Women Hold Up Half the Sky

Okay, I got the message. Thanks for letting me know I stepped out of line when I quoted Mao Tse Tung in a recent Surfnetkids newsletter. He was a mass murderer, and therefore doesn’t deserve the privilege of being quoted.

His quote “Women hold up half the sky” has lead to some good, however, as it has been usurped by at least two movements that I know of . First is the Half the Sky Foundation that supports Chinese orphans. And second is the Half the Sky Movement based on the book of the same name by Dr. Tererai Trent and Sheryl WuDunn. This organization supports and advocates for women in developing countries.

Although I haven’t read their book, I have been on a “women in developing countries” binge in my reading habits lately, having really loved both “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. If you have a book club, or simply enjoy tackling somewhat difficult subjects in your reading, I wholeheartedly recommend “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” It weaves the story of two women in Afghan over thirty years of turmoil, and the incredible way their lives intertwine. I loved it, it was very moving.

Getting back to my original topic of quoting evil men, please add your thoughts below. I’d love to hear more on the pros and cons of whether or not Mao Tse Tung quotes should be used in an educational setting.


  1. Lynda says

    Hi, I stumbled on this site when I was looking up the quote “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” I couldn’t remember if it was Mao or Chang Ching. I was pleased to see this wrangling with ideas. There is a lot of lies and misinformation about Mao and China during the 60’s and for those who would like to look further there is a great website that is tackling it all thisiscommunism.org
    Happy reading- Lynda

  2. Kara says

    I enjoy using/reading quotes. Even on a diet of one a day the timing is sometimes perfect and the particular subject matter of a quote seems highly relevant either to the world at large or me personally at that precise moment. However another individual may see no relevance or meaning to the quote at all – we all interpret things differently and usually view historic (and current) political figures/events with a strong bias toward the influences of our backgrounds, beliefs, values, and education.
    My fourteen year old son’s reaction to the Mao Tse Tung quote was the same as Tanya’s, i.e. He brought up Winstone Churchill and some of his disastrous military decisions. He is now reading up on Mao Tse Tung and recent (20th Century) Chinese history from a broad range of sources and will eventually decide for himself.
    Regardless of the source no one can really deny the given fact that with theoretically half the world’s population being female women do indeed hold up half the sky. personally I like the quote and the examples given of organisations adopting it are wonderfully appropriate.

  3. Tanya says

    I don’t agree with ignoring those whom we believe to be evil. Winston Churchill was a hero, yet his blunders caused the death of hundreds of thousands of young men . You cannot tear down statues, remove them from the history books and NOT QUOTE THEM. They are part of history, something kids need to know about and as one other reader said, make up their own minds. Surely there is a bit of good in everyone, and if Mao Tse Tung started this Half the Sky Revolution, it is at least one revolution that has been worth while. We are smart enough to know that it was the people on the ground who started it, but this was because of something he said. Carry on stretching our minds, and our kids minds will stretch too.

  4. Heather says

    You know many world leaders have very high hopes and high aspirations for themselves and their country. It is how they go about furthering those aspirations that separates the heroes from the villains.
    I guess what is upsetting is not the quote, but someone thinking this person was a ‘good’ person to quote. I, personally, leave that judgement to God. I learned a lot from this one quote and learned more about the world….which is very nice when one is up to their eyeballs in diapers, dishes, and mama-drama:-)
    Thank you!

  5. Laura H says

    Educators always have a responsibility to give context to what they teach. Someone could praise Hitler for the creation of the low-cost Volkswagen which allowed millions of people to own automobiles. Or we could quote Stalin: “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?”
    Context, context, context. Let the kids make up their own minds. It’s not the teacher’s job to dictate opinions, just to guide students to think, question, and analyze using their own God-given mind and heart.

  6. Sue Tunstall says

    There are several million Chinese people in the world who are still very proud of Mao, despite the common Western belief that he was a villain. This quote was a good one – perhaps a little bit of context about Chinese history at the time would have helped avoid the criticisms. I support the Half the Sky Foundation, a very honorable group, who took an admirable quotation and used it to their advantage.
    I strongly believe in teaching our children world history from all perspectives – it is important that they understand the good and the bad in historical figures; only knowing history will help us to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

  7. Tess Veloso says

    I believe we can learn from anyone and none of us is free of the dark side. Life is complex and deserves more than a good/evil consideration.

  8. TY says

    This quote sounds good in that it encourages the free discourse of ideas but is a bit hypocritical in coming from a communist leader. Not long after this quote a massive crackdown on these ideas occurred and millions were jailed or killed. I don’t see many quoting Adolph Hitler.

  9. Tim says

    I think you should be careful when exposing young kids to negative and bigoted remarks like ‘so-and-so’ was an evil man. Who are you to say so? I believe your President was responsible for the deaths of more than 200,000 Iraqis and the displacement of more than 2 million, despite no Iraqi ever being involved in a direct attack on American soil. What do you teach your kids about this episode in history? I agree that we should teach our kids, and even ourselves, to think about right and wrong, but please do this carefully and with sensitivity.

  10. Adele Mangipano says

    I have mixed feelings about this. Evil often has a positive component. Mao had a goal of equality, but his methods negated any positive aim.
    Surely, there are other historical figures that have talked about women in a positive way that would could be quoted.

  11. Linda says

    I do not believe in censorship of information, even quotes from people we don’t always agree with. I do believe that these can lead to a discussion of the person’s life in context, including how we also disagree with their actions, with age-appropriate information for children who are old enough to understand that. This would include getting their own thoughts about these complexities. As educators and parents, I believe it is our responsibility to teach children to think and explore, not to swallow whole only the beliefs we choose to expose them to.

  12. bharat says

    Well, the question of whether he is evil or not is a debatable one in the first place. Secondly, his views regarding women as being as if not more important than men in society and at home is exemplary and certainly deserves to be quoted.