Nancy Astor? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, I saw the following comical remark attributed to the socialite and parliamentarian Lady Astor:
We women do talk too much but even then we don’t tell half we know.
Is this ascription accurate?
Quote Investigator: Nancy Astor was an important political pioneer as the first woman to take her seat as a Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons. In 1922 she spoke before American newspaper editors at the annual luncheon of the Associated Press held in New York. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
“We women feel we have moral courage and a sort of vision,” she added. “We don’t enter politics because of ourselves. To raise you men perfectly we’ve got to do a great many disagreeable things—to spank you when a spanking is needed and to love you when that is needed. Now we are ready to enter the political arena—don’t be frightened, and don’t try to discourage us too much. We women do talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half we know.”
Astor’s words were remembered, and a few months later a newspaper in New Orleans, Louisiana printed a filler item with two lines from her address: 2
Speech by Lady Astor
We women do talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half we know.
There’s so much good in all men; but only good women can bring it out.—Boston Transcript.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
Also in 1922 a newspaper in Charlotte, North Carolina printed some remarks ascribed to Astor: 3
Lady Astor’s Aphorisms.
“When Lady Astor was in America,” said an interesting woman of Myers Park, “I kept the aphorisms which were attributed to her by the press. They are good:
“Wives come and go but mothers stay on forever.”
“We women do talk too much; but even then we don’t tell half we know.”
“When you’ve got the enemy down—make peace.”
An entertaining complementary remark about talkativeness was made by the author and playwright Clare Boothe Luce in 1971: 4
And I will tell you what gets me down and has gotten me down all my life are stereotyped judgments. They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men. If you lived in the diplomatic world, you know how men gossip.
In conclusion, Nancy Astor can be correctly credited with the statement she made in a speech in 1922 as presented above.
(Great thanks to Earl Blacklock whose tweet led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)
- 1922 April 26, New York Times, In Politics to Help the Men, Lady Astor Tells the Editors, Start Page 1, Quote Page 3, New York. (The page image has “disagreeable” instead of “disagreeable”) (ProQuest) ↩
- 1922 August 20, Times-Picayune, Section 2, Speech by Lady Astor, Quote Page 3, Column 8, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1922 October 6, Charlotte Observer, One Minute Interviews by Mrs. J. P. Caldwell, Quote Page 19, Column 3, Charlotte, North Carolina. (GenealogyBank) ↩
- 1971 June 28, New York Times, Clare Boothe Luce Shared Billing With Women’s Lib, (Special to The New York Times), Quote Page 26, Column 4, New York. (ProQuest) ↩