A Woman Has To Be Twice as Good as a Man To Go Half as Far

Fannie Hurst? Joan Lowell? Jack Lewis? Lewis Browne? Myrtelle L. Gunsul? Lilias F. Evans? Anna Judge Vetters Levy? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Fannie Hurst was popular novelist who was born in 1885. She believed that women faced greater obstacles to professional success than men. Apparently, she employed the following expression:

A woman must be twice as good as a man to get half as far.

Do you know whether she coined this remark? Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: Fannie Hurst did help to popularize this statement by using it on multiple occasions. For example, in 1943 she attended the National Conference of Women sponsored by “The New York Times” and said the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Fannie Hurst, novelist, deplored comparative lack of leadership that women have shown through past ages. “Our much vaunted strength is largely wordage,” she said. “A woman still has to be twice as good as a man in order to get half as far.”

Yet, Hurst did not craft this saying; it was already in circulation. Interestingly, in 1927 an analogous expression was applied to black boxers by a promoter who was quoted in a Nebraska newspaper: 2

All of which leads Genial Jack Lewis to remark, with justification, that a Negro pug must be twice as good as a white fist-fighter to get half as far.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading A Woman Has To Be Twice as Good as a Man To Go Half as Far

Notes:

  1. 1943 April 27, Miami Daily News, Women Will Have New World Status by Beth Blair, Quote Page 11A, Column 5, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1927 April 21, The Omaha World-Herald, Section: Sports, The Sportolog by Frederick Ware, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)

The Philosopher, the Theologian, and the Elusive Black Cat

Julian Huxley? H. L. Mencken? Lewis Browne? Eric Temple Bell? William James? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The QI website has an article tracing a quip about a problematic absurdist quest:

A metaphysician is a man who goes into a dark cellar at midnight without a light looking for a black cat that is not there.

Interestingly, there is a more elaborate joke that contrasts the searching prowess of a philosopher and a theologian. Are you familiar with this jest which has been attributed to the prominent biologist Julian Huxley and the Sage of Baltimore, H. L. Mencken? Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Julian Huxley did present the double-pronged joke in an essay published in 1939, and H. L. Mencken included an instance in his monumental 1942 compilation “A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources”. Details for these citations are given further below.

The earliest evidence located by QI appeared several years before this in a 1931 book titled “Since Calvary: An Interpretation of Christian History” by the comparative religion specialist Lewis Browne. The sharpest barb was aimed at a set of religious individuals called Gnostics: 1

Someone has said that a philosopher looking for the ultimate truth is like a blind man on a dark night searching in a subterranean cave for a black cat that is not there. Those Gnostics, however, were theologians rather than philosophers, and so—they found the cat!

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Philosopher, the Theologian, and the Elusive Black Cat

Notes:

  1. 1931, Since Calvary: An Interpretation of Christian History by Lewis Browne, Quote Page 81 and 82, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Internet Archive) link