Category Archives: Gloria Steinem

A Pedestal Is as Much a Prison as Any Small Space

Gloria Steinem? Joe King? Anonymous Black Feminist?

Dear Quote Investigator: Being placed on a pedestal has a serious drawback according to the following astute metaphorical amplification:

A pedestal is a prison, like any other small space.

Would you please explore the provenance of this expression which is often attributed to the prominent feminist Gloria Steinem?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in an advertisement for a realty company written by Joe King and published in “The Yuma Daily Sun” of Yuma, Arizona in September 1974. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The man who didn’t want his wife to work has been succeeded by the man who asks about her chances of getting a raise . . .
A pedestal is as much a prison as any small space . . .
Do you feel like you’re in prison?
Kids growing up and cramped for space?
Really put your wife on a pedestal — let HER pick out a larger house.

The advertisement contained other commonplace observations:

You can’t expect a person to see eye to eye with you when you’re looking down on him . . .
You can’t spend yourself rich any more than you can drink yourself sober . . .

Thus, QI conjectures that the saying about pedestals was already in circulation with an anonymous ascription.

In March 1976 a columnist in a Dubois, Pennsylvania newspaper credited Gloria Steinem with the remark: 2

A Thought: A pedestal is as much a prison as any small space. (Gloria Steinem)

Steinem used the saying during interviews and within articles, but she disclaimed authorship as shown below via selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading


  1. 1974 September 13, The Yuma Daily Sun, Time To Smile by Joe King (Advertisement for Paustell Realty), Quote Page 19, Column 8, Yuma, Arizona. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1976 March 11, The Courier-Express, Daisies Won’t Tell BUT I Will! by Bess K. Martin (C-E Staff Writer), Quote Page 5, Column 7, Dubois, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle

Gloria Steinem? Irina Dunn? Erica Jong? Florynce Kennedy? Charles S. Harris? Anonymous?

bikeicon08Dear Quote Investigator: A famous feminist slogan asserts that a woman is capable of living a complete and independent life without a man. Here are two versions:

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.
A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

Would you please explore the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published instance known to QI appeared in “The Sydney Morning Herald” of Sydney, Australia in January 1975. The expression occurred as an unattributed graffito. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

We found this anonymous contribution to International Women’s Year on a wall at Forest Lodge: “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

Thanks to Fred R. Shapiro, editor of “The Yale Book of Quotations”, who located this citation and shared it with fellow researchers. Prominent feminist Gloria Steinem often receives credit for this saying, but she has ascribed the words to the Australian social activist Irina Dunn who claimed that she created the adage and wrote it on a bathroom wall in 1970. More details about these assertions are presented further below.

QI believes that the saying evolved from a family of related expressions. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading


  1. 1975 January 25, The Sydney Morning Herald, Article Title: “Column 8”, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. (Newspapers_com)

The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off

Gloria Steinem? Joe Klaas? Anne Kristine Stuart? David Icke? Bill Cosby? Erin Brockovich? Anonymous?

chain14Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement is sometimes used as a rallying cry by activists:

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

The words are typically attributed to the feminist Gloria Steinem. Would you please explore its origin?

Quote Investigator: There is good evidence that Gloria Steinem used instances of this expression in speeches by 1998, but the saying was already in circulation by 1990. Detailed citations for these dates are given further below.

This saying simultaneously modifies and evokes a well-known Biblical verse: John 8:32: 1

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

The earliest partial match known to QI was published in a Syracuse, New York newspaper in a 1978 article about a treatment program for alcoholics. A poster displayed in a residential facility presented a variant of the saying with the phrase “make you miserable” instead of “piss you off”. This yields only a partial match because of the reduced connotation of anger. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

On the wall at The Willows dining room is a poster that poignantly reflects the alcoholic’s struggle: “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

The variant above has continued to circulate. It appeared in the title of a 1988 religious book “The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Make You Miserable” by Jamie Buckingham. The body of the main text also included the expression: 3

Life is a comedy. Each day is a wonderful adventure, full of fun and laughter. Most important, remember this: The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

The first strong match located by QI was published in the 1990 book “Twelve Steps to Happiness” by Joe Klaas who labeled the statement his “favorite motto”. Klaas helped to popularize the phrase, but it was unclear whether it was pre-existing. Interestingly, this book dealt with the treatment of alcoholism; hence, it emerged from a milieu comparable to that of the 1978 citation: 4

Rest assured my favorite motto will come true. “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading


  1. Website: Bible Hub, Article title: Parallel Verses of John 8:32, Translation: New Living Translation, Website description: Online Bible Study Suite. Bible hub is a production of the Online Parallel Bible Project. (Accessed on September 4, 2014) link
  2. 1978 September 17, Syracuse Herald-American (Syracuse Herald Journal), Agency aids alcoholic: ‘Bridge builders’ work at Brick House, Quote Page 10, Column 4, Syracuse, New York. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1988, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Make You Miserable: The Collected Wit and Wisdom of Jamie Buckingham by Jamie Buckingham, Section: Introduction, Quote Page 20, (Also appears in booktitle), Published by Creation House, Altamonte Springs, Florida. (Verified with scans in second printing May 1989)
  4. 1990, Twelve Steps to Happiness by Joe Klaas, Revised and Expanded, Series: A Hazelden Book, Quote Page 15, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, New York. (Google Books Preview)

If Men Could Get Pregnant, Abortion Would Be a Sacrament

Florynce Kennedy? Gloria Steinem? Elderly Irish Taxicab Driver? Germaine Greer? Anonymous?

taxi01Dear Quote Investigator: An incendiary quotation on the topic of abortion has an uncertain authorship. The following words have been attributed to both Florynce Kennedy and Gloria Steinem:

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Could you determine who said it first?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published evidence located by QI appeared in an issue of the periodical “Off Our Backs” dated June 24, 1971 in which a speech given by the prominent activist Florynce Kennedy at a rally held on May 15, 1971 in Washington D.C. was described: 1

Florynce Kennedy, author of Abortion Rap defined the situation with her usual clarity: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” She also read parts of the Metropolitan Abortion Alliance’s statement on the media and urged a national boycott of the media sponsors.

The leading feminist Gloria Steinem also used the expression in speeches delivered in 1971, but intriguingly Steinem pointed to another person as creator of this saying. In her 1983 memoir “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” Steinem indicated that the statement was spoken to her and Florynce Kennedy by the “elderly Irish woman driver” of a taxi in Boston. Details are given further below.

So, the quotation was popularized by Kennedy and Steinem, but the origin can be traced back to an anonymous taxicab driver. Top researcher Ralph Keyes noted this fact in his important reference “The Quote Verifier”. 2

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading


  1. 1971 June 24, Off Our Backs: A Women’s News Journal, Volume 1, Number 23, “bringing it home: if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” by Chris Hobbs, Quote Page 20, Column 1, Published by Off Our Backs, Inc. (JSTOR) link link
  2. 2006, The Quote Verifier by Ralph Keyes, Quote Page 62, St Martin’s Griffin, New York. (Verified on paper)