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Duluth native on worldwide quest for quotes

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Think of your favorite quote. Is it a quick quip by Mark Twain? A witty remark by Albert Einstein? Perhaps that one about inspiration by Thomas Edison?

Now, what do these three have in common?

They're all by men.

Research shows that on quote websites and listicles, you'll find that about 80 percent of the content is from men. Quotes by women make up about 14 percent, says one former Duluthian who is on a quest to increase the availability of quotes by women.

Alicia Williamson is the chief editor of Williamson is a 2001 graduate of East High School, now living in England. After graduating with a Ph.D in literature from the University of Pittsburgh, Williamson began teaching literature and writing. However, she began looking for a career change and heard about Quotabelle from a childhood friend. She began as a freelance writer, then worked her way to the position of chief editor.

Quotabelle is a website designed to publish and share quotes and stories by women and girls. It was founded by Pauline Weger.

"We like to say that we're trying to fix the quote supply problem," Williamson said.

According to Williamson, men's voices get a lot more air time across all media and quotes from well-known men are more likely to get published than quotes by women. Although Williamson says that many people wish to include more female voices, the issue is that they're not easily accessible or visible.

"Basically we're trying to bring balance to public conversation by making sure that equal weight is given to women's ideas and we have those ideas listed easy to find," Williamson said.

The website acts as a search engine for quotes by women. Users can search for a quote by a specific author, subject, era, community, occasion, or emotion. When a user finds a quote, they can also find a direct link to the source where the quote comes from. This is to provide context and aid accuracy. Williamson says she and her coworkers spend a lot of time researching the origin of quotes.

"You would be surprised how many of the most well-known quotes are just hearsay or falsely attributed," Williamson said.

Along with the quote and the link, the website shares the stories of the women behind the quotes. And once a week, Quotabelle publishes a newsletter focusing on the stories of many different influential women. Williamson says she's learned a lot about women whose stories she's edited.

"Every week I find a new hero that I'm obsessed with," Williamson said.

Last week it was Lizzie Magie, inventor of a board game that became the basis for Monopoly. The week before it was Susan Butcher, a four-time Iditarod winner.

"I love dog sledding! I mean, when you grow up in Duluth with Beargrease happening every year, it kind of influences you. But I had never heard of Susan Butcher and she had such a fascinating story," Williamson said.

One of Quotabelle's subscribers include Williamson's mother Wendy, a retired high school guidance counselor, who says she's a fan of the site.

"It honors women in the current time and in the past who have helped us make strides and make a difference in many, many different fields. It's such a neat way to be able to connect to those women by reading the newsletter and exploring the profiles on Quotabelle," Wendy Williamson said.

Another subscriber? Alicia's fifth-grade teacher, Karen Keenan, who remembers Alicia being a good writer back when she attended Chester Park Elementary. She says she loves to use the site to find quotes and is "delighted to see" what Williamson is doing.

"People like to use quotes. Quotes are good tools for us all. Because someone with a lot of knowledge, skill and experience has synthesized something down into one pithy statement that carries a lot of meaning," Keenan said.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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