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Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

November Birthday Crones

November Birthdays
A Celebration of Creativity

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
(born November 5, 1850; d.1919)

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, was a journalist and popular American poet in the late 19th and early 20th century. She can't be dismissed as a minor poet, her biographer, Jenny Ballou, says, if the size and appreciation of her audience is what counts.  But, Ballou concludes, she should probably be counted as a bad major poet. 

Laugh and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.

A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.” 
“A weed is but an unloved flower.” 
“All love that has not friendship for its base, is like a mansion built upon the sand.” 
“Always continue the climb. It is possible for you to do whatever you choose, if you first get to know who you are and are willing to work with a power that is greater than ourselves to do it.” 
“For an actress to be a success, she must have the face of Venus, the brains of a Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of a Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.” 
“Give us that grand word “woman” once again, and let's have done with “lady” ; one's a term full of fine force, strong, beautiful, and firm, fit for the noblest use of tongue or pen; and one's a word for lackeys.
“It has ever been since time began, and ever will be, till time lose breath, that love is a mood - no more - to man, and love to a woman is life or death.” 
“Let there be many windows to your soul, that all the glory of the world may beautify it.” 
“So many gods, so many creeds, so many paths that wind and wind while just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs.” 
“The spark divine dwells in thee: let it grow.” 
“There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.” 
“Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal, and not the storm of life.” 
“With care, and skill, and cunning art, She parried Time's malicious dart, And kept the years at bay, Till passion entered in her heart and aged her in a day!” 

“With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.”

“You may choose your words like a connoisseur, And polish it up with art, But the word that sways, and stirs, and stays, Is the word that comes from the heart.” 

Ida Minerva Tarbell
(born November 5, 1857; d. 1944)

Ida Tarbell was a muckracking journalist from Pennsylvania whose book on the Standard Oil Company helped bring about its breakup.
Sacredness of human life! The world has never believed it! It has been with life that we settled our quarrels, won wives, gold and land, defended ideas, imposed religions. We have held that a death toll was a necessary part of every human achievement, whether sport, war or industry. A moment's rage over the horror of it, and we have sunk into indifference.” 
Imagination is the only key to the future. Without it none exists -- with it all things are possible.” 
There is no man more dangerous, in a position of power, than he who refuses to accept as a working truth the idea that all a man does should make for rightness and soundness, that even the fixing of a tariff rate must be moral.” 

 (about John D. Rockefeller) 
And he calls his great organization a benefaction, and points to his church-going and charities as proof of his righteousness. This is supreme wrong-doing cloaked by religion. There is but one name for it -- hypocrisy.” 

There is no more effective medicine to apply to feverish public sentiment than figures.” 
Rockefeller and his associates did not build the Standard Oil Co. in the board rooms of Wall Street banks. They fought their way to control by rebate and drawback, bribe and blackmail, espionage and price cutting, by ruthless ... efficiency of organization.” 
A mind which really lays hold of a subject is not easily detached from it.” 
Perhaps our national ambition to standardize ourselves has behind it the notion that democracy means standardization. But standardization is the surest way to destroy the initiative, to benumb the creative impulse above all else essential to the vitality and growth of democratic ideals.” 
The first and most imperative necessity in war is money, for money means everything else -- men, guns, ammunition.” 

How defeated and restless the child that is not doing something in which it sees a purpose, a meaning! It is by its self-directed activity that the child, as years pass, finds its work, the thing it wants to do and for which it finally is willing to deny itself pleasure, ease, even sleep and comfort.” 

Joan Sutherland
(7 November 1926 – 10 October 2010)

Dame Joan Alston Sutherland, OM, AC, DBE, was an Australian dramatic coloratura soprano.

I don't sing for anybody. I wouldn't sing for the Queen dear.” 
I wasn't actually trained by my mother, she said she never taught me but she was a great singer herself and I can't remember when I didn't listen to her sing and imitate her.” 
I'm somewhat horrified because I don't think the young people today even know what history is. Some of them don't' even study History at school anymore or Geography and they don't know where one place is from another.” 
I'm very happy to sing whatever I'm singing. I've always enjoyed any role I've been given at a certain time. They've all been favourites, they've all been wonderful pieces to play.” 
Technique is the basis of every pursuit. If you're a sportsman or you're a singer or a swimmer, well that comes under sport but you have to develop a basic technique to know what you're doing at any given time.” 
You can listen to what everybody says, but the fact remains that you've got to get out there and do the thing yourself.” 
“If I weren't reasonably placid, I don't think I could cope with this sort of life. To be a diva, you've got to be absolutely like a horse.”

Joni Mitchell
(November 7, 1943)

American Singer and Songwriter
“At the point where I'm trying to force something and it's not happening, and I'm getting frustrated with, say, writing a poem, I can go and pick up the brushes and start painting. At the point where the painting seems to not be going anywhere, I go and pick up the guitar.”

“Back then, I didn't have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn't enough time.”

“Buddy Holly and the early rock 'n' roll was no lighter than the way I play. It's very minimal.”

“Everyone I know has attention deficit, and they say it with great pride. It's a bad time to be right.”

“I don't understand why Europeans and South Americans can take more sophistication. Why is it that Americans need to hear their happiness major and their tragedy minor, and as jazzy as they can handle is a seventh chord? Are they not experiencing complex emotions?”

“I hate show business.”

“I learned a woman is never an old woman.”

“Ira Gershwin, shame on him. I mean, some of the writing.”

“No one likes to have less than they had before. That's the nature of the human animal.”

“Nobody understood The Reoccurring Dream, but after September 11, when we were coerced to do a national duty and go out and shop, surely people could begin to see what I was getting at.

“Not to dismiss Gershwin, but Gershwin is the chip; Ellington was the block.”

“Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.”

“The more decadent a culture gets, the more they have a need for what they don't have at all, which is innocence, so you end up with kiddie porn and a perverse obsession with youth.”

“There are things to confess that enrich the world, and things that need not be said.”

“This is a nation that has lost the ability to be self-critical, and that makes a lie out of the freedoms.”

“We have a war dictator who was not elected, he snuck in. so he punishes people that threaten him in any way, or even say something he doesn't like. It has no resemblance to democracy.”

“When you're trying to pass on the best of the stuff you're culling to what should be a hungry culture but you have it diminished... that's kind of disappointing.”

“With a painting, you don't have to go back and paint it again.”

“You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it's just complaining.”

“You have this mounting aggressive ignorance with the rabbit's foot of their particular religion. You don't really have any kind of spiritual law, just a kind of a rabid mental illness. The songs are a little slice of life.”

“You know, Neil Young is singing Rock n' roll will never die, and Neil never rocked and rolled in his life. I mean, he rocked, but he didn't roll. He has got no swing in him.”

Bonnie Raitt

(born November 8, 1949)

An American blues singer-songwriter and slide guitar player, Bonnie is listed as number 50 in Rolling Stone  magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 89 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

“I don't think there's ever been any music quite like what we came up with.”

“I think my fans will follow me into our combined old age. Real musicians and real fans stay together for a long, long time.”

“I would rather feel things in extreme than not at all.”

“I'm certain that it was an incredible gift for me to not only be friends with some of the greatest blues people who've ever lived, but to learn how they played, how they sang, how they lived their lives, ran their marriages, and talked to their kids.”

“I've watched my peers get better with age and hoped that would happen with me.”

Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.

“Sometimes I'm more true when I'm up onstage than I'm able to be in my regular life. It's not as exciting to be at home, but I've got to learn how to make that work, and then I will be an ordinary woman.”

“The consolidation of the music business has made it difficult to encourage styles like the blues, all of which deserve to be celebrated as part of our most treasured national resources.”

“There were so many great music and political scenes going on in the late '60s in Cambridge. The ratio of guys to girls at Harvard was four to one, so all of those things were playing in my mind.”

“There's nothing like living a long time to create a depth and soulfulness in your music.”

“It's not easy to undo what's done, or to speak too freely ,to just anyone, and if this takes more, than you bargained for, boy it's time you learned, not to talk so loud, walk so proud, you're coming on.”

“It's a great opportunity for all of us to raise the ante and the attention for something that needs focus. It's the cosmic food chain -- that we get so much and we give something back -- it's what we're supposed to do.”

“There wouldn't be any rhythmic music if not for sexuality. Sensuality and sexuality is at once complex and simple. It shouldn't be cheapened by a girlie show.”

“I'm certain that it was an incredible gift for me to not only be friends with some of the greatest blues people who've ever lived, but to learn how they played, how they sang, how they lived their lives, ran their marriages, and talked to their kids.”

Margaret Mitchell

(November 8, 1900; d. 1949)

American journalist and author of Gone With the Wind  (Pulitzer prize in 1937)

“In a weak moment, I have written a book.”

“Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

“No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”

    Anne Sexton
(November 9, 1928; d.1974)

An American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967 for her book Live or Die. Themes of her poetry include her long battle against depression and mania, suicidal tendencies, and various intimate details from her private life, including her relationships with her husband and children. 

“Death's in the good-bye.”

“Even without wars, life is dangerous.”

“God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.”

“God owns heaven but He craves the earth.”

“I am not immortal. Faustus and I are the also-ran.”

“In a dream you are never eighty.”

“It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”

“Live or die, but don't poison everything.”

“Need is not quite belief.”

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

“Saints have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance.”

“The beautiful feeling after writing a poem is on the whole better even than after sex, and that's saying a lot.”

“The joy that isn't shared dies young.”

“I cannot promise very much.
I give you the images I know.
Lie still with me and watch.
We laugh and we touch.
I promise you love. Time will not take that away.”

“I've grown tired of love
You are the trouble with me
I watch you walk right by”

“And opening my eyes I am afraid of course
to look--this inward look that society scorns--
Still I search in these woods and find nothing worse
than myself, caught between the grapes and the thorns.”

 Mary Travers
 (9 November 1936 – September 16, 2009)

An American singer-songwriter, Mary was  a member of the folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary, along with Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey. Peter, Paul and Mary were one of the most successful folk-singing groups of the 1960s. 

All of us are subject to being passive to the social ills around us. It's a struggle not to become, by staying silent, an accomplice.
    Folk music has a sort of a bubbling-under quality. The stream runs through the cultural consciousness, and whether or not it's on the radio is not the issue. Folk music is always there. 
    Folk music has always contained a concern for the human condition. And since it brings people into it from different points of view, that can help illuminate what a consensus might be to important issues. 
    I was raised to believe that everybody has a responsibility to their community and I use the word very loosely. It's a big community. If I get recognized in the middle of the Sinai Desert I have a big community. 
    If we are going to teach the world to stop hating the different, the other, then we're going to have to start with children. 
    If you're serious about singing or acting, which are two art forms that get repetitive, the way to keep the music fresh is to recognize that it is totally impossible for it to ever be the same, night after night. You open your mouth and you'd like a certain sound to come out of it, but it doesn't always come out exactly like you thought it was going to come out! 
    In our concerts, the audience feels a sense of community and continuity. Because folk music is non-ageist, it tends to bind families together. It's lovely to look out at the audience and see a parent hug their little boy or little girl during a song from their college years, and to see that the child knows the words. That sense of sharing feeds back to the artist, and it's one of the joys of having a long career. It's also why the music doesn't get old. 
    It is one thing to read about the world, but quite another to see and hear for oneself. 
    People say to us, 'Oh, I grew up with your music,' and we often say, sotto voce, 'So did we.' 
    Protest is inherent to this system. 
    Singing 'Blowin' in the Wind' all the places we've been, it takes on a different meaning everywhere. When you sing the line, 'How many years can a people exist, before they're allowed to be free?' in a prison yard for political prisoners in El Salvador; if you have sung  it to a group of union organizers, who have all been in jail, in South Korea; if you've sung to Jews in the Soviet Union who have been refused exit visas; if you've sung it with Bishop Tutu protesting apartheid, the song breathes, it lives, it has a contemporary currency. 
The fact that there are singer-songwriters dealing with substantive issues is encouraging. It's important for young people to perceive that there are acceptable avenues of dissent, because we live in a world where dissent is hard-pressed; treated as if it were unpatriotic. I've always liked the concept of the loyal opposition. It allows for dissent to be a respectable part of the whole. 

We've learned that it will take more than one generation to bring about change. The fight for civil rights has developed into a broader concern for human rights, and that encompasses a great many people and countries. Those of us who live in a democracy have a responsibility to be the voice for those whose voices are stilled.

When the fad changed from folk to rock, they didn't take along any good writers.

While others of my peer group were rejecting the values of their parents, I was in the then unfashionable position of sharing mine with the woman who had taught me. I remember at Selma, actor Dennis Hopper saying to me, 'That's your mother? How hip.' I thought so.

Georgia O'Keeffe
(November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986)

American Artist and Mother of American Modernism.
Anyone who doesn't feel the crosses simply doesn't get that country.

I believe I would rather have Stieglitz like something - anything I had done - than anyone else I know.

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.

I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.

I don't very much enjoy looking at paintings in general. I know too much about them. I take them apart.

I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.

I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at - not copy it.

I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.

I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me - shapes and ideas so near to me - so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down.

I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality, I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say in paint.

I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.

I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.

I said to myself, I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me - shapes and ideas so near to me - so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down.

I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.

It was all so far away - there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased.

It was in the 1920s, when nobody had time to reflect, that I saw a still-life painting with a flower that was perfectly exquisite, but so small you really could not appreciate it.

Marks on paper are free - free speech - press - pictures all go together I suppose.

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.

One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work.

One can't paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.

Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin. Since I cannot sing, I paint.

Sun-bleached bones were most wonderful against the blue - that blue that will always be there as it is now after all man's destruction is finished.

The days you work are the best days.

To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.

You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.



  1. Joni and Georgia - two of my most beloved heroines. Thanks, Roberta!

  2. Wow--a ton of work here--thanks for these wonderful bios and quotes of women both well-known and less-well-known. Great November born and, for the most part, heroic. I honored Mary Travers a whole lot more after hearing her sing at a Planned Parenthood Rally in DC back in the 80's.

    1. I keep looking for a 'like' button. Facebook is addling my brain.

  3. I saw Mary Travers in the 80s too! Hadn't realized that she had died. :(