The authorship of some of these phrases had been forgotten for years or decades before being unearthed by a researcher. In other cases, the authors were never “lost”—their names have long been known to specialists and can be easily found with a little research—yet they are mostly unknown to the general public. Moreover, the real authors are often obscured by inaccurate attributions that have gained wide currency.

Finally, a few of these lines were crafted by women who are anonymous partly because they worked in professions that tend to be anonymous, such as screenwriting or speechwriting. I’ve included them nevertheless, because they show the range and depth of well-known quotations by women. The hallmark of almost all these cases, in fact, is that people are surprised to learn that such famous lines were written by such obscure women.

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

Proverb? No, this too was written by a woman, an American named Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850–1919). Her 1883 poem “Solitude” begins with these words.

Does it really matter what these affectionate people do—so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses!

Online, one can find this remark credited to King Edward VII and an eighteenth-century general, as well as to the person with the best claim: Mrs. Patrick Campbell (Beatrice Stella Tanner Campbell, 1865–1940), the preeminent actress of her time on the London stage. She used this memorable line in rebuking an actress who had complained that an actor they knew was enamored of a young leading man.

Yale Alumni Magazine: Anonymous was a Woman (Jan/Feb 2011).

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