Ten Quotes from Ten MacArthur Fellows on International Women’s Day

MacArthur Foundation
4 min readMar 8, 2022

Every year we award MacArthur Fellowships of $625,000 to individuals who display extraordinary talent and creativity, with the promise for important future advances. These no-strings-attached Fellowships encourage talented and creative people to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, alter the direction of their careers.

This International Women’s Day, we want to highlight the voices of a few women who are among the 1000+ MacArthur Fellows. We uplift their stories and aspirations, echo their collective challenges and triumphs, and spotlight their work to help make the world a better place.

Let us know which quotes resonate with you in the comments:

woman dancing in dance studio

We persisted. We stayed in the work even when it was really hard to keep our head above water. And we still managed to do amazing things, on prayer and spit.” — Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Choreographer and Dance Entrepreneur

woman outdoors holding honeycomb

I was lucky enough to find a passion early in life, which still drives me to learn more. I am very drawn to bees and beekeeping, and want to make sure my research is helpful to both. Personal success was never really on my radar, but in retrospect, extreme persistence and following my intuition have been key ingredients in all my endeavors.” — Marla Spivak, Entomologist

woman in studio with framed images on the floor

One of the things that I’ve always been deeply interested in is power. And who has it? How is it used? How has it been manipulated? What is my proximity to it? How do I negotiate it? How do I build pathways around it since I don’t have any, right?” — Carrie Mae Weems, Photographer and Video Artist

woman seated at desk

Native women suffer from the highest rates of violence in the United States. I have been studying this phenomenon for the last two decades and have ultimately concluded that a broken legal system is to blame…a feminist approach to these legal problems will yield more positive results.” — Sarah Deer, Legal Scholar and Advocate

woman in white top outdoors in green field

I think of my work as putting together a puzzle, and I’m always looking for the missing puzzle piece. Where do I have to go, or what do I have to learn to get the next piece? I’ve found that sometimes you have to build and paint the puzzle piece yourself, and that’s part of the fun of science.” — Lisa Schulte Moore, Landscape Ecologist

woman with black shirt standing in stack of books at library. shirt says: Love, study, struggle

What I’m trying to emphasize is that we should be accountable to the questions that are happening in the public, not just within our peer-reviewed journals. In my work, we are accountable to the communities that are most impacted by mass incarceration and mass deportation, period.” — Kelly Lytle Hernández, Historian

The very reason I wanted to study journalism was that I was disappointed by the journalism I saw in China…I was very suspicious of what I read and what I heard. Even though I didn’t know much about activism, I thought over and over again about what my dad taught me as a child. He always said, ‘You need to think independently.’” — Nanfu Wang, Documentary Filmmaker

Thinking about how to enhance the lives of people globally in my lifetime…why it is that people, especially women with disabilities, are not having the rights and opportunities they deserve. Why is it taking so long for that to happen? Why are inclusion and equal rights for disabled people so hard to accomplish when we know how to do it? It is possible.” — Susan Sygall, Civil Rights Leader

portrait of woman with white background

Over time, I learned to compensate for (my smaller stature) by being prepared, being eloquent, having capture of my information…The elbow I use now is being authoritative, being an expert on something, making sure I know my stuff, making sure I’m ready. That is the way I try to fill a room.” — Cecilia Muñoz, Civil Rights Policy Analyst

But I do know that more perspectives, more life experiences, more backgrounds, and more different kinds of people all contribute to improving climate science…being able to observe a diversity of different kinds of places and people can spark research questions that wouldn’t get sparked if you were just sitting behind your computer.” — Ruth DeFries, Environmental Geographer



MacArthur Foundation

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