In June 1916, the Minerva Café opened in the headquarters of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) in Holborn, London. It served as the meeting place for suffrage activists and anarchists. The name of the coffeehouse was significant. In ancient Rome, Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, handicrafts, the professions and war. She is beautifully depicted in the 1688 painting, Story of Minerva – Minerva Watering her Horses into the Sea (pictured above) by French artist René-Antoine Houasse.
Some advocates of women’s rights may well adopt Minerva as an icon — a symbol of female strength, courage and intelligence. I am not sure, though, if that would be doing justice to the goddess. Some feminists can put off even men who symphatise with their cause. They can be too loud, too aggressive, too angry. On the other hand, who can argue that women ought to be treated as men’s equals? I trust that both men and women in shipping will find some inspiration in the following quotations.
Read more: 21 great quotes for maritime women
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute. ~Rebecca West, British author and journalist (1892–1983)
Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. ~Marie Shear, American writer and feminist activist (1940–2017)
If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend. ~Charlotte Brontë, English writer (1816–1855)
The poets and writers are trying to understand the reality of woman, but up to this day they have not understood the hidden secret of her heart because they look upon her from behind the sexual veil and see nothing but the externals: they look upon her through a magnifying glass of hatefulness and find nothing except weakness and submission. ~Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American poet (1883–1931)
Ought not every woman, like every man, to follow the bent of her own talents? ~Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, French woman of letters (1766–1817)
…her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly. ~Simone de Beauvoir, French writer and feminist, (1908–1986)
The Dizziness, 1908 drawing by Léon Spilliaert (Belgian, 1881–1946)
The woman who is determined to be honoured amongst an army of soldiers can be. ~Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish writer (1547–1616)
Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work. ~Adrienne Rich, American poet and feminist (1929–2012)
By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream. ~Virginia Woolf, English writer (1882–1941)
Victorian tradition of womanhood, a carefully trained conscience, a sheltered youth, an imperfect education, lost time, blasted years— were still there and always would be ; we seemed to be for ever slaying them, and they to be for ever rising again… In one sense I was my war; my war was I; without it I should do nothing and be nothing. If marriage made the whole fight harder, so much the better ; it would become part of my war and as this I would face it, and show that, however stubborn any domestic problem, a lasting solution could be found if only men and women would seek it together. ~Vera Brittain, English writer, feminist and pacifist (1893–1970)
To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. ~Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political activist (1869–1948)
Surely we must free men and women together before we can free women. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands — the ownership and control of their lives and livelihood — are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. ~Helen Keller, American writer and social activist (1880–1968)
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