I have two beautiful little girls, and I am desperate for the two of them to be inspired by the women around them. Because for all of the history classes and quizzes and textbooks they'll encounter, there will still be huge gaps missing — gaps where women have stood. It's why so many of us can rattle off quotes by Neil Armstrong, but not by the women who actually put him on the moon with their skills. Finding inspirational quotes by women for your daughters doesn't have to be difficult though — they're everywhere. In commencement speeches, in interviews, in books. This is a very small sampling I have here, but each quote is full of empowerment, strength, and motivation for even the littlest of girls to understand.
There's something about a great quote. I have a few memorized from my teen years that I can still repeat for maximum inspiration, but there are so many others scribbled on bits of paper and in journals I forget about until I read them again. So while this list is especially made for the daughters in your life, they're just as perfect for you on the days when you need an extra push. Whether you're starting over, chugging along as usual, or looking for something new, I hope you and your little girls are inspired by these quotes.
1. "When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful." — Malala Yousafzai
At 15 years old, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban while advocating for Pakistani girls' education. Almost a year later in 2013, she said this quote in a speech at Harvard as she shared with the audience how powerful it is when just one person speaks out, reported the Boston Globe. For girls, it can be hard to remember that their voice counts and matters, especially when everyone around them is ignoring what's happening — Malala's quote can give them the courage to speak up.
2. "I'm not bossy. I'm the boss." — Beyoncé
In a 2014 ad campaign from Lean In, Queen Bey shared her views on the language surrounding strong-willed women, reported Rolling Stone. While I know that sometimes my own child is actually being bossy, I love this sentiment — being a strong, confident women shouldn't be put in a negative light.
3. "Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe." — Oprah Winfrey
I mean, it doesn't get much more motivating than Oprah Winfrey. Entrepreneur reported that she literally rose from the bottom to become one of the most successful women in the world. Her story is one every little girl can hold onto for inspiration.
4. "The most effective way to do it, is to do it." — Amelia Earhart
When the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean tells you to just do it, you do it. It's so easy to get caught up in the trappings of an idea and convince yourself out of what's best, but this quote from Amelia Earhart is one to put in your daughter's back pocket. The best way to get something done? Do it.
5. "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." — Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was more than a First Lady — she was a champion for others. Outspoken — especially on civil rights — and more than just a pretty face next to her husband, she really changed the way people viewed the position of the First Lady. In her book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Roosevelt dropped this quote, and its simplicity is so empowering. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. When you look at your ideas and thoughts that way, of course it makes sense to try.
6. "Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance in the world to pursue your dreams." — Hillary Clinton
This quote makes me want to sob. I can remember going to vote in 2016 with my 2-year-old daughter in tow, her Future President shirt on proudly, and thinking, This is it. Everything's about to change. Everything changed alright, but not how inspirational Hillary Clinton is for little girls. This quote was part of Clinton's concession speech, and it was a must-hear for all the girls rooting for her.
7. "A lot of people ask how to get to where I am, and the single biggest thing, which is not profound, is that I work like a dog." — Mindy Kaling
So many people want an easy path to success. They want just one small thing to do that will change their life and give them the achievements they dream of. But with this quote during a panel, Kaling proved to all girls that you won't get anywhere if you aren't willing to put in the work. Of course it's hard and it's tedious and sometimes it feels like too much, but it's how success happens. It's how life happens.
8. "Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life." — J.K. Rowling
Maybe it's just because I have a personal connection to this quote, but J.K. Rowling's entire 2008 Harvard commencement speech is perfect for any girl to hear. Rowling is literally one of the most successful, creative people in the entire world, and it would never have happened if she hadn't hit rock bottom first. She's proof that you don't have to forget any hard beginnings — just build on top of them.
9. "We needed to be assertive as women in those days — assertive and aggressive — and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be." — Katherine Johnson
NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson has been notably absent from history books — until now. Thanks to the novel and movie Hidden Figures, her name has become more recognizable, and the work she did in the space program is unmatched. This quote is perfect for reminding your daughters what the women before them had to face, and why it's so important for them to keep fighting forward.
10. "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did." — Sophie Scholl
She was a major part of a resistance movement against Nazism, but not many know Sophie Scholl's name. Before she was sentenced to death for creating and sharing leaflets denouncing Nazism, Scholl said this quote to the judge in charge of her fate. She's right, you know. Somebody has to make a start, and it's worth noting to your girls that they should always say what they believe, even if no one else is talking.
11. "I like to think of ideas as potential energy. They're really wonderful, but nothing will happen until we risk putting them into action." — Mae Jemison
Mae Jemison is a certified badass. The first African American woman in space, she knows a thing or two about putting some force behind potential ideas. Share this quote with your daughters when they need a reminder that their ideas are nothing without some work.
12. "Any little girl who's practicing their speech on the telly — you never know!" — Olivia Colman
I can't be the only one who cried happy tears when Olivia Colman accepted her Best Actress Academy Award in 2019, right? She shared in her speech about working as a cleaner and practicing her "speeches," and as a kid who did the same, it's incredibly inspiring to hear someone who made it say they did it, too.
13. "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world." — Lucille Ball
She's my own personal idol, but Lucille Ball was much more than just a comedian. She was the first woman to run a major TV studio, and she had to break a million barriers to reach her success. But Ball's quote is mega important — none of that success would've happened if she didn't love or believe in herself.
14. "You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages." — Michelle Obama
Oh, how I miss you being in the White House, Michelle Obama. Much like Rowling's quote above, Obama's here is just a reminder to girls that you should never forget how you started. It's part of your story and it's just as important as the fight forward.