13 powerful portraits of women throughout the decades

Women stop to smell the flowers while on a road trip. B. Anthony Stewart, 1942
  • National Geographic’s powerful photography collection is highlighting women all over the world through photos drawn from the infamous National Geographic archive.
  • Here are 13 portraits that capture women’s strength and perseverance throughout the decades.
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Excerpted from “Women: The National Geographic Image Collection” by National Geographic and Susan Goldberg with permission from National Geographic. Copyright 2019.


National Geographic’s new book “Women: The National Geographic Image Collection” celebrates the lives of women from around the globe.

The book comes on the heels of the 100th anniversary of the US constitutional amendment confirming women’s right to vote and spotlights the bold women who have been trailblazers and luminaries in their own communities.

1890s: Journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells rallied against injustices faced by people of colour until her death in 1931.

Ida B. Wells was one of the founders of the NAACP. Chicago Historical Society, 1890s

Chicago Historical Society, 1890s

1900s: An Ouled Nail woman in Algeria displays her dowry of gold coins.


Source: Lehnert & Landrock, 1905

1910s: Three Japanese women dressed in traditional kimonos pose behind cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossoms are very symbolic and often a metaphor for human existence. Eliza R. Scidmore, 1918

Source: Eliza R. Scidmore, 1918

1920s: Roller skaters stop traffic as they take to the streets in Washington, D.C.


Source: Fred Schutz, 1929

1930s: A group of colourful dancers perform at the Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus.


Source: J. Baylor Roberts, 1937

1940s: Travellers find fields of wildflowers in bloom along Route 99 in the San Joaquin Valley, California.

Women stop to admire the beautiful flowers during a long drive. B. Anthony Stewart, 1942

Source: B. Anthony Stewart, 1942

1950s: A woman walks her dachshund along the Copacabana Promenade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Source: Charles Allmon, 1955

1960s: A Tahitian woman stands in profile.


Source: Luis Marden, 1962

1970s: A woman walks across a footpath in Toronto, Canada.


Source: Sam Abell, 1978

1980s: Two women take a break to share a laugh while working in the rice paddies in Honshu, Japan.

Honshu is Japan’s most populated island. Paul Chesley, 1981

Source: Paul Chesley, 1981

1990s: Veiled actress Benedetta Buccellato performs as la Corifea, the female protagonist in Prometheus Bound, at the Greek Theatre of Syracuse in Sicily.

Benedetta Buccellato was a famous Italian actress and writer. William Albert Allard, 1994

Source: William Albert Allard, 1994

2000s: A woman in Florence, Italy, takes a moment to herself to read a greeting card designed as a newspaper.


Source: Jodi Cobb, 2005

2010s: Members of the Palmer Society, a campus women’s organisation, enjoy graduation day at Whittier College, one of the most diverse universities in the United States.

The Palmer Society was originally a literary society before reorganising into a social society. Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky, 2017

Source: Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky, 2017