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A Selection of Revolutionary Quotes to Celebrate International Women's Day

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | March 8, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | March 8, 2019 |


The history of March 8th and its ties to the international women’s rights movement is relatively complicated, but broadly speaking its genesis lies in Soviet Russia. On March 8th, 1917, the women textile workers of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) began a grassroots protest against the monarchy and food rationing. Before long the march blanketed the capital of the Russian Empire, snowballing in size and participation and in the process becoming one of the main igniting sparks that would burn that revolutionary year forever into human history. Though International Women’s Day had been somewhat loosely observed on the 8th of March in previous years, it was to be Soviet Russia’s later recognition of the women of 1917’s pivotal role in the overturning of the old order that would put the day March 8th officially into the calendar, spreading at first through other Communist countries before being adopted by a host of other nations after a suggestion from the United Nations in 1977.

So happy International Women’s Day, comrades! Let a small selection of words from some revolutionary sisters from times past ring out loud and true and point the way forward today:

‘Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.’

- Lucy Parsons, American radical anarchist, labour activist, and socialist.

‘You never teach a subject, you always teach a child. You teach children in a way that they will learn, and then things will fall in place for them.’

- Dorothy Height, American civil rights campaigner and educator

‘Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.’

- Sophie Scholl, German student and anti-Nazi political activist

‘The great social justice changes in our country have happened when people came together, organized, and took direct action. It is this right that sustains and nurtures our democracy today. The civil rights movement, the labor movement, the women’s movement, and the equality movement for our LGBT brothers and sisters are all manifestations of these rights.’

- Dolores Huerta, American labour organiser

‘If you are to free yourselves you must break the chains of oppression yourselves. Only then can we express our dignity, only when we have liberated ourselves can we co-operate with other groups. Any acceptance of humiliation, indignity or insult is acceptance of inferiority.’

- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, South African anti-Apartheid activist and politician

‘I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.’

- Mother Jones, American labour leader and teacher

‘Two-thirds of the members of the Black Panther Party were women. I am sure you are wondering, why isn’t this the image that you have of the Black Panther Party? Well, ask yourself, where did the image of the Black Panthers that you have in your head come from? Did you read those articles planted by the FBI in the newspaper? Did you listen to the newscasters who announced what they decided was significant, usually, how many Panthers got arrested or killed? How many photographs of women Panthers have you seen? Think about this: how many newspaper photographers were women? How many newspaper editors were women? How many newscasters were women? How many television producers were women? How many magazine, book, newspaper publishers? Who was making the decisions about what information gets circulated, and when that decision gets made, who do you think they decide to present?’

- Kathleen Neal Cleaver, American academic and key figure in the Black Panther Party

‘Dress suitably in short skirts and sitting boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver.’

- Constance Markievicz, Irish revolutionary, politician, and suffragette

‘Tired old revels like me are still out-gunned and out-numbered. We can make history, but we still don’t get to write it.’

- Celia Sanchez, key figure in the Cuban Revolution, politician, activist

‘The prison therefore functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers. This is the ideological work that the prison performs—it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.’

- Angela Davis, American political activist, academic, and author

‘The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all. The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labour. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands—the ownership and control of their livelihoods—are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.’

Helen Keller, American author, political activist, and lecturer

‘People who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society… . Our program becomes not the realisation of Socialism, but the reform of capitalism not the suppression of the system of wage labour, but the diminution of exploitation, that is, the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of the suppression of capitalism itself.’

- Rosa Luxemburg, Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, activist, and revolutionary socialist

‘I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.’

- Harriet Tubman, American abolitionist and political activist

‘Stand up, people of Spain! Women! Defend the life of your children, defend the liberty of your men! Endure every conceivable sacrifice rather than grant the victory of the forces which represent a past of oppression, a past of tyranny. Everybody against the Reaction! Everyone against Fascism! One front only! One faction united shoulder to shoulder until the enemy is defeated! Down with the rebel generals! Down with the counter-revolutionary elements! Long live the brave popular militias! Long live the loyal Forces that fight alongside the workers! Long live the Republic. Long live democracy. Down with Fascism. Down with the Reaction.’

- Dolores Ibárruri, Spanish Civil War leader famous for coining the phrase ‘¡No Pasarán!’ during the Battle of Madrid, ‘36

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.

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