Give a Girl the Right Shoes and She Can Conquer the World

Marilyn Monroe? Bette Midler? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Midler03Quote Investigator: There is a picture on several Pinterest pinboards and Tumblrs that shows a young girl walking in oversized shoes with the following quotation superimposed on the image

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.
—Marilyn Monroe

A recent article on the Buzzfeed website expressed skepticism about this attribution. The staff member Gabby Noone stated: “There doesn’t seem to be any proof” that Monroe said it. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, and QI has not found any substantive support that she made this remark.

The earliest evidence located by QI was published in a newspaper supplement called “Family Weekly” in January 1980. A regular feature titled “Ask Them Yourself” printed questions for celebrities together with their answers. The multi-award-winning singer-songwriter and actress Bette Midler was asked about shoes: 1 2

Is it true that you really have a passion for shoes? If so, what kind do you prefer? — O.L., Sacramento, Calif.

The spike-heeled kind. They’re not always easy to find. I firmly believe that with the right footwear one can rule the world. Fortunately for the world, I have not found the correct footwear to achieve that goal. However, shoe stores across the nation can attest to my sincere and persistent efforts in that direction.

The phrasing above differed from the modern quotation, but Midler’s humorous remark still yielded a close match. By 1985 another statement was being credited to Midler, and this version gave an even closer match with “correct footwear” substituted for “right shoes”: 3

“Give a girl the correct footwear and she can conquer the world.”
– Bette Midler

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1988 the national newspaper USA TODAY published an article with an instance of the saying credited to Midler in the headline: 4

Bette Midler says if you give a girl the right footwear, she can rule the world.

Shoe lovers probably wouldn’t argue the point, except to add that this season, choosing the right footwear is trickier than usual.

By the turn of the century a version of the adage was being attributed to the glamorous icon Marilyn Monroe: 5

As the spectacular Marilyn Monroe was rumoured to have said, ‘Give the girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world’.

The ascription to Midler has not been forgotten. In 2012 the Boston Examiner of Massachusetts printed a collection of “Best quotes about shoes for shoe lovers” with this: 6

“Give a girl the correct footwear and she can conquer the world.” – Bette Midler

In 2013 a newspaper in Illinois credited Monroe: 7

Or as Marilyn Monroe so felicitously put it, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”

In conclusion, QI believes that the saying should be ascribed to Bette Midler and not Marilyn Monroe. The earliest attributions to Monroe were published decades after her death. The wording in the 1980 citation for Midler is probably the most accurate, but she may have used the line on more than one occasion, and she may have expressed it in more than one way.

Notes:

  1. 1980 January 13, Trenton Evening Times, Section: Family Weekly (Newspaper Supplement), Ask Them Yourself: Question for Bette Midler, Page unnumbered: Second Page of Section, (GNB Page 167), Trenton, New Jersey. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1980 January 13, Herald Statesman, Section: Family Weekly (Newspaper Supplement), Ask Them Yourself: Question for Bette Midler, Page unnumbered, Second Page of Section, Column 2, Yonkers, New York. (Old Fulton)
  3. 1985 November 27, Houston Chronicle, Section: Lifestyle, Great shoes can make a difference by Michelle Smith, Quote Page 3, Houston, Texas. (NewsBank Access World News)
  4. 1988 September 14, USA TODAY, “Bette Midler says if you give a girl the right footwear, she can rule the world.” by Mardi Blissard, Record Number: 65585, Arlington, Virginia, Gannett News Service. (NewsBank Access World News)
  5. 2003 October 25, “Charmed, I’m sure Modern manners maketh the modern miss” by Amy Mills, Page 64, Edition: 1, Australia. (NewsBank Access World News)
  6. 2012 August 8, Boston Examiner, Best quotes about shoes for shoe lovers, Boston, Massachusetts. (NewsBank Access World News)
  7. 2013 May 23, Highland Park News, Section: Parties/Trend, Changes afoot – Bright, bold shoes for summer by Lynn Taylor Schwaab, Page 33, Illinois. (NewsBank Access World News)