History is full of incredible female role models who push boundaries, break glass ceilings, and achieve groundbreaking victories in own their careers and for humankind as a whole.
Keep scrolling to see the powerful woman who was changing the world the year you were born.
1949: Simone de Beauvoir
“The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir remains a classic feminist text about the treatment of women throughout history. The first volume, which came out in 1949, sold 22,000 copies in its first week, according to The New York Times.
1955: Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks was an activist long before she refused to give up her seat for a white rider in 1955 – she was the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired,” she wrote in her autobiography, “but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically … No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Her arrest sparked a bus boycott, and, as a result, the Supreme Court ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in 1956.
1960: Jackie Kennedy
Jackie Kennedy’s sense of style and display of strength in the face of tragedy made her one of the most iconic and beloved First Ladies of all time. During her time as First Lady, she restored the White House and gave a televised tour watched by 80 million people.
1963: Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan’s 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique” gave voice to “the problem that has no name” – women being dissatisfied with their confinement at home as wives and mothers – and sparked the second wave of the feminist movement.
1964: Patsy Mink
Patsy Mink was the first woman of colour elected to Congress. She sponsored and co-authored Title IX, which protects students against gender discrimination in federally-funded programs.
She was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.
1966: Julia Child
Julia Child‘s 1961 cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” became a bestseller and a classic. Her cooking show, “The French Chef,” won an Emmy in 1966. She helped introduce America to French cuisine in an age when canned food reigned supreme with her endearing personality and mastery in the kitchen.
1971: Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem‘s articles “A Bunny’s Tale” and “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation,” as well as books like “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,” cemented her as a leader of the feminist movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. She founded Ms. Magazine in 1972 and continues to travel the world as a speaker and organiser.
1972: Shirley Chisholm
Hillary Clinton wasn’t the first woman to run for president – Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman to serve in Congress and to run for president in a major political party in 1972.
Despite being banned from participating in primary debates, she won 10% of the delegates’ votes, according to the National Women’s History Museum. She later wrote a memoir named for her campaign slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed.”
“I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change,” she said.
1973: Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King was the top-rated tennis player in the world and the first woman to win Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year title.
Bobby Riggs, a tennis player who had won Wimbledon in 1939, claimed that he could beat the top women’s tennis players even in retirement. “The Battle of the Sexes” was broadcast live on ABC to 90 million viewers. King defeated Riggs in a victory that was a defining moment in women’s tennis and second-wave feminism.
1981: Sandra Day O’Connor
Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1981 by President Reagan, and served until 2006. She was the first female justice on the Supreme Court. President Obama awarded her a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
1985: Princess Diana
Her royal wedding to Prince Charles was watched by an estimated 750 million viewers. She went on to use her royal platform to promote charitable causes and did her best to provide her sons with a normal childhood filled with Disney parks and McDonald’s. Her death in 1997 shocked the world.
1988: Toni Morrison
Morrison is widely considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Her novel “Beloved” won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1988.
Madonna’s 1989 album “Like A Prayer” spent six weeks at the top of the charts, according to Billboard. It’s still her longest-running number one album. Her undeniably catchy songs and edgy fashion choices defined pop music in the 1980s and 1990s, and pop artists continue to channel her aesthetic.
1992: Mae Jemison
A graduate of Stanford and Cornell, Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in space in 1992. She spent a total of 190 hours, 30 minutes, 23 seconds in space, according to NASA.
1993: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. A champion of women’s rights on the bench, her scathing dissenting opinions spawned the “Notorious RBG” memes. She said she has at least five more years on the court, at which point she’ll be 90 years old.
1996: Madeline Albright
Madeline Albright was the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State, maintaining close relationships with world leaders and advising the president on matters regarding national security and foreign policy. She worked under the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations.
1998: Carly Fiorina
Fortune named Carly Fiorina “The Most Powerful Woman in American Business” in 1998. Then working as president of Lucent Technologies’ core Global Service Provider division, the magazine placed her “at the center of the ongoing technology revolution that’s changing how we live and work.”
2000: Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband Bill in 2000. It has since donated over $US31 billion to charitable causes, including numerous public health and education initiatives, around the world.
2004: Condoleeza Rice
Condoleeza Rice is the first African-American woman to become the US Secretary of State, and first female National Security Adviser (she advised President George W. Bush).
Rice was named Forbes’ Most Powerful Woman of the Year in both 2004 and 2005.
2005: J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter obsessions were in full swing in 2005. The book “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and the movie for “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” both debuted that year. The book sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours, and the “Goblet of Fire” movie was the third-highest grossing in the series at over $US290 billion.
That year, Forbes named Rowling one of the most powerful women of the year.
2006: Angela Merkel
As the Chancellor of Germany since 2005, and often regarded as the leader of the European Union, Angela Merkel has been named Forbes’ Most Powerful Woman 12 times. She was also TIME’s Person of the Year in 2015.
2007: Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House in 2007. It is the highest position of power ever achieved by a woman in the US – third in the line of succession after the president and vice president.
“We have broken the marble ceiling,” Pelosi said when she was sworn in. “For our daughters and our granddaughters now the sky is the limit.”
2009: Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 2009. She is the first woman of colour to serve on the court.
2010: Michelle Obama
Angela Merkel’s streak as Forbes’ Most Powerful Woman of the Year was broken by Michelle Obama, who claimed the title in 2010. As the first African-American First Lady, she kickstarted programs promoting fitness and education and delivered memorable speeches.
2012: Malala Yousafzai
An advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan and around the world, Malala Yousafzai was shot by a member of the Taliban on her way home from school in 2012 when she was 15. She became the youngest Nobel Prize winner at 17 years old in recognition of her activism. She’s currently studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford.
2013: Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2013 in recognition of her philanthropy and influence as the host of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the highest-rated talk show in America for 25 years, according to the White House. She is also the founder and CEO of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
2014: Laverne Cox
Glamour named trans actress Laverne Cox one of their Women of the Year in 2014. Her role as Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate on “Orange Is the New Black,” skyrocketed her to fame as a transgender advocate with a platform to educate the world about trans issues and identities.
2016: Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency as the first female nominee of a major US political party made history – even though she lost to Donald Trump. Her long-standing political career included terms as a US Senator and Secretary of State as well as First Lady during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
2017: Susan Wojcicki
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, has been called “the most powerful woman on the internet.” YouTube was the second most popular website in the world behind Google in 2017, according to the World Economic Forum.
Beyonce is on top of the world. Her music, style, and performances continue to make bold statements (who can forget #Beychella), and she leverages her success to open the doors for artists whose work may have otherwise been overlooked – for her September cover shoot, Vogue hired the first black photographer in its 126-year history.
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