As we here in the United States celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr Day, we thought it would be nice to take a moment and celebrate the Civil Rights Movement, especially the many women who influenced it. The women we quote below were all leaders of the Civil Rights Movement; several were recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal. We hope you are as inspired by these quotes — and these women — as we are.
Source: The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
“Give light and people will find the way.”
-Ella Baker, Activist
“No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies.”
-Daisy Bates, Journalist
“Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.”
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
– Rosa Parks, Activist
“Surely nowhere in the world do oppression and persecution based solely on the color of the skin appear more hateful and hideous than in the capital of the United States, because the chasm between the principles upon which this Government was founded, in which it still professes to believe, and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawn so wide and deep.”
– Mary Church Terrell, founder of National Association of Colored Women
“Greatness is not measured by what a man or woman accomplishes, but by the opposition he or she has overcome to reach his goals.”
– Dorothy Height, former president of the National Council of Negro Women
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
– Fannie Lou Hamer, organizer Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.”
When Bella Abzug was 13, her father died. There was no one to say the Mourner’s Kaddish for him in synagogue because that was the responsibility of the sons of the deceased — and Bella’s father didn’t have any sons. So Bella defied her community and said the prayers herself. It was one of her first feminist actions.
The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Bella started giving speeches about causes that were important to her in her childhood — speaking out in subways because she had no other pulpit. Over the course of her life, however, Bella found greater stages to stand on and larger audiences to listen to her words. including the House of Representatives, where she served from 1971 to 1977. She supported civil rights and women’s rights, and changed the world for the better.
Quotes from Bella Abzug:
“We are coming down from our pedestal and up from the laundry room. We want an equal share in government and we mean to get it.”
“Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.”
“The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes.”
“Women have been and are prejudiced, narrow minded, reactionary, even violent. Some women. They, of course, have a right to vote and a right to run for office. I will defend that right, but I will not support them or vote for them.”
“They used to give us a day–it was called International Women’s Day. In 1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn’t behave and here we are.”