17 Adversity Quotes From Female Trailblazers For When You’re Ready To Give Up

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Ana Cottle
Ana Cottle10
April 17, 2024 at 6:40PM UTC
Sometimes life gives you lemons, you fall off the horse, and it rains on your parade. Cliches aside, everyone does have a bad day from time to time. Bad days can turn into bad weeks, which turn into bad months. Women often face extra obstacles in the workplace and these roadblocks can be more difficult because of the extra roles women take on outside of work, as well.
Before you throw in the towel though, read about 17 women whose strength and courage helped them become trailblazers in their fields.
1. "I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again." —Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook and was previously the vice president of global online sales and operations at Google. Her most recent book, Option B, published in 2017, talks about overcoming adversity with a special emphasis on grief. This isn't her only quote about adversity.
2. "Champions keep playing until they get it right." — Billie Jean King
This inspirational quote comes from tennis champion, Billie Jean King, who was a vocal advocate for tournaments to give equal prize money to male and female players. The recently released film, Battle of the Sexes, is based on her life and focuses on the famous match between her Robert Larimore Riggs in 1973.
3. "The reality is: Sometimes you lose. And you’re never too good to lose. You’re never too big to lose. You’re never too smart to lose. It happens." — Beyoncé Knowles
As Beyoncé needs no introduction, I’ll just leave you with her inspirational quote and the tidbit that, in 2014, she became the highest paid black musician of all time.
4. "No human being is immune to adersity or personal setbacks." — Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton's quote on adversity is especially impactful. She began breaking barriers long before becoming first lady or running for president. In 1978, she became the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation, a bipartisan non-profit established by Congress and provides more funding for civil legal aid in the US than any other organization. Shortly after, she became the first female partner in Rose Law Firm, the third oldest firm in the US.
5. "You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings." — Pearl S. Buck
The first American woman to win a Nobel Prize for literature, Pearl S. Buck also committed herself to fighting for the rights of minorities and women. That's why her quote on adversity made this list.
6. "Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged." — J.K. Rowling
Joanne Rowling went from a difficult life as a single parent to writing the best-selling book series in history. An unapologetic feminist, the Harry Potter series features strong, developed female characters.
7. "We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated." — Maya Angelou
Perhaps best known for her book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou faced many adversities, abuse and racism on her journey to becoming an acclaimed civil rights activist, poet and writer.
8. "Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness." — Oprah Winfrey
The “Queen of All Media,” Oprah Winfrey was raised in poverty by her teenage mother. In addition to her incredible financial success, President Obama awarded Oprah the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
9. "Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others." — Amelia Earhart
Record-setting pilot Amelia Earheart made history when she flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. She was also ahead of her time when it came to relationships, keeping her name after marriage and insisting the financial burden should be equal to both partners. Her quotes on adversities are inspiring.
10. "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
Best known for being First Lady, Michelle Obama is quite impressive on her own. Graduating from Princeton University and Harvard Law School, she is one of only four first ladies to have graduate degrees.
11. "I learned to put 100 percent into what you're doing. I learned about setting goals for yourself, knowing where you want to be and taking small steps toward those goals. I learned about adversity and how to get past it." — Kristi Yamaguchi
Olympic figure skating champion, Kristi Yamaguchi, overcame a physical deformity as a child in order to skate and became a top athlete and fierce competitor. 
12. "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." — Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt forever changed the role troubleof the First Lady in the United States. She took an active role in the public sphere as her husband faced trouble when his health suffered, making speeches and appearances in his place.
13. "Doubt can motivate you, so don't be afraid of it. Confidence and doubt are at two ends of the scale, and you need both. They balance each other out." — Barbra Streisand
Barbar Streisand became the first woman to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for and remains the only woman to have won it to this day.
14. "My best successes came on the heels of failures." — Barbara Corcoran
Perhaps most famous for her role on ABC’s Shark Tank, Barbara Corcoran has had success as an entrepreneur, speaker, investor, and writer. Her quote about overcoming misfortune speaks volumes.
15. "Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom." — Sandra Day O'Connor
The first female Supreme Court Justice, O’Connor referred to herself as FWOTSC (First Woman On The Supreme Court) after a New York Times editorial referred to the “nine men” of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
16. "Do not be afraid to make decisions, do not be afraid to make mistakes." — Carly Fiorina
Carlio Fiorina can teach a lot of people how to deal in the face of adversity. She became the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company at Hewlett-Packard. She also had a political career, advising Senator McCain during his presidential campaign and running herself for the US Senate.
17. "We don't even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward. In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things. The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome." —Isabel Allende
A world renowned author, Isabel Allende had to rebuild her life after being forced into exile when her cousin who was the President of Chile, was killed in a coup in 1970. A self-described feminist, Allende has made her mark in the Latin American literary world so often dominated by male writers.
These adversity quotes should inspire you to do hard work in the face of adversity, even when you're up against great stress, osbtacles or difficulties. With hard work and resilience, people can overcome any trouble or misfortune.
What's your favorite quote about adversity you think to when facing difficulties or great stress? And how do you find resilience within you to overcome adversity?
Ana Cottle studied Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley.  She has lived and worked in Uruguay and Argentina and speaks both Spanish and Yiddish.  She is passionate about issues facing women and has written for a number of publications, including books, newspapers, and online journals.  Read more from Ana at medium.com/@AnaCottle/.

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