Wise Quotes on Life by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Dorothy Canfield Fischer (1879 – 1958) was a teacher, novelist, nonfiction writer, social activist, and traveler. Coming from a cosmopolitan background of professors, she was able to obtain a college education that was enviable for a woman of her time. Her best-known work is Understood Betsy (1917), a children’s book; she was also known in her time for The Bed-Quilt and other short stories and novels that had a quietly subversive edge to them.

She earned her doctorate in Romance Languages at the Sorbonne. Upon the outbreak of World War I,  Fisher and her husband and children left their farm in Vermont to help in the French war effort. Though Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s books aren’t widely read today, she was a highly respected author in her time. Her quotes on life and love, though, are timeless:


“If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks’ vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days.”

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“The minute your group gets so big you don’t know anybody in it and they don’t know you, there’s hell to pay.” 

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“How he loathed his life-long slavery to the clock, that pervasive intimate negative opposed to every spontaneous impulse. “It’s the clock that is the nay-sayer to life,” he thought” (The Home-Maker, 1952)

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“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.”

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“Freedom is not worth fighting for if it means no more than license for everyone to get as much as he can for himself.”

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“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”

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Dorothy Canfield Fisher

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“One of the many things nobody ever tells you about middle age is that it’s such a nice change from being young.”

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“Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.”

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“Some people think that doctors and nurses can put scrambled eggs back into the shell.”

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“She was scrubbing furiously at a line of grease spots which led from the stove towards the door to the dining-room. That was where Henry had held the platter tilted as he carried the steak in yesterday. And yet if she had warned him once about that, she had a thousand times!”

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“… there are two ways to meet life; you may refuse to care until indifference becomes a habit, a defensive armor, and you are safe – but bored. Or you can care greatly, live greatly, until life breaks you on its wheel. ”

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“It is not good for all our wishes to be filled; through sickness we recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; through exertion, the value of rest.”

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“Live while you can live, then die and be done with it.”

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Dorothy Canfield Fisher page on Amazon

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Quotes from Understood Betsy (1917)

“Not a thing had happened the way she had planned, no, not a single thing! But it seemed to her she had never been so happy in her life.”

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“I declare! Sometimes it seems to me that every time a new piece of machinery comes into the door some of our wits fly out the window!” 

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“It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third-A grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a whole thought of her very own.

At home, Aunt Frances had always known exactly what she was doing, and had helped her over the hard places before she even knew they were there; and at school her teachers had been carefully trained to think faster than the scholars.

Somebody had always been explaining things to Elizabeth Ann so carefully that she had never found out a single thing for herself before. This was a very small discovery, but it was her own.” 

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“A dim notion was growing in her mind that the fact that she had never done a thing was no proof that she couldn’t.” 

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“’Why, what’s the matter?’ asked the teacher again. This time Elizabeth Ann didn’t answer, because she herself didn’t know what the matter was. But I do, and I’ll tell you.

The matter was that never before had she known what she was doing in school. She had always thought she was there to pass from one grade to another, and she was ever so startled to get a little glimpse of the fact that she was there to learn how to read and write and cipher and generally use her mind, so she could take care of herself when she came to be grown up.” 

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