It’s 2017 and the government is still controlling women’s reproductive decisions and the gender wage gap has yet to be closed. However, it’s no small deal that women have been galvanized by such inequity and the current administration, showing up in the millions for Women’s Marches in January and signing up en mass to run for office.
Women have always persevered, though—with words spoken and actions taken against voting rights, land rights, domestic violence, rape culture, and the poor division of household labor. So in honor of Women’s History Month, here are 10 inspiring quotes from women who have fought tirelessly for equal rights—for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, and more.
1) “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” —Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem has had a long and inspiring career as a social and political activist. Steinem’s quote throws out the dirty stigma attached to the term “feminist”—harpy, angry, hippy dippy—showing all it refers to is someone who believes men and women should be equals.
2) “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” —Michelle Obama
As first lady, Michelle Obama was an important role model. She wasn’t just likeable; she was also Harvard Law educated and an equal to her presidential husband. She worked toward making American families healthier and advocated for higher education and equality for girls around the world.
3) “There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait ’till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again.” —Sojourner Truth
At the 1867 Equal Rights Convention in New York, abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth delivered this famous speech, advocating not just for rights of black men post-slavery, but also black women. The former slave was also seen as radical in some progressive circles for championing equality for all women.
4) “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” —Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was pivotal in the women’s suffrage movement, campaigning for equal votings rights for women and African-Americans. She was also imperative in passing laws that allowed women to own property and helped organize training for women to get jobs and form all-female labor unions.
5) “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” —Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first woman nominated by a major political party for president. Both her 2016 campaign and her defeat were historic—the gender politics brought up during the election fired up the left to speak out against inequality and inspired the Women’s Marches around the world. Though she lost the bid for office, she did win the popular vote by a historic 3 million votes.
6) “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.” —Malala Yousafzai
At just 10 years old, Malala Yousafzai spoke out against the Taliban, blogging anonymously for the BBC about her desire for an education in an area of Pakistan where hundreds of schools had been destroyed. She continued to advocate for the education of young girls even after she was shot by the Taliban in 2012. Two years later, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person to ever hold the honor.
7) “Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer.” —Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontë was a poet and author, most known for her novel Jane Eyre, which was groundbreaking during the Victorian era for its female perspective. In her personal life, Brontë defied gender roles as well, opting for the independence of writing and thinking rather than taking up marriage and motherhood as a young woman.
8) “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” —Maya Angelou
Poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou‘s 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, became the first nonfiction best-seller by an African-American woman. She has written numerous other works including six more memoirs, as well as plays, movies, poetry, and books of essays—many of which are cited in classrooms throughout the country.
9) “Marriage equality does not diminish the worth of your relationships; it simply recognizes the worth of ours.” —Penny Wong
Penny Wong is the first woman to become Australia’s leader of the opposition in the Senate. Wong, who is also lesbian, is a vocal advocate for marriage equality in her country.
10) “I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with.” —Eva Perón
Eva Perón, Argentina’s first lady from 1946 to 1952, utilized her position to fight for women’s rights and the poor. Perón motivated women to exercise their right to vote and run for office, founding the country’s first large women-only political party called the Female Perónist Party.