Leadership Quotes from Women Philosophers and #metoo

Paul Gibbons fave women philosophers

Leadership Quotes from Women Philosophers for our #metoo times

Philosophy, historically, has been old white guys.

The history of Western Philosophy is very male and my education… Kant, Hume, Mill, Rawls, Descartes, Leibniz, MacIntyre, Russell, Whitehead, Ayer, Popper, Quine, Williams went very far and deep before I ran across a woman. 

Further, in the business classes I teach, leadership theory is replete with quotes from only men.

However, in the 20th-century women’s views (which they presumably always had), began to see the light of day. 

Part of #metoo is, of course, the bringing of light, and the meting out of justice.

It requires more than that

We need structural adjustments to women’s pay, discussions about equality at home and in society, and (importantly) a surfacing of lost ideas from great women philosophers, scientists, humanitarians, and artists.

Some of the greatest women philosophers of the 20th century include:  Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Anscombe, Dame Mary Warnock, Martha Nussbaum, Philippa Foot, Iris Murdoch, Christine Korsgard, Judith Jarvis Thompson, Onora O’Neill.


I’ve chosen to compile a list of eclectic quotes from these great women philosophers that I use in my MBA class on Business Ethics. 

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Leadership Quotes from Women Philosophers (select and highlight a quote to share!)

  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
  • “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” (Hannah Arendt)
  • “I attribute my success to this: I never gave nor took an excuse.” (Florence Nightengale)
  • “… the education of the rich tends to render them vain and helpless, and the unfolding mind is not strengthened by the practice of those duties…” (Mary Wollstonecraft)
  • “The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.” (Betty Friedan)
  • “When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • “Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a more terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them.” (Hypatia of Alexandria, ca. 400 CE)
  • “Disgust relies on moral obtuseness. It is possible to view another human being as a slimy slug or a piece of revolting trash only if one has never made a serious good-faith attempt to see the world through that person’s eyes or to experience that person’s feelings. Disgust imputes to the other a subhuman nature. How, by contrast, do we ever become able to see one another as human? Only through the exercise of imagination.” (Martha Nussbaum)
  • “People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” (Iris Murdoch)
  • “Without imagination, we merely see or hear, and even if we see or hear that the objects of the senses are beautiful, we cannot feel that they are so. The difference is this: in feeling the beauty of objects, we enjoy not only the common, shared pleasures of the senses, but also the private pleasures of the imagination, peculiar to ourselves, and such that we have to struggle to articulate them.” (Dame Mary Warnock)
  • “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” (Jane Austen)
  • “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.” (RebeccaWest)
  • “We don’t see the world as IT is; we see the world as WE are.” (Anais Nin)
  • “Surely, since she is a woman, and a beautiful woman, and a woman in the prime of life, she will soon give over this pretence of writing and thinking and begin at least to think of a gamekeeper (and as long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking).” (Virginia Woolf)
  • “Well behaved women seldom make history.” (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich)

There you go!  I hope the reading of these brings you as much pleasure as my researching and teaching of them!  Tell me which is your favorite in the comments!  Use the social media links above or below to share this post.



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