home what'snew resources ask amy news activism antiviolence events marketplace aboutus
Articles & Speeches
Feminist.com Bookstore
Find Services In Your Area
Inspiring Quotes
Links/ Best of the Feminist Web
Our Bodies, Ourselves Reading Room
Partners & On-Site Non-Profits
I N S P I R I N G * Q U O T E S



It’s been six months since my last column, much longer than it should have been. Since then I have had to move yet again. Three rentals in one year, and still the work on our home, destroyed by Hurricane Dennis on July 10, 2005, has not begun: each time we submit our design to the Building Department, another flaw is pointed out and we have to return to our designer or our engineer (why they couldn’t all have been dealt with at the same time is beyond our comprehension). Not having lived in my own home for fifteen months now, yet having to walk past the remains of it every day when I walk the dogs, I have thought a good deal about what “home” really is.

Isn’t it, I repeat to myself often, where your life is being lived? With your family? Isn’t it where you eat, where you sleep, where you bathe and dress? Isn’t it where you argue, laugh, discuss, enjoy? Isn’t it where you let your hair down? Whether you rent it, own it, or squat on it, isn’t that what home really is? If so, then I am home now. I am with my husband and my dogs (our cat, rescued from a near drowning during the hurricane, died last July on her 17th birthday). I have friends who live nearby. I still go to yoga classes in the same place, shop at the same market, have the same doctor. What has changed may seem solid–walls, ceiling, floor–but, in reality, is very ephemeral. What is solid are the relationships in my life. They are what keep me going. They are why I haven’t gone mad during this very trying time of my life.

What do my foremothers and sisters have to say about home, I wondered. Why not explore that for some perspective. And so, dear readers, I offer you this collection of quotations on the idea and substance of "home."

Elaine Bernstein Partnow, Editor


It will be a pity if women in the more conventional mould are to be phased out, for there will never be anyone to go home to.
Anita Brookner (1928- ), British novelist, art historian, educator; Booker Prize, 1984 (Hotel du Lac); Royal Society of Literature Fellow, 1983; C.B.E., 1990. A Friend from England, 1987

An unusual sensation possesses my breast -- a sensation which I once thought could never pervade it on any occasion whatever. It is pleasure, pleasure, my dear Lucy, on leaving my paternal roof.
—Hannah Webster Foster (1758/59-1840), American novelist. The Coquette; or, The History of Eliza Wharton, 1797

"Ah! happy is the man whose early lot
Hath made him master of a furnish'd cot;
Who trains the vine that round his window grows,
And after setting sun his garden hoes;
Whose wattled pails his own enclosure shield,
Who toils not daily in another's field."
—Joanna Baillie (1762-1851), Scottish poet, playwright. "A Reverie" St. iii, Fugitive Verses, 1790

Home is the place to do the things you want to do. Here we eat just when we want to. Breakfast and luncheon are extremely moveable feasts. It's terrible to allow conventional habits to gain a hold on a whole household; to eat, sleep and live by clock ticks.
—Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948), American adventurer, writer; wife of F. Scott F- (1896-1969; writer). Interview in the Baltimore Sun, quoted in Zelda by Nancy Milford, 1970

Radio, sewing machine, bookends, ironing board and that great big piano lamp -- peace, that's what I like. Butterbean vines planted all along the front where the strings are.
—Eudora Welty (1909-2001) , American writer, photographer; Pulitzer, 1973; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1980; ABA 1981, 1984; NIAL, 1972. "Why I Live at the P.O.," A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, 1936

Industry has been taken out of the home.
—Clara Thompson (1893-1958), American lecturer, physician, psychiatrist, writer, educator. "The Role of Women in This Culture," Psychology, Vol. IV, 1941

Home may be near,
Home may be far --
But it is anywhere love
And a few plain household treasures are.
—Grace Noll Crowell (1877-1965?), American poet. "The Home Makers," St. 1, n.d.

I'm going home the old way with a light hand on the reins
making the long approach.
—Maxine Kumin, American novelist, poet, writer, children's, essayist; Chancellor, The Academy of American Poets; Pulitzer, 1973; AAAL. “The Long Approach,” The Long Approach, 1985

WAYNE. I live in a room -- and it isn't home. I live on earth -- and it isn't home.
—Alma De Groen (1941- ), New Zealander/Australian TV writer, playwright. Rivers of China, 1987

The home was a closed sphere touched only at its edge by the world's evolution.
—Ellen Key (1849-1926), Swedish writer, feminist. The Renaissance of Motherhood, 1914

The socially pernicious, racially wasteful, and soul-withering consequences of the working of mothers outside the home must cease. And this can only come to pass, either through the programme of institutional upbringing, or through the intimate renaissance of the home.

Make yourself happy where you are adored, and on no account seek another abode.
—Isabella de' Medici Orsini (1542-1576), Italian noble; daughter of Cosimo I and Eleanora de Toledo, wife of Paolo Giordano d'O-, duke of Bracciano. Letter to her sister-in-law, Bianca Capello (24 September 1572), Quoted in Famous Women of Florence by Edgecumbe Staley, tr., 1909

Go, return each to her mother's house.
—Naomi (fl. 1100s B.C.E.) Hebrew biblical figure. 1:8, Book of Ruth, late 5th/4th century B.C.E.

We need not power or splendor;
Wide hall or lordly dome;
The good, the true, the tender,
These form the wealth of home.
—Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), American writer, editor, poet; first woman magazine editor in U.S.; established Thanksgiving asnational holiday; established Mount Vernon as national shrine. "Home," Poems for Our Children, 1830

Without being conscious of it, she looks for a situation in which she can give up her façade of self-sufficiency and ease back into that warm, cradled state reminiscent of childhood that's so seductive to a woman -- a home.
—Colette Dowling (1938- ), American writer. The Cinderella Complex, 1982

Home ought to be our clearinghouse, the place from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life.
Kathleen Thompson Norris (1880-1966), American poet, essayist. Home, 1928

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'Tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place that's right
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
—Ann Lee (1836-1894), American religious leader; founder, American Shakers (United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing), c. 1774. "Simple Gifts" (Shaker Hymn), from Wise Women: Over 2000 Years of Spiritual Writing by Women, Susan Cahill, ed.

The woman is the home. That's where she used to be, and that's where she still is. You might ask me, What if a man tries to be part of the home -- will the woman let him? I answer yes. Because then he becomes one of the children.
—Marguerite Duras (1914-1996), Indochinese/French playwright, TV & screen writer, novelist; wife of Robert Antelme (1; writer); Dionys Moscolo (2; philosopher and critic); Prix Jean Cocteau; Grand Prix and Académie du Cinema (1992); Prix Goncourt (1984). "House and Home," Practicalities, 1987

Subduing and subdued, the petty strife,
Which clouds the colour of domestic life;
The sober comfort, all the peace which springs
From the large aggregate of little things;
On these small cares of daughter, wife or friend,
The almost sacred joys of home depend.
—Hannah More (1745-1833), English philanthropist, reformer, writer; a.k.a. The Laureate of the Bluestockings, Stella; pseud. Will Chip. "Sensibility," Poems, 1856

Rich men's houses are seldom beautiful, rarely comfortable, and never original. It is a constant source of surprise to people of moderate means to observe how little a big fortune contributes to Beauty.
—Margot Asquith (1864-1945), English writer, socialite; a.k.a. Countess of Oxford and Asquith; wife of Herbert Henry A- , British Liberal politician and prime minister (1852-1928). The Autobiography of Margot Asquith, Vols. I and II, 1920-1922

Owning your own home is America's unique recipe for avoiding revolution and promoting pseudo-equality at the same time. To keep citizens puttering in their yards instead of sputtering on the barricades, the government has gladly deprived itself of billions in tax revenues by letting home "owners" deduct mortgage interest payments.
—Florence King (1936- ), American author. "Democracy," Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye, 1989

In tidy terminal homes,
agape at the stalking Rorschach
shapes that menace our cosmos,
pawns, now, we itch and surmise.
—Marguerite Harris (1899-1978), American poet; founder of Woodstock Poetry Festival. "The Chosen," St. 1, The East Side Scene, Allen de Loach, ed., 1968

The homeward-bound trend is a logical product of the [women's] movement. Women have been to the men's only frontier and, in large measure, tamed it. Now, some of them are reversing course. For free-minded women, for feminists, there is no disappointment in this because it is happening as a matter of choice. Women are not being driven back to Apronland.
—Deborah Mathis (1953- ), American columnist. "Liberation gives women the freedom to choose to stay home," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Op-Ed, 22 October 1998

When I am dead and opened, you shall find "Calais" lying on my heart.
Mary I of England (1516-1558), English queen; a.k.a. Bloody Mary, Mary Tudor; daughter of Henry VIII (1491-1547; King of England, 1509-47) and Catherine of Aragon, half-sister to Elizabeth I and Edward VI (1537-53; King of England, 1447-53), wife of Phillip II (1527-98; King of Spain, 1556-98). Quoted in Chronicles, Vol. III, 1585, by Raphael Holinshed

Those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), English writer, literary critic; daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen (biographer, ciritic, scholar); wife of Leonard W- (economist, publisher, writer); with Leonard, founder and operator of Hogarth Press, 1917; with brother Thoby Stephen, founder of Hyde Park Gate News, 1891-1895. "Lady Dorothy Nevill," The Common Reader, 1925

"In violent and chaotic times such as these, our only chance for survival lies in creating our own little islands of sanity and order, in making little havens of our homes."
Sue Kaufman (1926- ), American writer, editor. Falling Bodies, 1974

Here I stand, hobbled in a sack of doom, determined to tear out of it, knowing that I will.
Kate Simon (1912-1990), American writer, historian. A Wider World: Portraits in Adolescence, 1986

The home we first knew on this beautiful earth,
The friends of our childhood, the place of our birth,
In the heart's inner chamber sung always will be,
As the shell ever sings of its home in the sea.
Frances Dana Gage (1808-1884), American lecturer, poet, social reformer. "Home", n.d.

It is the personality of the mistress that the home expresses. Men are forever guests in our home, no matter how much happiness they may find there.
Elsie De Wolfe (1865-1950), English society leader, actor, writer; a.k.a. Lady Mendel. The House in Good Taste, 1920

It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.
Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940), Swedish writer; first woman elected to and director of Swedish Academy; Nobel Prize for Literature, 1909 (first woman to receive award). Bk. III, Ch. 3, The Miracles of Anti-Christ, 1899

A man . . . is so in the way in the house!
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), English novelist. Cranford, 1851-1853

Make two homes for thyself, my daughter. One actual home…and another spiritual home, which thou art to carry with thee always . . .
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Italian mystic, diplomat; née Caterina Beninca.s.a.; patron saint of the Dominicans. Letter to Monna Alessa dei Saracini, Saint Catherine of Siena as Seen in her Letters, Vida D. Scudder, ed. and tr., 1906

It is no accident that this homeplace, as fragile and as transitional as it may be, a makeshift shed, a small bit of earth where one rests, is always subject to violation and destruction. For when a people no longer have the space to construct homeplace, we cannot build a meaningful community of resistance.
bell hooks (1955- ), American feminist theorist, poet, critic, cultural, writer, educator; née Gloria Jean Watkins. "Homeplace (a site of resistance)," Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics, 1990

In our young minds houses belonged to women were their special domain, not as property, but as places where all that truly mattered in life took place -- the warmth and comfort of shelter, the feeding of our bodies, the nurturing of our souls. There we learned dignity, integrity of being; there we learned to have faith. The folks who made this life possible, who were our primary guides and teachers, were black women.

"The joyous fulfillment of your sex : the sacred duties of beloved wife, and helpmeet, and mother. In opposition to the vulgar and mercantile hurly-burly of the great world, the idyllic pleasures of the domestic hearth--the which, I firmly believe, make of one small room an everywhere, indeed; and provide us with that small measure of bliss, which is, if we are greatly fortunate, and deserving, Our Lord's promise to us, of the Heaven to come."
Joyce Carol Oates (1938- ), American writer; NBA, 1970. A Bloodsmoor Romance, 1982

It is a thought as sweet as heaven to know that in the minds of each of us the may by the fence still blooms in an eternal springtime; that the snowdrop has in our hearts a triple birth, and blooms in three separate minds, faultlessly. . . . So that if all the flowers and grasses and hollows and hills of the old house were razed and mutilated--as they are now, I suppose--we keep them intact in three minds, each depending on the other to supply it with the delicate minutiae of remembrance.
Eve Langley (1908-1974), Australian writer. First Part, I, Not Yet the Moon, 1946

Lonely? Dull? At Road's End [her home]? Not as long as I can see the catkins from my door and our maple trees in early spring, or tramp through the misty April wood in search of wildflowers to photograph and color, or watch the birds nesting about our house. Not as long as I can have our friends gather around our fireplace or about our stone tables for a picnic under the maples in the summer.
Nancy Ford Cones (1869-1962), American photographer. Quoted in "Rediscovering the Lady from Loveland" by Owen Findsen, in The Cincinnati Enquirer, 9 November 1980

. . . [to] nest in the gale [means] being able to be at home anywhere in the world, in any house, in any time band, eating any different kind of food, learning new languages as needed, never afraid of the new, sad to leave anywhere where one has been at home for a few days, but glad to go forward.
Margaret Mead (1901-1977), American anthropologist editor, museum curator, writer; wife of Gregory Bateson (1904-80, anthropologist), mother of Mary Catherine Bateson (1839- ; anthropologist); Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1979. Letter at Library of Congress, n.d.

ASAGAI. Ah, I like the look of packing crates! A household in preparation for a journey! . . . Something full of the flow of life. . . . Movement, progress. . . .
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), American playwright; wife of Robert Nemiroff (songwriter, publisher); NYDCCA, 1959. A Raisin in the Sun, 1958

I'll dig in
into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.
Grey is the price
of neighboring with eagles, of knowing
a mountain's vast presence, seen or unseen.
Denise Levertov (1923-1997), English/American poet, translator, educator, poetry, editor, poetry; wife of Mitchell Goodman (American writer); Guggenheim. "Settling", n.d.

What the Nation must realize is that the home, when both parents work, is non-existent. Once we have honestly faced the fact, we must act accordingly.
—Agnes Meyer, translator, social worker, writer, journalist. Washington Post, 10 April 1943

"Home" is any four walls that enclose the right person.
Helen Rowland (1876-1950), American journalist, humorist, writer. Reflections of a Bachelor Girl, 1903

To the old saying that man built the house but woman made it a "home" might be added the modern supplement that woman accepted cooking as a chore but man has made of it a recreation.
Emily Post (1873-1960), American society leader, writer; trendsetter of manners. Etiquette, 1922

Home wasn't built in a day.
Jane Ace (1905-1974), American comedian, radio personality. Quoted in The Fine Art of Hypochondria by Goodman Ace (her husband), 1966

"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. . . . Little Foxes,’ by which I mean those unsuspected, unwatched, insignificant little causes that nibble away domestic happiness, and make home less than so noble an institution should be….The reason for this in general is that home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life's undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room, from which we go forth to more careful and guarded intercourse, leaving behind us much debris of cast-off and everyday clothing."
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), American writer, social critic; sister of Henry Ward B- (1813- 87; clergyman, editor, writer); great-a. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935; American social critic and poet); Hall of Fame, 1910. Little Foxes, 1865

The little Road says, Go;
The little House says, Stay;
And oh, it's bonny here at home,
But I must go away.
Josephine Preston Peabody (1874-1922), American playwright, poet, writer. "The House and the Road," Collected Poems of Josephine Preston Peabody, 1927

My home is in whatever town I'm booked.
Polly Adler (1900-1962), American author, madam. A House Is Not a Home, 1953

Of a' roads to happiness were ever tried,
There's nane half so sure as ane's ain fireside.
My ain fireside, my ain fireside,
O there's naught to compare wi' ane's ain fireside.
—Elizabeth Hamilton (1758?-1816), Irish/Scottish governess, poet, author. "My Ain Fireside," Scottish Song, 1874, Mary Carlyle Aitken, ed.

She walked quickly around her one-room apartment. After more than four years in this one home she knew all its possibilities, how it could put on a sham appearance of warmth and welcome when she needed a place to hide in, how it stood over her in the night when she woke suddenly, how it could relax itself into a disagreeable unmade, badly-put-together state, mornings like this, anxious to drive her out and go back to sleep.
Shirley Jackson (1919-1965), American writer. "Elizabeth," The Magic of Shirley Jackson, 1966, Stanley Edgar Hyman, ed.

Keep the home fires burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lands are far away
They dream of home.
There's silver lining
Through the dark cloud shining:
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.
Lena Guilbert Ford (fl. early 1900s-1916), American poet. "Keep the Home Fires Burning", 1915

Would I were a yellow stork
And could fly to my old home!
Hsi-chün (fl. 100s B.C.E.), Chinese poet. "Lament of Hsi-chün," Translations from the Chinese, 1919, Arthur Waley, tr.

The more women become rational companions, partners in business and in thought, as well as in affection and amusement, the more highly will men appreciate home -- that blessed work, which opens to the human heart the most perfect glimpse of Heaven, and helps to carry it thither, as on an angel's wings.
Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880), American writer, editor, abolitionist. No. 34 (January 1843), Letters from New York, Vol. II, 1852

Re homes in New Jersey and Beverly Hills: One keeps us real, the other keeps us phony.
Renee Taylor (1937?- ), American screenwriter, actor, director; wife of Joe Bologna, writer-actor-director. Quoted in Funny Women, American Comediennes, 1860-1985, 1987, by Mary Unterbrink

I can tell by your eye shadow, you're from Brooklyn, right? . . . Me too. My mother has plastic covers on all the furniture. Even the poodle. Looked like a barking hassock walking down the street.
Elayne Boosler (1952- ), American comic. Quoted in Funny Women, American Comediennes, 1860-1985, 1987, by Mary Unterbrink

What makes identity politics so tenacious? I think much of its appeal lies in its neo-Victorian sentimentalization of home as the site of safety, intimacy and reinvigoration. Studies of Romanticism constantly point out that it's precisely that which is perceived as lost which is often most lovingly cherished. And the tremendous longing invested in the word "home" suggests nostalgia for an absent ideal.
Karen Rosenberg (contemp.), American essayist. "Identity crisis," The Women's Review of Books, Vol XIV, No. 5, February 1997

Being somewhere but not completely: that was home for Danny. . . . All he needed was a cellphone or I-access, or both at once, or even just a plan to leave wherever he was and go someplace else really really soon.
Jennifer Egan (contemp.), American writer. The Keep, 2006

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 when 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 recently come 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.


home | what's new | resources | ask amy | news | activism | anti-violence
events | marketplace | about us | e-mail us | join our mailing list

©1995-2006 Feminist.com All rights reserved.