Dorothy Thompson Quotes

1894 - 1961

Dorothy Thompson (right) chatting with ambulance driver in London, 1941
Dorothy Thompson (right) chatting with ambulance driver in London, 1941. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

Dorothy Thompson, called the "First Lady of American Journalism," was a precedent-breaking journalist. She began her career as a publicist for the women's suffrage movement and for the Red Cross, and then moved on to work as a foreign correspondent. Her study of the Russian Revolution became a 1928 book, The New Russia. She published not only magazine and news articles, but many books, through her 1955 The Crisis of the West.

She was known for her opposition to both fascism and communism.

Dorothy Thompson is famous for her interview with Adolf Hitler in 1931, and for underestimating the danger of Hitler, calling him "insignificant." Later, she wrote ardently against fascism as she documented Hitler's and the Nazis' rise, and after the war she wrote about refugees, sometimes even personally taking in refugees. Dorothy Thompson notably wrote on the politics around the founding of the state of Israel, supporting, then opposing, the creation of that state. She considered herself a conservative -- she'd been proposed in 1940 as a running mate for Wendell Wilkie -- and endorsed the third term run of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dorothy Thompson was married three times, including to the novelist Sinclair Lewis. She also had a relationship with the German author of Mädchen in Uniform, Christa Winsloe, claiming "the right to love." She married the Austrian-Czech artist, Maxim Kopf, less than two years after her divorce from Lewis.

Dates: July 9, 1894 - January 30, 1961

Selected Dorothy Thompson Quotations

• People have confidence in women to get them out of trouble.

• A little more matriarchy is what the world needs, and I know it. Period. Paragraph.

• Women have had the vote for over forty years and their organizations lobby in Washington for all sorts of causes; why, why, why don't they take up their own causes and obvious needs?

• When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered.

• It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.

• The only force that can overcome an idea and a faith is another and better idea and faith, positively and fearlessly upheld.

• Of all forms of government and society, those of free men and women are in many respects the most brittle. They give the fullest freedom for activities of private persons and groups who often identify their own interests, essentially selfish, with the general welfare.

• Can one preach at home inequality of races and nations and advocate abroad good-will towards all men?

• Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict -- alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.

• They have not wanted Peace at all; they have wanted to be spared war -- as though the absence of war was the same as peace.

• Peace has to be created, in order to be maintained. It is the product of Faith, Strength, Energy, Will, Sympathy, Justice, Imagination, and the triumph of principle.

It will never be achieved by passivity and quietism.

• Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.

• Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.

• The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness.

• Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light.

• There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.

• To have felt too much is to end in feeling nothing.

• The kind of intelligence a genius has is a different sort of intelligence.

The thinking of a genius does not proceed logically. It leaps with great ellipses. It pulls knowledge from God knows where.

• "Inventive man" has invented nothing -- nothing "from scratch." If he has produced a machine that in motion overcomes the law of gravity, he learned the essentials from the observation of birds.

• Age is not measured by years. Nature does not equally distribute energy. Some people are born old and tired while others are going strong at seventy.

• What was once Sinclair Lewis is buried in no ground. Even in life he was fully alive only in his writing. He lives in public libraries from Maine to California, in worn copies in the bookshelves of women from small towns who, in their girlhood, imagined themselves as Carol Kennicotts, and of medical men who, as youths, were inspired by Martin Arrowsmith.

• The prices are ridiculous... I don't see how people can go back and forth to work or to school. How can we afford the gas?

• The instinct to worship is hardly less strong than the instinct to eat.

• There is nothing more demoralizing than sudden, overwhelming disillusionment.

• Disillusion comes only to the illusioned. One cannot be disillusioned of what one never put faith in.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis.

This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Dorothy Thompson Quotes." About Women's History. URL: . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)