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Jewesses with Attitude

Jewish women on happiness

Writing that last post on the General Social Survey about women's unhappiness has really got me thinking about happiness and how to define happiness. In my post, I shared a quote from Nora Ephron in which she explains that in different eras, happiness could be defined as "a puppy," "a dry martini," or "knowing what your uterus looks like." What would happiness be defined as today? A smart phone?

The Jewish Women's Archive has trained me to look to Jewish women at times like this, so I picked up The Quotable Jewish Woman, which lives on my desk here at the office. As it turns out, Jewish women have a lot to say on the subject of happiness.

"It is good to have such moments of despair and of temporary extinction; continuous calm would be superhuman." ~ Etty Hillesum, 1983

"Throw yourselves at happiness, sisters, / Burst into silvery laughter!" ~ Miriam Ulinover, 1922

"Happiness is getting a brown gravy stain on a brown dress." ~ Totie Fields

"Instant gratification takes too long." ~ Carrie Fisher, 1987

"The people are a very fickle baby that must have new toys every day." ~ Emma Goldman, 1911

"A happy woman is one who has no cares at all; a cheerful woman is one who has cares but doesn't let them get her down." ~ Beverly Sills, 1975

"There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness or death. Any attempt to prove otherwise constitutes unacceptable behavior." ~ Fran Lebowitz, 1978

"Only to have a grief equal to all these tears!" ~ Adrienne Rich, 1963

"My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose. Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars." ~ Ayn Rand, 1946

"I was always much too elated to imagine despair." ~ Eve Babitz, 1993

"I came to see the Center elderly as in possession of the philosophers' stone -- that universally sought, ever-elusive treasure, harboring the secret that would teach us how to transmute base metals into pure gold. The stone, like the bluebird's feather of happiness, is said to be overlooked precisely because it is so close to us, hidden in the dust at our feet." ~ Barbara Myerhoff

Do you have any quotes to add to this list?

How do you define happiness?

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Jewish women on happiness." 24 September 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 22, 2017) <>.


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