Influential Women In History

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we explore just a few of the innumerable female leaders, philanthropists, scientists, artists, activists and icons in history.

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1. Amelia Earhart

The first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart’s aviation feats made her a 1930s “Queen of the Air” celebrity until disappearing in an around-the-world flight attempt.

2. Anne Frank

The story of Anne Frank hiding from Nazis during the Holocaust lives on in words she left behind. Concealed with her family until discovery two year later, all of the Franks except patriarch Otto perished in concentration camps. Otto’s later discovery of Anne’s diary led to its publication in over sixty languages.

3. Clara Barton

Founder of the American Red Cross, pioneering nurse Clare Barton continues to inspire today with strides in nursing education made during the Civil War.

4. Farah Pahlavi

Farah Pahlavi is the former empress of Iran, and widow of Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who fled Iran and has been living in exile for the last 40 years. She continues to promote the civilization, history and art of Persia.

5. Florence Nightingale

British nurse Florence Nightingale revitalized 19th and 20th century wound care and was known for her nightly nursing rounds as the ‘Lady with the Lamp.’

6. Frida Kahlo

The originator of the “selfie,” Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is remembered for exploring questions of gender, class and race through her art.

7. Gladys West

Photo by Adrian Cadiz

Instrumental in GPS technology development, mathematician Gladys West’s humble nature kept her role in the now universally-used technology relatively unknown until recent years.

8. Golda Meir

Israeli teacher and the first female prime minister, Golda Meir was described as the “Iron Lady” for her straight-talking, strong-willed role in the formation of the state of Israel.

9. Harriet Tubman

American abolitionist Araminta Ross was born into slavery in 1822 and later chose her own non-slave name, Harriet Tubman. After escaping, Tubman quickly returned to rescue others, working through a network of activists known as the Underground Railroad. She also served in several capacities in the Union Army, including as a spy and armed scout.

10. Helen Keller

The inspirational story of the blind-deaf Helen Keller and her subsequent breakthrough in communication with teacher Annie Sullivan inspired books, plays and movies. She was the first blind-deaf person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

11. Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi was the first and only female Prime Minister of India. Assassinated by her own bodyguards, Gandhi is known for greatly increasing her country’s influence in the modern era.

12. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Photo by Abbie Rowe/White House, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Immortalized as “Jackie O,” style icon Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis charmed the globe with her elegance and poise, primarily as First Lady of the United States and widow of President John F. Kennedy.

13. Jane Goodall

Primatologist Jane Goodall’s work in anthropology yielded a more than 55-year study of social relationships among wild chimpanzees. She continues to promote conservation and animal welfare to this day.

14. Malala Yousafzai

At age 17, Pakistani education advocate Mala Yousafzai became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize after surviving a 2012 Taliban assassination attempt. She continues to speak internationally for education rights, especially for women.

15. Marie Curie

Scientist Marie Curie was a woman of firsts: the first woman awarded a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, and the first and only person to win the prize in two different sciences – physics and chemistry.

16. Mother Teresa

Roman Catholic nun Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu was known worldwide as Mother Teresa for humanitarian work serving India’s poorest of the poor. She was recently canonized.

17. Princess Diana of Wales

Beyond her 1997 death, Princess Diana of Wales inspired the world as a humanitarian who used the media frenzy surrounding her to raise awareness for philanthropic causes including HIV/AIDS and cancer research.

18. Rosa Parks

A name synonymous with the American civil rights movement, Rosa Parks is known for refusing to give up her seat in a ‘whites-only’ section of an Alabama bus during segregation. She quickly became a visible symbol for the importance of fighting for civil rights.