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Political Speeches by Women



How many famous political speeches by women can you name or quote? Probably not many.

This is at least in part because there are very few included in collections, either in book form or on the internet.  Rathertellingly, even the best known speech by a woman - Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury - is almost certainly apocryphal, written up by a man 25 years later as part of a campaign (ultimately successful) to stop Charles I marrying a Spanish princess.

If the speeches women really made are not preserved they cannot inspire others. So, to redress the balance a little, here – in alphabetical  order - are a number of speeches by women to download.

If you know of others we should add, please let us know at cfwd@cfwd.org.uk

 

Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese opposition leader who spent many years under house arrest, finally being freed in 2011. She was elected to the Burmese parliament in the recent elections.

‘It is not power that corrupts but fear.’ Freedom from Fear, 1990.

 

Benazir Bhutto
Pakistani politician, leader and prime minister, assassinated whilst campaigning in 2007.

‘Today in this world, in the fight for the liberation of women, there can be no neutrality.’ UN 4th World Conference on Women Beijing, 4 September 1995

 

Barbara Castle
Labour politician who entered Parliament in 1945 and, amongst other things, was responsible for the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

‘There can be no doubt that this afternoon we are witnessing another historic advance in the struggle against discrimination in our society…’ Speech on the Second Reading of the Equal Pay Act, House of Commons, 9 February 1970

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Former  US First Lady and a Senator who made her own bid for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Currently U. S.Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

‘Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.’ UN World Conference on Women, 5 September 1995

 

Bernadette Devlin
Youngest woman ever elected to Parliament at the age of 21 to represent Mid-Ulster. Remains active in community work.

‘The people of Northern Ireland want votes, not for the sake of voting, but for the sake of being able to exercise democratic rights over the controlling powers in their own areas.’ Maiden speech, House of Commons 22 April 1969

 

Indira Gandhi Indian leader, politician and prime minister, assassinated by her own bodyguard in 1984.

‘While there is bondage anywhere, we ourselves cannot be fully free. While there is oppression anywhere, we ourselves cannot soar high.’ Speech at the presentation of the Nehru Award for International Understanding to Coretta Scott King, New Delhi, 24 January 1969

 

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn
Irish Fianna Fáil politician and now European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science.

‘It is right that we should take the opportunity now of rolling back over 130 years of legislative prohibition which is discriminatory, (and) which reflects an inadequate understanding of the human condition’ Speech moving the Second Reading in the Dáil Eireann of the Bill to decriminalise homosexuality in the Republic of Ireland, 23 June 1993

 

Emmeline Pankhurst Suffragette  leader and campaigner, who stood for Parliament herself in 1927.

‘No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent.’ Speech delivered in Hartford, Connecticut, 13 November 1913.

 

Mary Robinson
First woman President of Ireland, subsequently UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and then Head of the International Commission of Jurists.

‘As a woman, I want women who have felt themselves outside history to be written back in …’ Presidential inauguration speech, Dublin, 3 December 1990.

 

Anita Roddick
Founder of the Bodyshop, international environmental campaigner and philanthropist.

‘If you think morality is a luxury business can't afford, try living in a world without it.’ Speech top the International Forum On Globalisation, Seattle, Washington, 27 November 1999.

 

Ellen Sirleaf Johnson
President of Liberia 2006 onwards,former Finance Minister. Jointly (with two other women) awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

‘We will make the children smile again.’ Inauguration speech, Monrovia, 16 January 2006.

 

Margaret Thatcher
Conservative politician and leader, and the UK’s first (and to date only) woman Prime Minister.

‘You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.’ Speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton on 10 October 1980.

 

Sojourner Truth
1797-1883  Abolitionist, women’s rights activist, freed slave.

‘I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. And ain’t I a woman?’  Speech to Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio, December 1851