As Beyoncé famously sings, “Who run the world? Girls!”
OK, maybe not yet, but we’re working on it. In honor of Women’s Equality Day, here are 30 powerful words of wisdom from some of the heroes who have paved the way for today’s women and children.
1. “My grandmother Dorothea always said that it was a combination of beauty and strength that made Southern women ‘whiskey in a teacup.’ We may be delicate and ornamental on the outside, she said, but inside we’re strong and fiery.”
In addition to being a wife and mom, Reese Witherspoon is an actress, producer, and entrepreneur. Not only is she one of the highest-paid actresses in the world, but she was also named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2006 and 2015 — and she made Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2019.
2. “Once you figure out what respect tastes like, it tastes better than attention.”
P!nk is a singer, songwriter, and activist. She is involved with charities like Human Rights Campaign, New York Restoration Project, Run for the Cure Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF, and World Animal Protection.
3. “You will often feel as if you don’t fit, but it has never been your destiny to fit in. You were born to stand out.”
Melene Rossouw is a South African attorney and activist who empowers women to become leaders in their communities through her nonprofit Women Lead Movement.
4. “When God created man and woman, he was thinking, ‘Who shall I give the power to, to give birth to the next human being?’ And God chose woman. And this is the big evidence that women are powerful.”
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist pushing for female education in a country where girls and women are not always allowed to go to school. She’s the youngest Nobel Prize Laureate, and she is working to advance human rights around the world.
5. “A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”
Gloria Steinem is one of the best-known feminist journalists and social-political activists of all time. She has been fighting for equality since the 1960s!
6. “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a prominent Nigerian writer of short stories, nonfiction, and novels.
7. “A woman is human. She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man. Likewise, she is never less. Equality is a given. A woman is human.”
Vera Nazarian writes fantasy, science fiction, and other “wonder fiction.” She is the author of 10 novels!
8. “There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work. There is only a woman who isn’t paid for her work.”
Caroline Criado-Perez is a British feminist author, journalist, and activist. Through her national campaign, the Women’s Room Project, she hopes to get more women working in the media.
9. “All through life there were distinctions — toilets for men, toilets for women; clothes for men, clothes for women — then, at the end, the graves are identical.”
Leila Aboulela is Sudanese but writes in English and lives in England. Her work explores important themes like migration and Islamism.
10. “Loving yourself is not antithetical to health, it is intrinsic to health. You can’t take good care of a thing you hate.”
Lindy West is an author, comedian, and activist who writes about feminism, pop culture, and fat acceptance. She is the author of the essay collection “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman,” among other books, essays, and articles.
11. “One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in, and where you want to go.”
Sheila Murray Bethel is an expert in global leadership and change. She’s the CEO of the Bethel Leadership Institute, a bestselling author, and a sought-after public speaker.
12. “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”
Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist who passed away in 1992.
13. “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”
Sheryl Sandberg is a business executive, bestselling author, billionaire, and philanthropist. She works for Facebook as their Chief Operating Officer and is the founder of LeanIn.Org.
14. “Life doesn’t always give us what we deserve, but rather, what we demand. And so you must continue to push harder than any other person in the room.”
Wadi Ben-Hirki was just 17 years old when she founded the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation. This nonprofit uses humanitarianism and activism in Northern Nigeria to lift marginalized communities out of poverty.
15. “We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.”
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is a singer and actress known for her empowering song lyrics.
16. “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”
Mary Shelley was a 17th-century English novelist who wrote “Frankenstein” in addition to editing the poetry of her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. She is considered to be one of the first-ever writers of science fiction.
17. “Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.”
Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She wrote books about her experiences and helped form an association for female pilots called The Ninety-Nines.
18. “You do not win by struggling to the top of a caste system, you win by refusing to be trapped within one at all.”
American feminist author and journalist Naomi Wolf is best-known for her groundbreaking feminist work “The Beauty Myth.”
19. “Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong, it’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
G.D. Anderson is an Australian activist and writer. After working in rural Namibia, she started The Cova Project to help impoverished women in developing nations.
20. “Masculine and feminine roles are not biologically fixed but socially constructed.”
Judith Butler is a philosopher who writes about ethics, politics, gender theories, and literary theory.
21. “Write your own part. It is the only way I’ve gotten anywhere. It’s much harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and once you find them, you can showcase them, and no one can stop you.”
Mindy Kaling is an actress, comedian, and writer. She’s known for her work on “The Office” and “The Mindy Project,” but she’s also a bestselling author!
22. “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
Nora Ephron was a journalist, prolific writer, and filmmaker. You’ve probably seen some of her movies. “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless In Seattle,” anyone?
23. “There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf was an English writer made famous for the use of stream of consciousness in her novels.
24. “Women are the real architects of society.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American author and abolitionist who wrote the acclaimed 1852 novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
25. “I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”
Maya Angelou is a renowned poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. Not only did she earn a Pulitzer Prize nomination, a Tony Award nomination, and three Grammys, but she also took home the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
26. “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Charlotte Brontë was the oldest of the three Brontë sisters. This quote is from her novel “Jane Eyre,” which is now considered a classic in English literature.
27. “Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves? Who knows what women’s intelligence will contribute when it can be nourished without denying love?”
Betty Friedan was an English novelist and poet who wrote “The Feminine Mystique,” a book that some say sparked a second wave of feminism in the U.S. in the 20th century.
28. “Young feminists are a thrilling phenomenon: smart, bold, funny defenders of rights and claimers of space — and changers of the conversation.”
Rebecca Solnit is a writer whose work covers feminism, the environment, politics, place, and art.
29. “Gender equity lifts everyone. Women’s rights and society’s health and wealth rise together.”
Philanthropist Melinda French Gates is a former manager at Microsoft. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become the largest private charity in the world. She and Bill have also received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Honor!
30. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Arundhati Roy is an Indian author who won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for her novel “The God of Small Things.” She’s also an activist for human rights and the environment.
Feeling inspired? So are we! What an incredible group of leaders and role models!
Don’t forget to share this list with a strong woman in your life.
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