Odds and Ends

Authored by Two First Ladies and Used by Another? ~Megan~

It’s a well known fact that I love quotes, about as much as I love history.  If you read our blog, you probably have gathered this.  As one of our readers, you might even have similar interests and find the history behind this quote, which is often attributed to two different presidents’ wives and used by another to strike your fancy, as it has mine!  It all started while strolling through a gift shop on our vacation, when I came across a quote on a little sign:

Women are like tea bags. You never know how strong they are until you get them in hot water.

Because I love tea and I found this quote charming, I made a special note that it was by Eleanor Roosevelt and decided I would look it up when I got home and add it to my list of quotes.  Yet strangely, I came a across it a second time while in the gift shop of the Reagan Presidential library.  Now being that Ronald Reagan collected quotes himself and kept them neatly organized on note cards, in and of itself finding this quote might not be strange, yet the quote I found was:

 A woman is like a teabag — only in hot water do you realize how strong she is.

Yet this time the above quote, so similar I didn’t even realize at the time that they were not exact, was attributed to Nancy Reagan and on a memento for tourist to purchase.  Immediately I realized I had to do some investigation on a quote so similar it had to come from the same source.  Even more fishy, it was attributed to two different presidents’ wives.

What disturbed me even more was the fact that this quote couldn’t have come from two different people and it would be a great shame if the Presidential Library of a beloved president got a simple quote wrongly attributed.  Sure it was a cute saying, but what was that going to say about the library if they started misquoting the first lady of the president they were supposed to be experts on?

Well, after some research, it turns out that yes this quote is often attributed to the former First Lady Nancy Reagan, as well as the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Although upon investigations of Roosevelt’s writings it had not been found to have been used by Eleanor Roosevelt and as for Nancy Reagan using it, sure she could have used this adage, but again there isn’t any direct evidence that I could find that she was it’s author.

A great site I found called Quote investigatorthat is dedicated to investigating quotes, showed similar sayings that are likely where this one originated. This quote dates back to 1915, which in the case of Nancy Reagan, was before she was born. Although the “tea bag” was not included until the 1950′,s when she was in her 30’s, it was only first attributed to Nancy Reagan in “The Observer” on March 29, 1981.  So who was the author of this quote, that interestingly enough, had been used by another First Lady, Hillary Clinton?

Unless you know of other sources that can reveal the author of this quote, the conclusion I have drawn is that this quote has evolved into a adage that has been attributed to two presidents’ wives and used by another, not having one clear author to be attributed it to.  Many people have used it and going back you can see similar quotes that it likely evolved from throughout the years.  Yes, it could have been used by either Eleanor Roosevelt or Nancy Reagan, but let’s get our history straight folks!  It isn’t likely, and the evidence does not support the fact, that either one of these esteemed ladies was the sole author of this quote!

Having Fun Investigating History,


I would love to hear what you think about the authorship of this quote or if you know of anything more about the authorship.   Please leave your thoughts or further information in a comment at the bottom of the page!


  • Main Source
  1. Quote investigator
  • Secondary Sources
  1. Eleanor Roosevelt
  2. Nancy Reagan

One thought on “Authored by Two First Ladies and Used by Another? ~Megan~

  1. Megan-I’m so impressed by your devotion to hunting down the truth of attribution for this quote. You are such a wonderful example to all of us to BE INFORMED even on something that, at first sight, might seem not to be super important. The reality is that too many today don’t care to take the time to be informed on an issue (any issue). Thanks for your shining example of searching out the truth always!
    Hugs, Cera

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