Equal cites for women


One day Alicia Williamson was chatting with a women's hockey coach who always shared quotes from famous athletes with her team before games and practices. This coach soon realized, however, that all of the quotes she was sharing were from men.

"She was teaching them about men but she was coaching girls and she realized that, ultimately, that does have an affect on them," Williamson said.

Williamson, a 2001 graduate of Duluth East High School, is the chief editor of Quotabelle, an online startup aimed at making the stories of women and girls accessible. The coach has since started sharing quotes from Quotabelle.

The website was founded by Paulene Weger, a social entrepreneur who realized that quotes by women are much more difficult to find than those by men. Quotabelle includes thousands of quotes by hundreds inspiring females as well as the stories behind them. (The Budgeteer previously profiled Williamson Aug. 30, 2015.)

"Even more important than the quotes, our research found that people are inspired by the stories behind the words," Weger said.

Since getting Quotabelle of the ground, Williamson and Weger have worked to expand its influence. They sold artisan products with quotes on them to fund their main goal: publish a book of female quotes.

This spring, that dream will become a reality when their book, "Beautifully Said," hits the shelves. "Beautifully Said" is a compilation of 110 quotes along with short biographies of the people who spoke them. The biographies are concise, but if a certain woman piques a reader's interest, they can find out more by visiting quotabelle.com.

"This is just another way to make the stories accessible to a wide audience of people," Williamson said. "The book seemed like a logical next step because we are able to put women's ideas into people's hands."

But before the book can be put into people's hands this April, it had to go through about a year of writing and revising. According to Williamson, one of the most difficult parts of the process was getting permission to use all 110 of the quotes in the book. This meant waiting quite some time to get in contact with people such as Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and Amy Poehler. While permission was challenging, there were also plenty of good moments that came from this outreach. At one point they even spoke with Audrey Hepburn's son, who was very supportive of the project.

"We also got to speak to some of the people who are actually featured in the book, such as Linda Alvarado, who founded her own construction company and then went on to become the first Hispanic owner in professional baseball," Williamson said. "It was really amazing to get that direct feedback on the project."

While there are many well-known names in the book, from contemporary celebrities to historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Williamson says an important aspect of Quotabelle and "Beautifully Said" is recognizing more diverse, lesser known and emerging voices. This includes women such as 15-year-old rock climber Ashima Shiraishi and Arabian civil rights lawyer Shirin Abadi.

"There are people who might not be as familiar but whose lives really deserve attention," Williamson said.

Another lesser known woman featured in "Beautifully Said," who also happens to be one of Williamson's favorites in the book, is Grace Hopper. Hopper was a math professor at Vassar College who signed up for the Navy during World War II and ended up being an IT pioneer. She is credited with creating the first compiler for computer programming language.

"She was totally nifty and feisty and brilliant," Williamson said.

Williamson says that Quotabelle plans to use the revenue from this book to fund future books that may have more focused themes or will be aimed at specific audiences. She says that running a startup like Quotabelle is a marathon and that the money from the book will support their work and allow them to continue to discover and share the stories of women and girls.

"[The book] is meant to be accessible to a wide audience," Williamson said. "I personally would love it if girls would read it because part of the point is just for people to be able to discover muses in it, people to inspire them."