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The meaning and origin of the expression: Behind every great man there's a great woman

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Behind every great man there's a great woman

Meaning

Literal meaning.

Origin

This has been adopted as a feminist slogan. The origins are uncertain, but it's certainly much older than the Women's Movement of the 1960s/70s, which spawned other such slogans; for example, 'a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.'

The first printed citation I can find is from the Texas newspaper The Port Arthur News, from February 1946. This was headed - "Meryll Frost - 'Most courageous athlete of 1945'":

"As he received his trophy, the plucky quarterback unfolded the story of how he 'came back'. He said 'They say behind every great man there's a woman. While I'm not a great man, there's a great woman behind me.'"

The use of the phrase in that quotation suggests it was well-known at the time, and may be much older than 1945.

The use of the phrase received a boost in 1985 with the release of The Eurythmics' song - Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves:

Now, there was a time,
when they used to say,
that behind ev'ry great man,
there had to be a great woman.
But oh, in these times of change,
you know that it's no longer true.
So we're comin' out of the kitchen,
'cause there's something we forgot to say to you.
We say, Sisters are doin' it for themselves

See also: the List of Proverbs.