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It is May. In a few short weeks graduates throughout the land will be flinging their caps, hats and mortars into the air accompanied by shouts of pride, success and "freedom". At elementary schools and universities, middle schools and high schools, boys and girls and
young men and women will experience a swelling of the chest and the smell of excitement for their futures. What they have experienced in the classroom will, to a great degree, dictate what they will experience in the world outside the halls of education. Here then are set down some wise, some witty, some concerned and some cavalier
quotations regarding education in general, and that of women in particular.
To all the graduates, young and old, I say - Congratulations!
- In sisterhood, Elaine Bernstein Partnow, Editor


The highest result of education is tolerance.
Optimism (1903) by Helen Keller, American deaf & blind lecturer, writer, 1880-1968; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1964

In school books, the Dick and Jane syndrome reinforced our emerging attitudes. The arithmetic books posed appropriate conundrums: "Ann has three pies . . . Dan has three rockets. . . ." We read the nuances between the lines: Ann keeps her eye on the oven; Dan sets his sights on the moon.
"Down with Sexist Upbringing" by American Letty Cottin Pogrebin, columnist, writer, editor, 1939- ; included in The First Ms. Reader, Francine Klagsbrun, ed., 1972

....only that education deserves emphatically to be termed cultivation of mind which teaches young people how to begin to think.
A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft, author, feminist, 1759-1797

Objection: Women do not desire learning./
Answer: Neither do many boys...yet I suppose you do not intend to lay fallow all children that will not bring forth fruit of themselves.
An Essay to Revive the Ancient Education of the Gentlewomen (1673) by Bathsua Makin, English author, tutor, scholar, 1608/12-1674/75

"You talk to me about educating my children; but what's the use of it...The more they know the wuss it will be for 'em; for they won't keep company with their own color, and white folks won't associate with them, and thar they are shut up by themselves...and they won't be any thing but just what I am, a nigger that every body despises."
Liberia (1853) by Sarah Josepha Hale, American writer, editor, poet, 1837-1877; first woman magazine editor in U.S.; established Thanksgiving as national holiday; established Mount Vernon as national shrine

Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer--into a selflessness which links us with all humanity. Political education should do the
My Two Countries (1923) by Nancy Astor, American/British politician, 1879-1964; first woman to sit in British House of Commons; Lord Mayor of Plymouth; leader of women's and children's rights

"We have strict orders on how to teach. There are certain methods that must be employed. Your way is easier to learn, but it hasn't been approved by the school board for use in the classroom."
The Becker Scandal (play; 1968) by Viña Delmar, American playwright, 1905-1990

"To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion."
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) by Muriel Spark, Scottish poet, writer, 1918-

Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts.
Mother Jones, Irish/American humanitarian, labor organizer, 1830-1930; Quoted in Ms. magazine (November 1981)

"I believe in the rational, but not in the magical power of education."
Vivian (1812) by Maria Edgeworth, Irish essayist, novelist, 1767-1849

In early life, and probably even today, it is not sufficiently understood that a child's education should include at least a rudimentary grasp of religion, sex, and money. Without a basic knowledge of these three primary facts in a normal human being's life--subjects which stir the emotions, create events and opportunities, and if they do not wholly decide must greatly influence an individual's personality--no human being's education can have a safe foundation.
Search for a Soul (1947) by Phyllis Bottome, English/American novelist, 1884-1963

. . . a good education is another name for happiness.
Essays (1841) by Ann Plato, African-American poet, fl. 1840s; author of second volume of poetry by a Black woman published in the United States

Now, if the principle of toleration were once admitted into classical education -- if it were admitted that the great object is to read and enjoy a language, and the stress of teaching were placed on the few things absolutely essential to this result, if the tortoise were allowed time to creep, and the bird permitted to fly, and the fish to swim, towards the enchanted and divine sources of Helicon -- all might in their own way arrive there, and rejoice in its flowers, its beauty, and its coolness.
Little Foxes (1865) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, American writer, social critic, 1811-1896

Computers can do all the left hemisphere processing better and faster than the human brain. So what's left for the human brain is global thinking, creative thinking, intuitive-problem solving, seeing the whole picture. All of that can not be done by the computer. And yet the school system goes on, churning out reading, writing, and arithematic, spelling, grammar.
Quoted in article in Common Ground of Puget Sound (Fall 1989) by Betty Edwards, American author, researcher, artist, fl. 1940s

Learning, while at school, that the charge for the education of girls was the same as that for boys, and that, when they became teachers, women received only half as much as men for their services, the injustice of this distinction was so apparent, that I resolved to claim for my sex all that an impartial Creator had bestowed, which, by custom and a perverted application of the Scriptures, had been wrested from women.
Lucretia Mott, American abolitionist, suffragist, Quaker minister, 1793-1880; Quoted in Biography of Distinguished Women (1876) by Sarah Josepha Hale

I could wish that all young persons might be exhorted to...read the great book of nature, wherein they may see the wisdom and power of the Creator, in the order of the universe, and in the production and preservation of all things.
Anne Baynard, English scholar, 1672-1697; Quoted in Biography of Distinguished Women (1876) by Sarah Josepha Hale

If one considers the charm of human speech one is bound to acknowledge the inferiority of one who does not possess a correct spoken language; and an aesthetic conception in education cannot be imagined unless special care be devoted to perfecting articulate language.
The Montessori Method (1912; Anne Everett George, tr.) by Maria Montessori, Italian physician, educator, writer, 1870-1952; originator of Montessori Method of education; first Italian woman to receive M.D. from University of Rome

The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth. From this almost mystic affirmation there comes what may seem a strange conclusion: that education must start from birth.
The Absorbent Mind (1967) by Maria Montessori, Ibid.

Education, in its largest sense, is a thing of great scope and extent. It includes the whole process by which a human being is formed to be what he is, in habits, principles, and cultivation of every kind...You speak of beginning the education of our son. The moment he was able to form an idea his education was already begun.
Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773) by Anna Letitia Barbauld, English editor, poet, essayist, 1743-1825

Since a time has come, Mademoiselle, when the severe laws of men no longer prevent women from applying themselves to the sciences and other disciplines, it seems to me that those of us who can, should use this long-craved freedom to study and to let men see how greatly they wronged us when depriving us of its honor and advantages. And if any woman becomes so proficient as to be able to write down her thoughts, let her do so and not despise the honor but rather flaunt it instead of fine clothes, necklaces, and rings. For these may be considered ours only by use, whereas the honor of being educated is ours entirely.
Louise Labé, French feminist, poet, linguist, soldier, 1524/25-1566; Quoted in Uppity Women of Medeival Times (1997) by Vicki León

The only thing better than education is more education.
Progress to Freedom (1942) by Agnes E. Benedict, American educator,1889-1950

The arts personalize knowledge and visions, demanding an ever growing development of the mind and spirit. We do our children and our country ill service by not supporting them adequately in our schools.
Letter to Elaine T. Partnow (19 December 1989) by Shirley Trusty Corey, American arts-in-education specialist, educator, 193?-

Bid the long-prisoned mind attain
A sphere of dazzling day,
Bid her unpinion'd foot
The cliffs of knowledge climb,
And search for Wisdom's sacred root
That mocks the blight of time.
Zinzendorff, and Other Poems (1836) by Lydia Howard Sigourney, American magazine editor, author, poet, teacher, 1791-1865

"The book of Nature, my dear Henry, is full of holy lessons, ever new and ever varied; and to learn to discover these lessons should be the work of good education; for there are many persons who are exceedingly wise and clever in worldly matters, and yet with respect to spiritual things are wholly blind and dark, and are as unable to look on divine light as the bats and moles to contemplate the glory of the sun's rays at midday."
from The Works of Mrs. Sherwood, Vol. I (1856) by Mary Martha Sherwood, English author, 1775-1851

Bryn Mawr had done what a four-year dose of liberal education was designed to do: unfit her for eighty per cent of the useful work of the world.
Song of Solomon (1977) by Toni Morrison, African-American editor, book, novelist, 1931- ; first black woman to win Nobel Prize, 1993; Pulitzer, 1988

If it were customary to send little girls to school and to teach them the same subjects as are taught to boys, they would learn just and fully and would understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences. Indeed, maybe they would understand them better...for just as women's bodies are softer than men's, so their understanding is sharper.
La Cité des Dames [The City of Women] (1404) by Christine de Pisan, Italian/French scholar, feminist, author, poet, balladeer, 1363/65-1430/31; first professional female author in western Europe

Will it be said that the judgement of a male two years old, is more sage than that of a female's of the same age? I believe the reverse is greatly observed to be true. But from that period what partiality! how is the one exalted and the other depressed, by the contrary modes of education which are adopted! the one is taught to aspire, and the other is early confined and limited.
Article in The Massachusetts Magazine (March & April 1790) by Judith Sargent Murray, American feminist, author, playwright, poet, 1751-1820

...unless society recognises that its responsibility extends far beyond the provision of free schooling, the money spent on state education is largely wasted. School becomes just another way of institutionalising the poor.
Article in Nova magazine (January 1973) by Eva Figes, German/English novelist, 1932-

Instead of focusing our attention on developing readiness for academic achievement promulgating middle-class standards and behavior, we ought to be spending our time and our money on ways in which to help every child to feel that he is a person, that he is lovable and that he can contribute something of value to others.
The Conspiracy Against Childhood (1967) by Eda J. Le Shan, American family counselor, educator, writer, 1932-

Anyone who would attempt the task of felling a virgin forest with a penknife would probably feel the same paralysis of despair that the reformer feels when confronted with existing school systems.
The Century of the Child (1909) by Ellen Key, Swedish writer, feminist, 1849-1926

...so quick was I at picking up the language [Chinese] that I was soon able to prompt my brother whenever he got stuck. At this my father used to sigh and say to me: "If only you were a boy how proud and happy I should be." But it was not long before I repented of having thus distinguished myself; for person after person assured me that even boys generally become very unpopular if it is discovered that they are fond of their books. For a girl, of course, it would be even worse...
Murasaki Shikibu Nikki [Diary] by Murasaki Shikibu, Japanese poet, diarist, lady-in-waiting, novelist, 974-1031?; reputed to have written the world's first novel [The Tale of Genji], (1001-1015)

I am convinced that we must train not only the head, but the heart and hand as well.
This Is Our China (1940) by Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese reformer, educator, sociologist, 1898-?

A government's responsibility to its young citizens does not magically begin at the age of six. It makes more sense to extend the free universal school system downward--with the necessary reforms and community control that child care should have from the start.
Article in Ms. magazine (April 1974) by Gloria Steinem, American feminist, editor, writer, 1934- ; New York magazine co-founder, 1968; Ms. magazine co-founder, 1972

We need to give up the notion of a single ideal of the educated person and replace it with a multiplicity of models designed to accommodate the multiple capacities and interests of students. We need to recognize multiple identities.
Article in Phi Delta Kappan (January 1995) by Nel Noddings, American educator, author, 1929-

In an age when violence among school-children is at an unprecedented level, when children are bearing children with little knowledge of how to care for them, when the society and even the schools often concentrate on materialistic messages, it may be unnecessary to argue that we should care more genuinely for our children and teach them to care. However, many otherwise reasonable people seem to believe that our educational problems consist largely of low scores on achievement tests.
Nel Noddings, Ibid.

"There; how d'ye like that, eh? A liberal education in twelve volumes, with an index."
Pilgrimage, Vol. II, (1938) by Dorothy Miller Richardson, English writer, 1873-1957

The most sure, but at the same time the most difficult expedient to mend the morals of the people, is a perfect system of education.
Catherine II of Russia, German Russian empress, 1729-1796; Quoted in Women in World History Curriculum (womeninworldhistory.com; 1996-9)

NINIAN. Education: I ain't never had it and I ain't never missed it.
Miss Lulu Bett (play; 1920) by Zona Gale, American writer, 1874-1938; Pulitzer, 1921

In the pursuit of an educational program to suit the bright and the not-so-bright we have watered down a rigid training for the elite until we now have an educational diet in many of our public high schools that nourishes neither the classes nor the masses.
Out of These Roots (1953) by Agnes Meyer, American translator, social worker, writer, journalist, 1887-1970?

Not too soon and not too late; the secret of education lies in choosing the right time to do things.
The Little Virtues (1985; Dick Davis, tr.) by Natalia Ginzburg, Italian writer, politician, playwright, 1916-1991; Premio Strega, 1964

We were delirious with learning, discovering art, growing in self-esteem, and still doing the laundry.
Kathleen Betsko, co-author with Rachel Koenig of Interviews with Contemporary Women Playwrights (1987) English theater historian, editor, playwright, 1939-

Partnership education helps students look beyond conventional social categories, such as capitalism versus communism, right versus left, religious versus secular, and even industrial versus preindustrial or postindustrial.
They can instead begin to focus on relationships, and on the underlying question of what kinds of beliefs and social structures support or inhibit relations of violence or nonviolence, democracy or authoritarianism, justice or injustice, caring or cruelty, environmental sustainability or collapse.
Tomorrow's Children: a Blueprint For Partnership Education in The 21st Century (1999) by Riane Eisler, Austrian/Cuban/American author, social historian, 1931-; founder, Center for Partnership Studies, International Partnership Network

...it has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is ever laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up in the world of thought--that is to be educated.
Edith Hamilton, American translator, classical scholar, writer, 1867-1963; Quoted in the Bryn Mawr School Bulletin (1959)

She thought of the tools she had gathered together, and painstakingly learned to use. Future probes, Tarot and I Ching and the wide wispfingers from the stars . . . all these to scry and ferret and vex the smokethick future. A broad general knowledge, encompassing bits of history, psychology, ethology, religious theory and practices of many kinds. Her charts of self knowledge. Her library. The inner thirst for information about everything that had lived or lives on Earth that she'd kept alive long after childhood had ended.
The Bone People (1983) by Keri Hulme, Maori New Zealander painter, writer, 1947

Such ignorance. All the boys were in military schools and all the girls were in the convent, and that's all you need to say about it.
Katherine Anne Porter, American writer, 1890-1980; quoted in the Los Angeles Times (7 July 1974); Pulitzer, 1966

Schooling is what happens inside the walls of the school, some of which is educational. Education happens everywhere, and it happens from the moment a child is born--and some people say before--until a person dies.
Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, African-American educator, author, sociologist, writer, 1954; quoted in A World of Ideas (1989) by Bill Moyers

A liberal-arts education is supposed to provide you with a value system, a standard, a set of ideas, not a job. The fact is, of course, that the liberal arts are a religion in every sense of that term. [And if] the liberal arts are a religious faith, the professors are its priests.
The Case Against College (1975) by Caroline Bird, American lecturer, critic, social, writer, 1915

I have not forgotten how I used to take a child every year to the sea, as to a maternal element better fitted than I to teach, ripen, and perfect the mind and body I had merely rough-hewn.
"Look!" (1929) by Colette, French writer, 1873-1954; first president of Goncourt Academy

Return to "Women of Wisdom" Main Page

Elaine Bernstein Partnow is the editor of "Women of Wisdom," and she is a perfect fit for this task. Compiler of the noted work The Quotable Woman, The First 5,000 Years, Elaine started working on the first edition, way back in 1974, she was making the transition from actor to writer. Now in its 5th edition. The Quotable Woman has become the standard book of quotations for women's studies programs and organizations all over the English-speaking world. She also wrote The Female Dramatist a few years back, and has just came out with a new collection, The Quotable Jewish Woman, Wisdom, Inspiration and Humor from the Mind and Heart. Elaine has marveled at how her work in women's history has changed who she is and how she is. Ever eager to share that experience with others, she merged her two passions - acting and women's studies - and began, in 1984, to present living history portraits of notable women to civic and educational institutions. To date she has given more than 400 such presentations to upwards of 50,000 people, not only across the U.S.A., but in Mexico and even China! You can find out more about Elaine by visiting her web site: www.TheQuotableWoman.com.


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