Seven Quotes by Jewish Women that Give Us Life

The March into the National Women’s Conference (left to right) Billy Jean King, Susan B. Anthony II, Bella Abzug, Sylvia Ortiz, Peggy Kokernot, Michele Cearcy, Betty Friedan, 1977.

Copyright © Diana Mara Henry/

It feels safe, and true, to say that Women’s Equality Day exists, in large part, because of the activism of Jewish women. It was Bella Abzug who, as a congresswoman in 1971, proposed that August 26th be designated “Women’s Equality Day.” She did this to commemorate women’s fight for the right to vote and the passing on the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 and the one-year anniversary of the “Women’s Strike for Equality” March, in which 50,000 women marched down the streets of New York City, demanding free childcare, equal access in education and jobs, and the right to safe and legal abortions.

Here are some of our favorite women from the archive, with their thoughts on womanhood, resilience, and the importance of knowing your history.

Ernestine Rose on women’s humanity: "I suppose you all grant that woman is a human being. If she has a right to life she has a right to earn a support for that life. If a human being, she has a right to have her powers and faculties as a human being developed. If developed, she has a right to exercise them."

Emma Goldman on freedom: "True Emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts. It begins in woman’s soul”

Grace Paley on art and the underdog: “I think art, literature, fiction, poetry, whatever it is, makes justice in the world. That’s why it almost always has to be on the side of the underdog.”

Bella Abzug on "little men": "But the establishment is made up of little men, very frightened." 

Gerda Lerner on knowing your history: “Women’s history is the primary tool for women’s emancipation”

Nora Ephron on making trouble: “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women." [Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996]”

Dorothy Parker on knowing your own mind: "Now I know the things I know/ And I do the things I do/ And if you do not like me/ To hell, my love, with you!"

By the time the class of 2020 graduates from college, women will have been voting in America for a century, abortion will have been legal for forty-three years, and the first woman president might be about to run for her second term. JWA is founded on the belief that celebrating and sharing the stories, knowledge, and experiences of Jewish women will empower the next generation of changemakers to be the architects of their own stories and a better, more inclusive, future.

Happy Women's Equality Day! 

Topics: Feminism
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How to cite this page

Book, Bella. "Seven Quotes by Jewish Women that Give Us Life ." 26 August 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2024) <>.