Anna Garlin Spencer, a social reformer and independent minister, was the first woman ordained in the state of Rhode Island and the first woman Ethical Culture Leader. She was a woman suffrage activist and also worked for peace. She was an early pioneer in the social work field (then called philanthropy), wrote books and articles on the family including the first college textbook on the topic, and was an early instructor at what became the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Selected Anna Garlin Spencer Quotations
• A successful woman preacher was once asked "what special obstacles have you met as a woman in the ministry?" "Not one," she answered, "except the lack of a minister's wife."
• And when her biographer says of an Italian woman poet, "during some years her Muse was intermitted," we do not wonder at the fact when he casually mentions her ten children.
• The essence of democracy is its assurance that every human being should so respect himself and should be so respected in his own personality that he should have opportunity equal to that of every other human being to show what he was meant to become.
• The earth is ready, the time is ripe, for the authoritative expression of the feminine as well as the masculine interpretation of that common social consensus which is slowly writing justice in the State and fraternity in the social order.
• It is an old error of man to forget to put quotation marks where he borrows from a woman's brain!
• The significance of the woman suffrage movement is twofold: it is a response to the general movement of democracy toward the individuation of all members of all previously subjected or submerged classes of society; and it is also a social response to the new demands of citizenship which have followed inevitably the new and varied increase in the functions of government.
• No book has yet been written in praise of a woman who let her husband and children starve or suffer while she invented even the most useful things, or wrote books, or expressed herself in art, or evolved philosophic systems.
• The failure of women to produce genius of the first rank in most of the supreme forms of human effort has been used to block the way of all women of talent and ambition for intellectual achievement in a manner that would be amusingly absurd were it not so monstrously unjust and socially harmful.
• Can a woman become a genius of the first class? Nobody can know unless women in general shall have equal opportunity with men in education, in vocational choice, and in social welcome of their best intellectual work for a number of generations.
• Of all the wastes of human ignorance perhaps the most extravagant and costly to human growth has been the waste of the distinctive powers of womanhood after the child-bearing age.
• The greater tenacity of life among women, however, their greater resistance to disease, their larger capacity for continual, sustained effort if that is varied in form and not too severe, are ample proofs that women need not be invalids or "weak," and that it is a social mistake or a social crime, or both, if they are so in any prevailing numbers at any period of life.
• It is not alone the fact that women have generally had to spend most of their strength in caring for others that has handicapped them in individual effort; but also that they have almost universally had to care wholly for themselves.
• [T]he care-taking of the weak and ignorant and undeveloped, the moral protection of children and youth in recreation and in labor, the succor of the needy, and the general expression of social control and social uplift, these are woman's special functions in the social order and have ever been her peculiar responsibility.
• The history of the courtesan class of Athens and that of the Vestals of Rome outlines the only two ways in which the women of the past could attain a life of their own detached from the family.
• The friendship between a man and a woman which does not lead to marriage or desire for marriage may be a life long experience of the greatest value to themselves and to all their circle of acquaintance and of activity; but for this type of friendship both a rare man and a rare woman are needed. Perhaps it should be added that either the man or the woman thus deeply bound in lifelong friendship who seeks marriage must find a still rarer man or woman to wed, to make such a three cornered comradeship a permanent success.
• The experience of the race shows that we get our most important education not through books but through our work. We are developed by our daily task, or else demoralized by it, as by nothing else.
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About These Quotes
Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2010. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Anna Garlin Spencer Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/spencer_quotes.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)