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Ella Fitzgerald in London in 1968. (Bob Dear/AP)

Inspiring

Twenty Amazing Quotes From Twenty Powerful Women

Want to step up your day-to-day vocabulary? These famous ladies always had the perfect quip at hand.

1. In a heated debate over whether it's a good thing that 98 Degrees has reunited, invoke Ella Fitzgerald, and instantly win: “Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

 

2. When your friends tell you, “For the last time, you cannot wear that cropped fleece vest,” you can reply—in a tone as sweet as the one Julie Andrews must have used when she first said it—“perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth.”

 

3. When the person behind you in line at Starbucks begins to tap her foot and breathe sharply through clenched teeth, channel Joan Didion and volunteer, “you have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.”

 

4. If ever you meet Rihanna, Elizabeth Gilbert has provided you with the first thing you must say to her: “Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be.”


5. When you’re home for the holidays, wearing your favorite mini-skirt, and your mother can’t seem to bring herself to allow you to walk out the door, quote Mary Ann Rodmacher, “At first glance, it may appear too hard. Look again. Always look again.”

 

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Trevor Fisher/Getty Images

6. If you wake up looking like a dog chased and made contact with you in your sleep, don’t let your boyfriend’s laughter bother you. Instead of submitting to an unwanted Instagram à la Katy Perry, own it the way Cindy Crawford did: “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”

 

7. When your sassy friend says “Wow. You’re hilarious,” after one of your less successful attempts at a joke, tell her what Agnes Repplier once said: “Humor brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.”

 

8. If you find yourself in your yoga class, somehow contorted into what could only be described as “the sitting pretzel,” do not forget how you got there. When your sister, who you forced to come along, looks at you, horrified, defer to Helen Keller: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”

 

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Women practicing yoga in Times Square. (Jeffrey Furticella/AP)

9. When you are on a blind date with an obnoxious over-sharer, who just finished a story about his golden retriever’s rectal exam, offer in as sarcastic a manner as you feel necessary Helen Gurley Brown’s sage reminder: “Never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody."

 

10. If you are taking up sailing, repeat Louisa May Alcott's mantra: “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Another thing not to be afraid of: a metaphor working literally. Sail that ship.

 

11. If you happen upon someone walking a dog in a tiny, brightly-colored, cable knit sweater, stop her and say, “Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” Thank Ellen DeGeneres. She’s not just funny; she’s wise.


12. When you’re potty-training your kid, and he gets frustrated about his aim, bend down to him and say, “Luck is not chance, it’s toil.” Emily Dickinson never had children of her own but she definitely would have stayed firm.

 

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Emily Dickinson (Amherst College, via AP)

13. When a catcaller howls at your group of your friends, howl back, “We can’t take any credit for our talents. It is how we use them that counts.” I don’t think Madeline L’Engle would mind if you were to add, “And we certainly won’t be using them on you.”


14. When your brother asks how you could possibly watch a marathon of entitled Upper East Siders trick each other on Gossip Girl, your sighing response could be, “At the end of the day, we endure much more than we think.” Your brother might not get it, but Frida Kahlo’s right there with you.

 

15. During a day of exhausting wedding dress shopping, the bride is more than likely to get snappy with the mother-of-the-bride. In your role as maid of honor, it is your place—nay your duty—to mention, “Peace begins when the hungry are fed,” courtesy of Dorothy Day. Quickly proceed to suggest the best Thai place you know.

 

16. When you’re in a restaurant, and you grab the abandoned bread from the bread basket at the next table over, ignore your dining partner. He might be offended by your “rude” display, but you know better—inform him, “I’ve been absolutely terrific every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to.” Only you... and Georgia O’Keefe.

 

17. After you claw the subway door back open, and pantingly climb inside the car, announce to your fellow straphangers, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” We all love Lucy—Lucille Ball—for such pearls.


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Bebeto Matthews

18. When you notice your friend begin to adopt your midnight snacking habit, say, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton knew that not all of us can be candles.


19. If a man tries to pick you up with a seedy line, look off into the distance and recite pensively, “I am no bird and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.” Charlotte Bronte penned that as one of her Jane-Eyre-being-a-tease lines, so you might want to check whether he’s read the novel first.


20. When your friend refuses to wear sunglasses on the subway, but desperately wants to take standing naps on her morning ride, instruct her, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt would approve, and she’d probably wear the damn sunglasses.

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