A month of awesome women

At the end of November I read a great quotation by Nancy Astor. She was the first woman to sit in the House of Commons, in 1919*; she’s also something of an icon of mine.

I was about to post her words on Twitter. But as I thought about her wisdom and wit it struck me that 2016 had been a dark year for women in quite a few ways. We lost some amazing ones (Jo Cox, Victoria Wood and Carrie Fisher to name but three), saw others raped, murdered, bullied or intimidated for their gender or sexuality — and, to end the year, saw a man with a track record of demeaning women elected to the White House.

It seemed a good time to celebrate some awesome women, so I decided to make posting the quotation more than a one off. I was already signed up to do the Kindness Advent Calendar and I decided in a similar spirit to post a new quotation each day in December by a woman whose words made me smile or gave me hope.

I really enjoyed the experience, and I learned a few things doing it as well. Obviously, the quotations are a reflection of my own tastes, values and heroes; choosing one each day was wonderfully hard (I could easily have done a month of Michelle Obama or Dorothy Parker alone).

This blogpost is nothing more than a collection of these quotes. Just because. Because it’s good to recognise greatness, and a joy to see so many inspirational words in one place.

Looking back on them, there were clear themes that I — consciously or unconsciously — drew out by choosing the words I did. So I’ve curated them like that. Here goes.

Women power and feminism

In passing, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman. — Nancy Astor

[When asked about being one of the greatest female athletes of all time]: I prefer ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’. — Serena Williams

Heterosexuality is not normal — it’s just common. — Dorothy Parker

That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show. — Ada Lovelace

I will have but one mistress, and no master.— Elizabeth I

We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help to free the other half.— Emmeline Pankhurst

The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.— Ayn Rand

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. — Audre Lorde

Wisdom on life and love

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from. — Rebecca Solnit

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. — Maya Angelou

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.— Mother Teresa

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. — Gertrude Stein

Perseverance and fearlessness

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. — Eleanor Roosevelt

The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. — Amelia Earhart

I give this advice: do not fear truth. Never give up the search after it; take courage and do that which truth dictates — Elizabeth Fry

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. — Marie Curie

Religion

It is perfectly possible to live a very moral life without a belief in God, and I think it’s perfectly possible to live a life peppered with ill-doing and believe in God. — JK Rowling

I distrust those who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.— Susan B Anthony

Integrity

When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you do not stoop to their level. Our motto is when they go low, we go high. — Michelle Obama

Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not. — Oprah Winfrey

Shining a light in the darkness

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.— Anne Frank

It is a joy to represent such a diverse community….we are far more united & have more in common than things that divide us.— Jo Cox

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.— Brené Brown

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful. — Malala Yousafzai

The worst thing to happen in a democracy — as in individual life — is to become cynical about the future & lose hope. — Hillary Clinton

Joy and wit

The only thing better than singing is more singing.— Ella Fitzgerald

A party without cake is just a meeting.— Julia Child

I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb — and I’m not blonde either.— Dolly Parton

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.— Katharine Hepburn

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

I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am. — Carrie Fisher

And finally, one about books. Because books.

Good books free you. They make you feel that things like class, sex and age don’t matter. They’re the greatest leveller.— Sue Townsend

I had great fun choosing and being inspired by these brilliant words. I hope you find something inspirational in here too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


*though not, incidentally, the first woman to be elected as an MP: that honour goes to Constance Markievicz