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Women's Wit and Wisdom: A Book of Quotations

Women's Wit and Wisdom: A Book of Quotations

by Susan L. Rattiner (Editor)

See All Formats & Editions

"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact," said Mary Ann Evans, a.k.a. George Eliot. "In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels," opined Jane Austen. "When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of many men for the inattention of one," observed Helen Rowland


"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact," said Mary Ann Evans, a.k.a. George Eliot. "In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels," opined Jane Austen. "When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of many men for the inattention of one," observed Helen Rowland. These are just a few of more than 400 memorable quotes in this volume, expressed over the past 2,500 years by female poets, novelists, historical figures, celebrities, entertainers, and others.
Covering a broad range of topics — men, women, love and romance, marriage, family, human nature, aging, the quest for gender equality, work and occupations, joy and sorrow, nature, the environment, and more — the quotations are divided into subject categories and arranged chronologically by the author's date of birth. Where possible, sources and dates are cited for each quote.
Browse through these pages and immerse yourself in snippets of worldly wisdom from the poignant ("The loneliest woman in the world is a woman without a close woman friend" — Toni Morrison) to the despairing ("Old age is woman's hell" — Ninon de Lenclos) to the politically astute ("Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested" — Queen Elizabeth I) to the humorous ("Flops are a part of life's menu, and I've never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses" — Rosalind Russell).
You'll also find food for thought from Sappho, Madame de Stael, Harriet Tubman, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Erma Bombeck, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, among others. Brimming with timeless observations, humor, and wisdom, this practical and entertaining little volume will be indispensable to public speakers and a delight to general readers.

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Read an Excerpt

Women's Wit and Wisdom

A Book of Quotations


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11185-8



I am obnoxious to each carping tongue,
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poet's pen, all scorn, I should thus wrong.

ANNE BRADSTREET c. 1612–1672; "The Prologue" (1678)

* * *

How much it is to be regretted, that the British ladies should ever sit down contented to polish, when they are able to reform; to entertain, when they might instruct; and to dazzle for an hour, when they are candidates for eternity!

HANNAH MORE 1745-1833; "On Dissipation," Essays on Various Subjects ... for Young Ladies (1777)

* * *

I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.

MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT 1759-1797; A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

* * *

A man can brave opinion, a woman must submit to it.

MADAME DE STAËL 1766-1817; Delphine (1802)

* * *

Reason and religion teach us that we too are primary existences, that it is for us to move in the orbit of our duty around the holy center of perfection, the companions not the satellites of men.

EMMA HART WILLARD 1787-1870; inscribed in the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, n.d.

Woman stock is rising in the market. I shall not live to see women vote, but I'll come and rap at the ballot box.

LYDIA MARIA CHILD 1802-1880; letter to Sarah Shaw (August 3, 1856)

* * *

Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING 1806–1861; "To George Sand—A Desire" (1844)

* * *

I should like to know what is the proper function of women, if it is not to make reasons for husbands to stay at home, and still stronger reasons for bachelors to go out.

GEORGE ELIOT [MARY ANN EVANS] 1819–1880; The Mill on the Floss (1860)

* * *

Half the sorrows of women would be averted if they could repress the speech they know to be useless; nay, the speech they have resolved not to make.

GEORGE ELIOT [MARY ANN EVANS] 1819-1880; Felix Holt (1866)

* * *

"... women have been called queens for a long time, but the kingdom given them isn't worth ruling."

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT 1832–1888; An Old-Fashioned Girl (1869)

* * *

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.

MARGARET SANGER 1883-1966; Woman and the New Race (1920)

* * *

Shall we watch in patience the murdering of 25,000 women each year in the United States from criminal abortions? Shall we fold our hands and wait until a body of sleek and well-fed politicians get ready to abolish the cause of such slaughter?

MARGARET SANGER 1883-1966; My Fight for Birth Control (1931)

I am a woman, I am weak,
And custom leads me as one blind,
Only my songs go where they will
Free as the wind.

SARA TEASDALE 1884–1933; "The Wind," Love Songs (1917)

* * *

A woman will always have to be better than a man in any job she undertakes.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT 1884–1962; My Day (Nov. 29, 1945)

* * *

A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT 1884-1962; this quotation has also been attributed to NANCY REAGAN (b. 1923) in Observer (March 29, 1981), slightly reworded as "A woman is like a tea bag— only in hot water do you realize how strong she is."

* * *

I was, being human, born alone; I am, being woman, hard beset.

ELINOR WYLIE 1885-1928; "Let No Charitable Hope," Black Armour (1923)

* * *

All the tired women,
Who sewed their lives away,
Speak in my deft fingers
As I sew today.

HAZEL HALL 1886-1924; "Instruction," (1922)

* * *

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.

CHARLOTTE WHITTON 1896-1975; Canada Month (June 1963)

* * *

Women have no wilderness in them,
They are provident instead,
Content in the tight hot cell of their hearts
To eat dusty bread.

LOUISE BOGAN 1897-1970; "Women" (1923)

But if God had wanted us to think just with our wombs, why did He give us a brain?

CLARE BOOTH LUCE 1903-1987; Life (October 16, 1970)

* * *

One is not born a woman: one becomes one.

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR 1908-1986; Le deuxième sexe (1949)

* * *

Women want men, careers, money, children, friends, luxury, comfort, independence, freedom, respect, love, and a three-dollar pantyhose that won't run.

PHYLLIS DILLER b. 1917; in Ashton Applewhite (ed.), And I Quote (1992)

* * *

In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.

MARGARET THATCHER b. 1925; (said in 1970)

* * *

A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.

GLORIA STEINEM b. 1934; Newsweek (March 28, 1960)

* * *

Let's face it, there are no plain women on television.

ANNA FORD b. 1943; Observer (September 23, 1979)



The more I see of men, the better I like dogs.

MARIE-JEANNE ROLAND 1754–1793; attributed

* * *

Man is to be held only by the slightest chains, with the idea that he can break them at pleasure, he submits to them in sport.

MARIA EDGEWORTH 1768-1849; Letters for Literary Ladies (1795)

Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.

JANE AUSTEN 1775–1817; Persuasion (1818)

* * *

Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.

MARGARET FULLER 1810-1850; Summer on the Lakes (1844)

* * *

A man ... is so in the way in the house!

ELIZABETH GASKELL 1810–1865; Cranford (1853)

* * *

A man is seldom ashamed of feeling that he cannot love a woman so well when he sees a certain greatness in her: nature having intended greatness for men.

GEORGE ELIOT [MARY ANN EVANS] 1819–1880; Middlemarch (1871-2)

* * *

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.

GEORGE ELIOT [MARY ANN EVANS] 1819–1880; Theophrastus Such (1878)

* * *

A gentleman opposed to their enfranchisement once said to me, "Women have never produced anything of any value to the world." I told him the chief product of the women had been the men, and left it to him to decide whether the product was of any value.

ANNA HOWARD SHAW 1847-1919; address to the National Woman Suffrage Association (April 29, 1899)

* * *

"Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his real self that can dare and do and win out ... People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts."

ELEANOR H. PORTER 1868-1920; Pollyanna (1912)

It takes a woman twenty years to make a man of her son, and another woman twenty minutes to make a fool of him.

HELEN ROWLAND 1875-1950; Reflections of a Bachelor Girl (1903)

* * *

The follies which a man regrets most, in his life, are those which he didn't commit when he had the opportunity.

HELLEN ROWLAND 1875-1950; A Guide to Men (1922)

* * *

Somehow a bachelor never quite gets over the idea that he is a thing of beauty and a boy forever.

HELLEN ROWLAND 1875–1950; A Guide to Men (1922)

* * *

I never liked the men I loved, and never loved the men I liked.

FANNY BRICE, 1891–1951; in Norman Katkov, The Fabulous Fanny (1952)

* * *

A man in the house is worth two in the street.

MAE WEST 1892–1980; Belle of the Nineties (1934)

* * *

The best way to hold a man is in your arms.

MAE WEST 1892–1980; in Joseph Weintraub, Peel Me a Grape (1975)

* * *

A hard man is good to find.

MAE WEST 1892–1980; attributed

* * *

There is, of course, no reason for the existence of the male sex except that sometimes one needs help with moving the piano.

REBECCA WEST 1892–1983; Sunday Telegraph (June 28, 1970)

... I had been fed, in my youth, a lot of old wives' tales about the way men would instantly forsake a beautiful woman to flock around a brilliant one. It is but fair to say that, after getting out in the world, I had never seen this happen.

DOROTHY PARKER 1893–1967; Constant Reader (1970)

* * *

Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to be as mediocre as possible.

MARGARET MEAD 1901–1978; Quote Magazine (June 15, 1958)

* * *

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

FLORYNCE KENNEDY b. 1916; said in 1970; Ms. magazine (March 1973)

* * *

Men decided a few centuries ago that any job they found repulsive was women's work.

FRANCES GABE; said in 1983; in Anne L. MacDonald, Feminine Ingenuity (1992)

* * *

My ancestors wandered lost in the wilderness for 40 years because even in biblical times, men would not stop to ask for directions.

ELAYNE BOOSLER b. 1952; Time (Fall 1990)



Love—bittersweet, irrepressible—
loosens my limbs and I tremble.

SAPPHO c. 613-580 B.C.; "To Atthis" (6th Century B.C.); in Willis Barnstone, Sappho (1965)

Love made me poet,
And this I writ;
My heart did do it,
And not my wit.

ELIZABETH, LADY TANFIELD c. 1565–1628; epitaph for her husband

* * *

Love ceases to be a pleasure, when it ceases to be a secret.

APHRA BEHN 1640-1689; The Lover's Watch (1686)

* * *

Oh, what a dear ravishing thing is the beginning of an Amour!

APHRA BEHN 1640-1689; The Emperor of the Moon (1687)

* * *

Nothing to be done without a bribe I find, in love as well as law.

SUSANNAH CENTLIVRE c. 1669–1723; The Perjured Husband (1700)

* * *

The cure of a romantic first flame is a better surety to subsequent discretion, than all the exhortations of all the fathers, and mothers, and guardians, and maiden aunts in the universe.

FANNY BURNEY 1752–1840; Camilla (1796)

* * *

No riches from his scanty store
My lover could impart;
He gave a boon I valued more,
He gave me all his heart.

HELEN MARIA WILLIAMS 1762–1827; "Song," An Ode to Peace and Other Poems (1782–1788)

* * *

In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels.

JANE AUSTEN 1775–1817; Pride and Prejudice (1813)

* * *

May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?

JANE AUSTEN 1775–1817; Pride and Prejudice (1813)

I sometimes think the gods have united human beings by some mysterious principle, like the according notes of music. Or is it as Plato has supposed, that souls originally one have been divided, and each seeks the half it lost?

LYDIA MARIA CHILD 1802–1880; Philothea: A Romance (1836)

* * *

"Yes," I answered you last night;
"No," this morning, sir, I say.
Colours seen by candle-light
Will not look the same by day.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING 1806-1861; "The Lady's Yes" (1844)

* * *

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING 1806-1861; Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)

* * *

He woos me with those honeyed words
That women love to hear.

EMMA C. EMBURY 1806-1863; "The Widow's Wooer" (c. 1860)

* * *

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

FANNY FERN [SARA PAYSON WILLIS] 1811–1872; Willis Parton n.d.

* * *

My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees—My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath:—a source of little visible delight, but necessary.

EMILY BRONTË 1818-1848; Wuthering Heights (1847)

* * *

A difference of taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.

GEORGE ELIOT [MARY ANN EVANS] 1819–1880; Daniel Deronda (1876)

Intense love is often akin to intense suffering.

FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER 1825-1911; "The Two Offers," Anglo-African Magazine (1859)

* * *

We don't believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack.

MARIE VON EBNER-ESCHENBACH 1830-1916; Aphorism (1905)

* * *

The fate of love is that it always seems too little or too much.

AMELIA E. BARR 1831–1919; The Belle of Bowling Green (1904)

* * *

I believe love, pure and true,
Is to the soul a sweet, immortal dew.

MARY ASHLEY TOWNSEND 1832–1901; "Creed," Down the Bayou and Other Poems (1881)

* * *

I am as weak as other women are—
Your frown can make the whole world like a tomb.

ELLA WHEELER WILCOX 1850-1919; "Individuality," Poems of Passion (1883)

* * *

Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; love, the freest, the most powerful molder of human destiny; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State-and Church-begotten weed, marriage?

EMMA GOLDMAN 1869-1940; Anarchism and Other Essays (1911)

* * *

So blind is life, so long at last is sleep,
And none but Love to bid us laugh or weep.

WILLA GATHER 1873-1947; "Evening Song," April Twilights (1903)

* * *

And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.

AMY LOWELL 1874–1925; "Patterns," (1916)

You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.

AMY LOWELL. 1874–1925; "Opal," Pictures of the Floating World (1919)

* * *

An impersonal and scientific knowledge of the structure of our bodies is the surest safeguard against prurient curiosity and lascivious gloating.

MARIE STOPES 1880-1958; Married Love (1918)

* * *

Passion always goes, and boredom stays.

GABRIELLE "COCO" CHANEL 1883-1971; in Frances Kennett, Coco: the Life and Loves of Gabrielle Chanel (1989)

* * *

For though I know he loves me,
To-night my heart is sad;
His kiss was not so wonderful
As all the dreams I had.

SARA TEASDALE 1884–1933; "The Kiss," Love Songs (1917)

* * *

Never think she loves him wholly,
Never believe her love is blind,
All his faults are locked securely
In a closet of her mind.

SARA TEASDALE 1884–1933; "Appraisal," Dark of the Moon (1926)

* * *

Your thorns are the best part of you.

MARIANNE MOORE 1887–1972; "Roses Only," Others (1917)

* * *

Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY 1892–1950; "Pity Me Not" (1922)

* * *

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.

DOROTHY PARKER 1893–1967; "News Item" (1926) in Not So Deep as a Well (1937)

I'm as pure as the driven slush.

TALLULALH BANKHEAD 1903-1968; Saturday Evening Post (April 12, 1947)



A father will have compassion on his son. A mother will never forget her child. A brother will cover the sin of his sister. But what husband ever forgave the faithlessness of his wife?

MARGUERITE OF NAVARRE 1492–1549; Mirror of the Sinful Soul (1531)

* * *

I do not want a husband who honours me as a queen, if he does not love me as a woman.

ELIZABETH I 1533–1603; in Frederick Chamberlin, The Sayings of Queen Elizabeth (1923)

* * *

If ever two were one, then surely we.

ANNE BRADSTREET c. 1612-1672; "To My Dear and Loving Husband" (c. 1650)

* * *

Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name.

LADY MARY CHUDLEIGH 1656–1710; "To the Ladies," Poems on Several Occasions (1703)

* * *

O! how short a time does it take to put an end to a woman's liberty!

FANNY BURNEY 1752–1840; diary (July 1768)

* * *

No man is in love when he marries ... There is something in the formalities of the matrimonial preparations that drive away all the little cupidons.

FANNY BURNEY 1752–1840; Camilla (1796)

"From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents.—Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

JANE AUSTEN 1775–1817; Pride and Prejudice (1813)

* * *

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.

JANE AUSTEN 1775–1817; Pride and Prejudice (1813)

* * *

Even quarrels with one's husband are preferable to the ennui of a solitary existence.

ELIZABETH PATTERSON BONAPARTE 1785–1879; in Eugene L. Didier, The Life and Letters of Madame Bonaparte (1879)


Excerpted from Women's Wit and Wisdom by SUSAN L. RATTINER. Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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