“I’m a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
During her 86 years, she wrote seven autobiographies, was active in the civil rights movement and worked with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recited a poem at Bill Clinton’s 1993 presidential inauguration, became a college professor, befriended Oprah and was awarded the 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom — the list goes on. (As the NYTimes obituary points out, before her first autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969, Angelou had already been “a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, [and] administrative assistant in Ghana.”)
In celebration of her incredible life, here are 11 lessons all women can learn from Maya Angelou:
1. Loving someone means risking everything — but it’s always worth it.
“In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.” –“Touched By An Angel”
2. Women need to support each other.
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
3. The key to success is simple: enjoyment.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
4. Make changes where you can, but accept the things that you have no control over.
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”
5. Trust your own voice and instincts.
6. Learn the value of forgiveness.
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
7. Looks aren’t everything. Not even a little bit.
“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies. I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size But when I start to tell them, They think I’m telling lies. I say, It’s in the reach of my arms The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips. I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.” -“Phenomenal Woman”
8. Dare to “kick ass.”
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”
9. If you’re in a bad living situation, relationship or job, get out now.
“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”
10. Always remember to laugh.
“Women should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible, and live long lives.”
11. How you make people feel is the mark you will leave behind.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We’ll certainly never forget how you made us feel, Maya.