Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement is sometimes used as a rallying cry by activists: The words are typically attributed to the feminist Gloria Steinem. Quote Investigator: There is good evidence that Gloria Steinem used instances of this expression in speeches by 1998, but the saying was already in circulation by 1990.The body of the main text also included the expression: The first strong match located by QI was published in the 1990 book “Twelve Steps to Happiness” by Joe Klaas who labeled the statement his “favorite motto”.In April 1998 the periodical “Heterodoxy” reported on a keynote given by Gloria Steinem at a Stanford University “Herstory” event celebrating women’s history.Steinem used an instance of the expression: And women should learn their history and their struggles for basic rights, such as voting, she said. This saying simultaneously modifies and evokes a well-known Biblical verse: John : The earliest partial match known to QI was published in a Syracuse, New York newspaper in a 1978 article about a treatment program for alcoholics. Detailed citations for these dates are given further below.
Boldface has been added to excerpts: The variant above has continued to circulate.“I’m gonna make a button some day that says, “The truth will set you free, but it’s gonna piss you off first.”The controversy began over a Gloria Steinem quote contained as a “signature” in e-mail messages from Pichelmann.The Steinem message reads: “The truth shall set you free, but first it will piss you off!” In conclusion, the earliest strong match in 1990 appeared in a book by Joe Klaas who used the designation “my favorite motto”, but it was not certain whether he constructed the expression.
Klaas helped to popularize the phrase, but it was unclear whether it was pre-existing.Interestingly, this book dealt with the treatment of alcoholism; hence, it emerged from a milieu comparable to that of the 1978 citation: I saw a badge made in America which said: “The Truth will set you free…but first it will piss you off”. When you first realise how the human race has been so massively duped, it is not nice to hear.