Propel Yourself Into Action With 10 Motivational Quotes For Women

Each day brings new inspiration—and also challenges—in the fight for women’s equality. Whether talking about access to healthcare, education inequality, pay parity, or many other domains, there is still much progress to be made worldwide to support women. We hope these words of wisdom from women who have fought for these equal rights inspire you to take action in your own life. 


Women’s history is women’s right—an essential, indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.
—Gerda Lerner, historian and pioneer of women’s history


Gerda Lerner was an Austrian American historian who did groundbreaking work advocating for the inclusion of more women in history. It makes sense that Lerner, as a historian, would talk about women’s history as a form of heritage, a word which has various meanings including “something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition.” Heritage also has a specific legal definition: “something that has been or may be inherited by legal descent or succession.”


I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body …
—Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792


Another great feminist in history was Mary Wollstonecraft, who advocated for women’s rights and was a historian in her own right. Her major work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she wrote about women’s dignity, “nobility or elevation of character; worthiness.” Specifically, dignity can also refer to one’s “relative standing; rank,” which makes it an apt word choice for talking about women’s rights in comparison to men’s. Wollstonecraft was also the mother of pioneering author Mary Shelley.


As a woman, I have no country. … As a woman, my country is the whole world.
—Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, 1938


Like Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf was a writer and advocate for women’s rights in her home country of the United Kingdom. Woolf is known for asserting the importance of women’s interior life. In this quote, she asserts a woman’s right to autonomy as having no boundaries.


… [C]oncern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone.
—Zadie Smith, On Beauty, 2006


The novel On Beauty by Zadie Smith deals with issues of history, race, and women’s roles in the home. In this quote, she lays out what makes someone intelligent: “having good understanding or a high mental capacity; quick to comprehend.” The word intelligent comes from the Latin intellegere meaning “to understand” or, literally, “to choose between.”


[My mother] used to say, ‘If you really want something and you work hard, and you take advantage of opportunities and you never give up, you will find a way.’ That’s a message I’ve been able to bring to children, particularly girls, all around the world. It has been very, very useful to me.
—Jane Goodall, interview in The Huffington Post, 2011


Jane Goodall is known as a role model for being a pioneer for women in science. Here, she shares a piece of advice from her mother about how to seize an opportunity, “a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.”


I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights: Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated. … We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.
—Malala Yousafzai, United Nations speech, July 12, 2013


Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her work advocating for educational equality after she was attacked and forced to leave school in Afghanistan. In this quote, she uses the figurative meaning of voice: “the right to present and receive consideration of one’s desires or opinions” or “an expressed will or desire.”


Very few of us fit neatly into the expectations of who we should be based on gender expectations. Celebrate all those things that make you uniquely and beautifully you.
—Laverne Cox, speech at Princeton University, November 17, 2015


In her talk “Ain’t I A Woman: My Journey to Womanhood” (the title is a reference to the famous Sojourner Truth speech), actor Laverne Cox used the opportunity to talk about the many different expressions of being a woman. She encourages everyone to celebrate themselves for who they are.


If you believe in equal rights, the same way society allows a man to express his darkness, to express his pain, to express his sexuality, to express his opinion—I feel that women have the same rights.
—Beyoncé, interview with Elle magazine, April 4, 2016


In an interview with Elle magazine, superstar musical artist Beyoncé spoke about her views on feminism and women’s rights. She notes that a key part of women’s equality is being able to express themselves, or “to set forth the opinions, feelings, etc., of (oneself).”


Part of healing is taking care of your body and learning how to have a humane relationship with your body. I was broken and then I broke some more, and I am not yet healed but I am starting to believe I will be.
—Roxane Gay, Hunger, 2017


Part of the fight for women’s equality is having the strength to carry on after facing challenges. In this quote from Hunger, writer Roxane Gay writes about the importance of healing, “the act or process of regaining health or becoming whole or sound.”


Keep at it, believe in yourself, respect each other, respect yourself. And just do what you know you can do. And don’t take no bull from nobody.
—Dolly Parton, interview with CBS Channel 13 News, March 19, 2019


Country singer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton is known for her take-charge attitude. We see that ferocity in this piece of advice from the “Queen of Country,” as she advises women not only to expect and demand respect but also to respect themselves. The word respect comes from the Latin respectus, which means “action of looking back, consideration, regard” and carries a relevant message right within the word: respect us.

Check out these 19 trailblazing quotes from women of color on the pursuit of suffrage.

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