognize no rights but human rights — I know nothing of men's rights and women's rights ...

  • There's no question in my mind but that rights are never won unless people are willing to fight for them.

  • Men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less.