There are so many famous women in history – both from yesteryear and yesterday – some we recognise from every International Women’s Day and others who might be new; from Rosa Parks and Marie Stopes, to Anna Whitehouse and Lizzo, the list is ever-growing.
There have been so many celebrated famous women in history, and they all make great role models to turn to on International Women’s Day and when wondering how to raise a strong girl. And this last century has been no different, with a huge array of amazing women who broke it all; rules, barriers, hearts. And most importantly ‘the mould’ of what being a woman was always thought to be.
Stephanie Lowe, Goodto.com’s Family Editor says; “Remembering women from the past, supporting women in the present and celebrating everything they did and are doing on every International Women’s Day is so important. Until full equality is present we – at the very least – need these days to shine a light on all that we do. I am committed to raising my son in such a way that he knows how to recognise and support strong and empowered women.”
So, from scientists and astronauts to athletes and singers, these 101 famous women in history continue to inspire and empower others, and ultimately are always redefining what it means to be a woman.Take a look through our very own curated list of the top 101 famous women in history.
Famous women in history: 2020s
1. Stella Creasey (1977-present)
“You might think you’re never going to be able to do something, but I want you to add the word ‘yet’ to that sentence.”
As famous women in history go, this Labour MP caused a huge furore when she took her very young baby in a sling into the Commons. She was reprimanded for bringing the tot into the session. The issue has forced Parliament to review their rules. A keen campaigner for worker mother’s rights, Stella has constantly battled for better maternity care for MPs and has set up This Mum Votes to help support parents in politics. She is definitely worthy of a space on this, and every, International Women’s Day.
2. Jack Monroe (1988 – present)
“Food is such a basic need, a fundamental right, and such a simple pleasure.”
As famous women in history go, Jack Monroe rose to fame with her blog A Girl Called Jack – now renamed Cooking on a Bootstrap – which detailed cheap recipes she created as a single parent with a young child, aiming to provide family meals on a super tight budget. She continues to be an active campaigner for a number of causes, particularly those concerned with poverty and hunger.
And in 2022 complained that food prices were rising faster than the official inflation rate, which hit poor people hardest. Since her campaign, the Office for National Statistics have agreed that inflation will now be calculated differently.
3. Rose Ayling-Ellis (1994-present)
“Nothing is impossible, and I know that a lot of deaf children grow up in society that thinks that it’s not possible for them to succeed, but no – you can do it.”
When Eastenders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2021, little did she know that she would not just be the first deaf contestant, but that she would also go on to win the show.
In week eight, Rose and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice performed a Couples Choice dance that featured a period of silence, included as a tribute to the deaf community. Cited as the unmissable TV event of the year, Rose recently picked up the Inspirational Person of the Year at the Visionary Honour Awards.
4. Kamala Harris (1964-present)
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
Talk about girl power! When Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris to be his right hand woman, she made history four times over. Not only is she the first female Vice President of the United States, but also the first black and South Asian American VP.
It’s not the milestone she’s broken either – she was the first Black female attorney general of California AND was the the first South Asian-American senator in US history. Phew!
5. Wally Funk (1939-present)
“Nothing has ever gotten in my way. They say, ‘Wally, you’re a girl, you can’t do that.’ I said, ‘Guess what, doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it…’ “
Despite becoming a professional pilot at just age 20, it took Wally another 63 years to achieve her dream of going into space. Thanks to Elon Musk she became the oldest female ever to go into space when she flew on Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft in 2021. Some dreams it seems are well worth waiting for!
6. Sarah Gilbert (1962-present)
“I’m not a woman scientist, I’m a scientist and more than half my colleagues are women and we do the job.”
On New Year’s Day in 2020 Sarah Gilbert happened to read about four people in China suffering from a strange pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Within two weeks, using her expertise as a vaccinologist she had led a team to design a vaccine at Oxford, which would become the Astrazeneca vaccine.
Not only have billions of doses of the vaccine been released worldwide, but Sarah also had a Barbie doll made in her honour. As famous women in history go, this is all pretty impressive and definitely belongs in our list for International Women’s Day.
7. Kate Garraway (1967-present)
“If it means being settled and content, getting older can be a relief.”
Beloved by TV viewers for years with her long-running stint on breakfast TV, Kate Garraway was elevated to national icon in 2020 when her beloved husband Derek Draper, sadly caught COVID. Her first documentary Kate Garraway: Finding Derek, released in 2021, won a National Television Award and a BAFTA.
The follow up Caring For Derek shows the reality of caring for a loved one and has won Kate even more supporters.
8. Dame Sarah Storey (1977-present)
“For me, International Women’s Day is about recognising that so many women don’t have the opportunities we have, but we should highlight that on more than one day of the year.”
The schoolgirl Sarah Storey, who was bullied for only having one hand, probably never contemplated just how successful she would be in later life. On 2 September 2021, she beat the gold medal record to become Great Britain’s most successful Paralympic athlete of all time after winning her 17th Paralympic gold medal.
9. Megan Jayne Crabbe (1993-present)
“The body positive movement allowed me to reclaim so much life I’d been putting on hold or denying myself because I believed my body wasn’t good enough.”
As famous women in history go, UK based Instagram star Megan Jayne Crabbe is known for her her body-empowerment messages, which have been featured around the world. She posts body positivity and feminist messages to her 1.3 million followers on Instagram.
In 2017 Megan made the leap from online to offline with her first book, Body Positive Power, a manifesto on all the reasons why we hate our bodies, and how to change them. Two years later she toured a sell-out live show called The Never Say Diet Club.
10. Lizzo (1988-present)
“I don’t think that loving yourself is a choice. I think that it’s a decision that has to be made for survival.”
She plays a flute (while dancing), raps, writes her own songs and acts – Lizzo is fast becoming one of the brightest stars on the planet. Just three years after releasing her first single, she’s won three Grammy Awards. But her appeals goes much deeper than someone with banging tunes – she’s a LGBTQ+ advocate (named by Queerty magazine as one of their Pride 50 trailblazing individuals) and a body positivity icon.
11. Emma Raducanu (2002-present)
“I don’t really think about other people’s opinions or expectations. The only ones I have are that of myself, to improve and get better.”
As famous women in history go, British tennis player Emma Raducanu gave us all a much needed pandemic lift in 2021, when she made history by becoming the first qualifier and youngest British player to win a Grand Slam title at the US Open. She’s also become somewhat of a mental health advocate for young sportspeople after withdrawing from Wimbledon due to breathing difficulties, which she later put down to physical exhaustion.
12. Sky Brown (2008-present)
“It’s OK to fall sometimes and I’m just going to get back up and push even harder.”
What were you doing when you were 13? Mucking about with your mates? Wearing too much Heather Shimmer lipstick? Day-dreaming about the hot new boy at school? Not skateboarding star Sky Brown, who at 13 became the youngest ever British Olympian winner, when she took a bronze medal home in the park event.
What’s even more amazing, is that Sky, who is the youngest professional skateboarder in the world, doesn’t even have coach – she watches You Tube and learns the tricks that way! Bravo Sky, you are more than deserving of recognition on International Women’s Day.
Famous women in history: 2010s
13. Baroness Helena Morrissey (1966-present)
“Diversity should not be a second-order concern – multi-coloured sprinkles on the cake of ability – it merits equal billing.”
International Women’s Day is made for high-flying female executive and former CEO, Helena Morrissey. She wants to see more women in top jobs, so in 2010, she established the 30% Club to campaign for greater female representation on company boards. She’s also managed to find time to have nine children, and with the support of her stay-at-home-husband, and in 2020, she became Baroness Morrissey, sitting in the House Of Lords.
14. June Sarpong OBE (1977-present)
“Believe in yourself and be proud of who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. There is beauty in everyone and no one should stop you from growing into a confident and strong young person.”
s famous women in history go, June is impressive. After a hugely successful career as a TV presenter (and helping our hangovers with her stint on T4), in 2019 June Sarpong was made the BBC’s first Director of Creative Diversity.
She has also written two books on diversity issues and co-founded the Women Inspiration and Enterprise Alliance, an international conference supporting female excellence and empowerment.
15. Bryony Gordon (1980-present)
“Female self-loathing has been handed down throughout the generations”
As famous women in history go, mental health advocate Bryony Gordon is up there. The creator of the Mad World podcast, where she has interviewed well known people including about their mental health.
One of the biggest guests to appear on her show was Prince Harry in 2017 who revealed how the death of his mother Princess Diana triggered decades of mental health struggles.
Bryony also founded Mental Health Mates, a national initiative where people can meet, walk and talk.
16. Jacinda Ardern (1980-present)
“To me, leadership is not about necessarily being the loudest in the room, but instead being the bridge, or the thing that is missing in the discussion and trying to build a consensus from there.”
While not the first female Prime Minster in New Zealand, Jacinda is the youngest to have served in the last 150 years. A popular leader, she supports Maori rights, feminism and same-sex marriage. A feminist icon, she berated a journalist when they asked her about her intentions to have children. In 2021, Fortune magazine listed Jacinda as the world’s greatest leader.
17. Anna Whitehouse (1981-present)
“We believe flexible working isn’t a ‘nice to have’ nor is it a ‘bonus’, it’s a fundamental change to the fabric of our working lives.”
As famous women in history go, Anna is still making history every day with every win. It was commuting two hours each way to work, juggling life with a young baby, before Anna Whitehouse finally snapped. The last straw? She was fined by her daughter’s nursery for being late.
She quit her job and Mother Pukka was born. Out of her blog came the Flex Appeal, which aims to help shift, holding up companies who are doing the right thing. She’s worked with companies such as the NHS to make flexible working a reality for everyone, not just parents.
18. Alicia Garza (1981-present)
“We want to see a world where black lives matter in order for us to get to a world where all of our humanity is respected.”
Alongside Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi Alice Garza created the Black Lives Matter hashtag. She is credited with inspiring the slogan when, after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, she posted on Facebook: “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter… Our lives matter.”
In 2020, Alicia was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 and the BBC’s 100 Women.
19. Misty Copeland (1982-present)
“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.”
espite not taking up ballet until she was 13, Misty Copeland rose quickly up in the world of ballet and in 2015, she made history by becoming the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75 history!
20. Lauren Mahon (1985-present)
“I’m proud that I managed to handle what life threw at me in the way that I did and to use my lived experience as a force for change.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, Lauren Mahon founder Girls vs Cancer, an online community, helping to crush the stigma of the disease and help to create change. Alongside Deborah James and Rachel Bland (who has since passed) away, she presents a podcast You, Me and the Big C, described as ‘The coolest club you never want to be a part of…’
21. Jessica Ennis-Hill (1986-present)
“The only one who can tell you ‘you can’t win’ is you and you don’t have to listen.”
As famous women in history go, Jessica Ennis nails it. Called ‘Britain’s most influential sportswoman’ by The Guardian, Jessica Ennis became the face of the London 2012 Olympic games. Heptathlete and mother Jessica won gold in the event at the Olympics with her time in the 100m hurdles setting a new British record, the fastest time ever run in a heptathlon.
22. Laura Bates (1986-present)
“Women are silenced by both the invisibility and the acceptability of the problem.”
As famous women in history go, Laura founded the Everyday Sexism project back in 2012 and it quickly spawned a phenomenon – encouraging women to call out the daily sexism that came their way. She was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2015 Birthday Honours for her services to gender equality.
23. Hannah Graf (1987-present)
“[my husband and I] want the world to know that it’s perfectly possible to be #transgender and #happy!”
A huge lift for International Women’s Day, transgender activist Hannah Graf was one of the highest ranking transgender soldiers within the British Army.
In 2013, she came out as a transgender woman and became the Army’s Transgender Representative, advising Senior Army commanders on transgender policy, while also mentoring the Army’s many transgender soldiers. She made further headlines when she married Jake, also transgender.
The couple continue their advocacy work and are both patrons of the Mermaids charity. In 2020, they welcomed their first child.
24. Gina Martin (1992-present)
“If you want to create meaningful change that works you have to do it within that system.”
Activist and author Gina Martin was at a music festival in London in 2017 with her sister when she was upskirted by a man in the crowd.
Defined as taking a sexually intrusive photograph of someone without their permission, Gina was shocked to find that it wasn’t a sexual offence. She then launched a campaign to change the law, and in 2019, the Voyeurism (Offences) Act came into force.
25. Mhairi Black (1994-present)
“I am tired of being told that pensioners cost too much, I’m tired of young people being told they’re not good enough, I’m tired of immigrants being scapegoated for the mistakes of bankers and politicians.”
As famous women in history go, Scottish politician Mhairi Black made history in 2015 when she became the youngest MP elected since 1667 at the age of 20. Before entering politics, she worked in a fish and chip shop, proving that anyone can become a MP. She has strong views, is proudly LGBT and has often spoken out out in Westminster about the misogynistic and homophobic abuse directed at her online. A true fit for International Woman’s Days applause.
26. Madeline Stuart (1996-present)
“A model is supposed to represent reality, and in reality, people come in all shapes, sizes, nationality, and colour.”
In 2014, Aussie Madeline Stuart declared she wanted to be a model and a year later it came true, when she walked a catwalk show during New York Fashion Week, becoming the first ever professional adult model with Down’s Syndrome.
Since then, she’s not looked back – launching her own fashion label and working tirelessly with charities to further spread her message of diversity and inclusion.
27. Simone Biles (1997-present)
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps … I’m the first Simone Biles.”
As famous women in history go, Simone Biles has been shattering gymnastics records day by day. In addition to a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, she he already has two gymnastics skills named after her – the Biles on floor and the Biles on vault. Diagnosed with ADHD when she was a child, she’s also a keen advocate for neurodiversity.
28. Malala Yousafzai (1997-present)
“I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.”
As famous women in history go, Malala Yousafzai gained global attention when she survived an assassination attempt at age 15. In 2012, after writing various blogs for the BBC for a few years, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala on the bus home from school.
She survived, but underwent several operations in the UK, where she lives today. After her recovery, she continued to fight for women’s and children’s rights, and in 2014 Malala became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She’s also only the second Pakistani to ever receive a Nobel Prize.
29. Amanda Gorman (1998-present)
“We the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.”
American poet Amanda Gorman made history as the nation’s first-ever youth poet laureate in 2017. In 2021, she delivered her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, becoming the youngest inaugural poet to do so. In the same year, she was also the first poet to perform at the Super Bowl.
30. Amika George (1999-present)
“If you feel that something has to change, be the person to start that change. Don’t wait for anyone else to do it, because the chances are, that no one will.”
Aged just 17, Amika George became a vocal campaigner in the fight against period poverty in the UK. Having been shocked to learn that something like this existed, she decided to do something about it and set up #FreePeriods.
After leading a peaceful protest outside Downing Street, Amika successfully persuaded the UK Government to pledge funds to tackle period poverty. At 2021, Amika was given a MBE for her services to education – at just 21, she was the youngest recipient on the list.
31. Poorna Malavath (2000-present)
“We don’t have reverse gears. The sky is the limit. That’s the motto.”
While most teenagers were hanging out with friends and posting selfies on social media, Poorna Malavath was busy climbing Mount Everest! In May 2014, at just 13-years-old, she became the youngest girl in the world to climb Mt Everest – we will always have a space for you on our International Women’s Day list, Poorna.
32. Greta Thunberg (2003-present)
“I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.”
The Swedish-born activist began her campaigning life at an early age when she persuaded her parents to adopt lifestyle choices to reduce their own carbon footprint.
At 15, in August 2018, she began spending her school days outside the Swedish Parliament to call for stronger action on climate change, holding up a sign that read: ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ (School strike for climate).
She’s since gone on to challenge world leaders to take action in regards climate change and her influence has been described as the ‘Greta effect’. All this before she’s even 20 – and did we mention the three Nobel Peace Prize awards?!
33. Nikki Lilly (2004-present)
“I did not choose to be born with a chronic illness, but I do choose to make the most of every single day of my life and make every second count.”
As famous women in history go, Nikki Lilly has the edge. Living with a rare medical condition called AVM, which affects her appearance, however its not stopped her forging her own path.
Her You Tube channel, where she explores her love o singing and makeup and which she uses to share her experiences of living with a visible difference.
The youngest ever recipient of the BAFTA Special Award, in 2019, she was also awarded the International Emmy Kids Awards for her episode of the CBBC series My Life, Nikki Lilly Meets.
Famous women history: 2000s
34. Barbara Hillary (1931-2019)
“Wouldn’t it be better to die doing something interesting than to drop dead in an office and the last thing you see is someone you don’t like?”
As famous women in history go, Barbara Hillary showed that you’re never too late to achieve your dreams. After spending her career as a nurse, at the age of 75 she became the first black woman to reach the North Pole. For many that would’ve been enough, but 3 years later in 2011, she reached the South Pole, becoming the first African-American woman on record to make it there and also being the first black woman to reach both poles.
35. Kathryn Bigelow (1951-present)
“The journey for women, no matter what venue it is – politics, business, film – it’s a long journey.”
Unbelievably, Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to receive the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009. Her film, The Hurt Locker, also won Best Picture that year, making it the first film by a woman director to win that honour. Let’s not forget she also gave the world the ultimate on screen combo – Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze – when she directed Point Break in 1991.
36. Halle Berry (1966-present)
“Any time you risk big you often risk losing big. You can win big but you can also lose big, but you have to be willing to take those risks.”
From beauty pageant winner to the Oscars, Halle Berry made history in 2002, when she became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. The actress, who won the award for her role in the film Monster’s Ball, was the first black actress to win an Oscar since Hattie McDaniel in 1939!
37. Michelle Obama (1964-present)
“When they go low, we go high.”
As famous women in history go, Michelle Obama hits the notes. She was the first African-American woman First Lady – pretty famous. And, during husband Barack Obama’s time in the White House, she championed the education of girls and women across the globe, and initiated Let’s Move! a programme aiming to end childhood obesity within a generation.
Despite all her accomplishments, she said her most important job was as ‘Mom-in-Chief’ to her daughters, who grew up during their eight years in the White House.
38. Tarana Burke (1973-present)
“… ‘Me too’ was just two words; it’s two magic words that galvanised the world.”
In 2006, writer and activist Tarana Burke founded the Me Too movement, and started using the phrase “Me Too” to raise awareness of the daily tirade of sexual abuse and assault women have to deal with.
Over a decade later, in 2017, #MeToo became a viral hashtag when Alyssa Milano and other women began using it to tweet about the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. The phrase and hashtag quickly developed into an international movement.
39. Jacqui Oatley MBE (1975-Present)
“I don’t think of it as breaking down barriers. I do it for the same reason any bloke does: I love football.”
While until recently, women have taken a back seat when it comes to football, in 2007 Jacqui Oatley was making waves when it came to football commentary. As the first female football commentator on television, she often found herself outnumbered by male journalists and presenters in the early days but carried on determined, doing her first commentary on Match Of The Day.
40. Serena Williams (1981-present)
“It doesn’t matter what your background is or where you come from, if you have dreams and goals, that’s all that matters.”
Often regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, as famous women in history go, Serena Williams is a 23-time grand slam winner. Oh and she won the 2017 Australian Open while two months pregnant. A body-positive champion, the tennis star is now turning her attention to investments with her venture capital firm.
She set up Serena Ventures after hearing that only 2% of investment money went to women, so she now invests in a wide portfolio of companies that includes SendWave, MasterClass and Daily Harvest.
41. Katie Piper OBE (1983-present)
“Even when you think things can never move forward and you feel so low, there’s always a way out.”
In March 2008, Kate Piper was attacked with acid by her ex-boyfriend, causing major damage to her face and blindness in one eye.
She underwent pioneering surgery to restore her face and vision, and the following year she gave up her right to anonymity to increase awareness about burn victims. Her experience was documented in the 2009 Channel 4 documentary Katie: My Beautiful Face.
That same year, Katie established her charity, the Katie Piper Foundation, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of those victims who suffer burns or other disfigurement injuries, campaigning for specialist treatment to be more widely available to everyone in Britain. In February 2022, she received an OBE for her services to charity.
42. Ellie Simmonds (1994-present)
“If you’ve got a disability you’re normal, it’s just something that’s different. I think people shouldn’t think ‘I’m not normal, I’ve got a disability.’ Overcome that, go out there and enjoy your life.”
In 2008, aged just 13, Ellie Simmonds became the youngest member of the British Paralympic team. Despite her young age, she won two medals for Great Britain that year in Beijing.
In 2012, she was again selected for the London Olympics. She won another two golds that year, and set a World Record in the 400m freestyle. In 2016 at the Rio Paralympics – you guessed it – she won another gold medal and set another world record for the 200m medley. All this and she’s still only in her late twenties!
Famous women history: 1990s
43. Baroness Boothroyd (1929-present)
“Whatever your age, think about the young generation. And try to give them back the future being taken from them.”
Betty Boothroyd was the first – and so far, the only – female Speaker of the House. Known as Madam Speaker, she served until 2000. The former MP, who took up paragliding in her 60s, wasn’t shy at letting MPs know when they’d gone on for too long, often yawning to encourage them to keep it short and sweet.
She also once, famously, switched off Ann Widdecombe’s microphone when she felt her argument was going off topic.
44. Dame Stella Rimington (1935-present)
“Most of the things a leader has to decide are difficult, and you try and surround yourself with people whose opinions you value, and who are not exactly like you.”
In 1992, Stella Rimington made history when she was the first woman appointed director general of MI5. And, as famous women in history go, she was not only was breaking down gender barriers, she was also the first person to have her name publicised, in an attempt to improve the openness of the service and increase public transparency.
Many believe Judi Dench’s character as M in the Bond movies was based on Stella. Since leaving the MI5, she has become a successful author, writing 11 books, including an autobiography.
45. Vera Wang (1949-present)
“We showed women they didn’t have to conform or dress a certain way… If I go down for anything, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for – in a traditional business, we broke every rule.”
Fashion designer Vera Wang has always been one to break the rules. After ditching a promising ice skating career for a job at Vogue, she became the magazine’s youngest fashion editor, at just 23.
After a stint with Ralph Lauren and while struggling to find a wedding dress at age 40, she decided to strike out on her own and in the early ’90s, her bridal label was born. Since then she’s dressed many a celeb bride from Victoria Beckham to Arianne Grande. Now in her 70s, she’s still designing and still breaking those rules – as her Met Gala outfit of silk boxer shorts showed!
46. Doreen Lawrence (1952-present)
“I think that’s we all need to do, stop thinking about what colour or what religion we are because at the end of the day we’re there to support the whole country.”
As famous women in history go, Doreen Lawrence as been through heartache. After her son Stephen was murdered in 1993 in a racist attack, Doreen Lawrence becoming a hugely important figure in the British Civil Rights movement.
In 1999, her years of campaigning led to the Macpherson inquiry, which prompted necessary reforms of the UK police service. As well as her campaign work against racial violence, she is now also a member of the House of Lords.
47. Mae Jemison (1956-present)
“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
In 1992, NASA astronaut Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel into space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. After leaving NASA, she founded her own science technology company and foundation in order to improve access to science for everyone.
48. Helen Sharman (1963-present)
“We should be pushing our boundaries. After all, we Britons are explorers and adventurers.”
Despite being a few decades behind Russia and America, the UK finally got their first female British astronaut in the shape of Helen Sharman.
While working as a chemist, she responded to an advert asking for volunteers, only to be chosen as the first British astronaut. She was picked out of a whopping 13,000 applicants. At just 27 years old when she went to visit the Mir space station, she became the sixth youngest person to go into space.
49. The Big Six (1990s-present)
“We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
International Women’s Day is about lifting women up, and Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington certainly did that. They we’re known as ‘The Big Six’. Essentially a group of supermodels who ruled the catwalks in the ’90s.
They were a new breed of models who famously didn’t get out of bed unless it was really, really worth it. These weren’t just women with pretty faces and killer bodies, they were the first breed of model who made modelling into a business.
They were instrumental in raising the bar for models everywhere, getting higher rates, and also successfully franchising themselves off the catwalk. Even today, most of the big six still model – which in itself is a feat, considering how ageist the fashion industry can be.
50. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933 – 2020)
“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Justice Ginsburg was the second woman and the first Jewish woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She was appointed in 1993 when she was 60 years old. During her years on the bench, she has been a champion of gay rights, women’s rights, the poor, and many other marginalized groups.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in 2020 after 27 years on the Supreme Court.
51. The Spice Girls (1994-present)
“But she’s got something new, she’s a power girl in a ’90s world, she’s a downtown-swinging dude.”
As famous women in history go, the Spice Girls has five of them. Girl Power burst onto the pop scene in 1996. Posh, Sporty, Scary, Baby and Ginger Spice spiced up our lives, spouting pop-feminist slogans.
They changed the face of pop forever, racking up multi-million pound marketing deals and becoming the best-selling girl group of all time – all while empowering a whole generation of young girls to know they could be whatever they wanted to be, and being heard was right up there.
Famous women in history: 1980s
52. Dolly Parton (1946-present)
“Womanhood was a difficult thing to get a grip on in those hills, unless you were a man.”
As famous women in history go, Dolly is adored my millions. She’s sold more than 100 million records worldwide, has her own theme park and has supported many charitable efforts across the globe. Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library provides 850,000 books to children across the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, and the Republic of Ireland.
In 2020, she donated $1 million towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19, funding the critical early stages of development of the Moderna vaccine.
53. Sally Ride (1951-2012)
“I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one.”
As famous women in history go, Sally Ride had the honour of becoming the first American woman in space in June 1983 on board the space shuttle Challenger. In 2001, she co-founded Sally Ride Science, a company that creates science programs for school children, with a particular focus on girls.
54. Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)
“As a woman leader, I was interested in women’s issues, in bringing down the population growth rate… as a woman, I entered politics with an additional dimension – that of a mother.”
As famous women in history go, Benazir Bhutto became the first woman prime minister of Pakistan. In addition she also became the first woman leader of a Muslim nation in modern history. She served two terms, and pushed for open elections, chairing or co-chairing the Pakistan Peoples Party from the early 1980s until her assassination in 2007.5
55. Oprah Winfrey (1954-present)
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”
Best known or her self-titled chat show, The Oprah Winfrey Show – the highest-rated TV program of its kind – ran for 25 years. With a net worth of over $2.7 billion, Oprah was cited as being the richest African-American of the 20th century. She also founded the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation, which provides education and donates money to communities throughout America. Not bad for a girl born into poverty to a single teenage mother.
56. Susan Kare (1954-present)
“Icon design is like solving a puzzle, trying to marry an image and idea that, ideally, will be easy for people to understand and remember.”
If you’ve ever thrown something in the trash on your Mac computer, you’ve got Susan Kare to thank for that satisfying crumpled paper sound!
Graphic Designer Susan is known in the industry as ‘the woman who gave the Macintosh a smile’. She worked with Steve Jobs to design the original icons for the Mac, including that trash can element. She carried on with this modern visual identity at companies such as Microsoft Windows, IBM OS/2, Facebook, and Pinterest. As an early pioneer of pixel art, she has been celebrated as one of the most significant technologists of the modern world.
57. Ann Bancroft (1955-2005)
“For me, exploration is about that journey to the interior, into your own heart.”
As famous women in history go, American explorer Ann Bancroft is up there. She gave up her teaching job in 1986 in order to trek to the North Pole. After 56 days, she arrived – making her the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and sled.
In 1992–1993, Bancroft led a four-woman expedition to the South Pole on skis; this expedition was the first all-female expedition to cross the ice to the South Pole. She established the Bancroft Foundation to give girls the opportunity to “explore their potential and find their place in the world.”
58. Madonna (1958-present)
“I’m tough, I’m ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a b***h, okay.”
With more than 300 million records sold during her career, Madonna is the best-selling female artist of all time. The queen of reinvention, she created the pop star blueprint, caused controversy and made underwear as outerwear acceptable – all while championing women, black and LGBTQ+ rights. Even now in her 60s, she’s still pushing boundaries, empowering women and re-framing what getting older really means in today’s society.
59. Princess Diana (1961-1997)
“I don’t go by the rule book … I lead from the heart, not the head.”
As famous women in history go, the ‘People’s Princess’ totally changed the way the royal family operate, bringing them up-to-date and more accessible.
She broke down many other barriers as well – from holding the hand of a HIV sufferer in 1987 to walking through an Angola minefield that was being cleared to call for an international ban on the devices. Her legacy lives on in the shape of her sons, who carry on with her humanitarian work. A definite for this, and every, International Women’s Day.
Famous women in history: 70s
60. Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
During her lifetime Mother Teresa became famous as the Catholic nun who dedicated her life to caring for the poverty-stricken slums of Calcutta – now known as Kolkata.
In 1979 she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work and in her typical style she asked that the big dinner to mark the occasion was cancelled and the money given to the poor instead. In September 2016, it was announced that Mother Teresa was to be named as a Saint.
61. Dame Rose Heilbron (1914-2005)
“I am serious about my career, but that does not mean I shall give up dancing, swimming, golf or tennis.”
A woman who ticked a lot of first boxes; Dame Rose Heilbron was a true trailblazer.
She was the first woman to achieve a first class honours degree in law at the University of Liverpool. And the first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn (The historic societies that educate and train barristers in England and Wales).
She was one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel in England, the first woman to lead a murder case, and the first woman recorder and the first woman judge to sit at the Old Bailey.
62. Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”
As famous women in history go, and regardless of your politics, there’s no denying that Margaret Thatcher becoming the first female Prime Minister in 1979 was a huge step for feminism and equality.
The longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, Margaret was also the first woman to govern a western democracy.
63. Junko Tabei (1939-2016)
“Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top; it is the willpower that is most important.”
Mountaineer Junko Tabei literally reached new highs when in 1975 she became the first woman to successfully climb Mount Everest. She continued to break records 17 years later, becoming the first woman ever to reach the Seven Peaks – the highest points of the earth’s seven continents.
64. Vivienne Westwood (1941-present)
“Fashion is life-enhancing and I think it’s a lovely, generous thing to do for other people.”
As famous women in history go, you can’t get much cooler than ‘The mother of punk’. Vivienne Westwood is considered one of the most unconventional and outspoken fashion designers in the world.
With her partner, Malcolm McLaren, she extended the influence of the 1970s punk music movement into fashion. Still designing in her 80s, she is also an active campaigner in many political causes from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to climate change.
65. Diana Ross (1944-present)
“You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.”
After huge success with The Supremes in the ’60’s, the ’70s saw Diana Ross branch out on her own. Not only did she continue to have chart successes but her move into acting was also a huge success, generating award nominations left, right and centre. An artist who has inspired many big names such as Madonna and Beyonce, she has had a career total of 70 hit singles with the Supremes and as a solo artist. A musical heroine and welcome legend to the International Women’s Day lists.
Famous women in history: 1960s
66. Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
“Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression.”
As famous women in history go, this lady broke the mould. If you’ve ever taken a contraceptive pill, it’s all thanks to American feminist and sex educator Margaret Sanger. She coined the term birth control, wrote pamphlets and opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916.
Her biggest achievement though came just six years before her death – getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve the first oral contraceptive in 1960.
67. Indira Gandhi (1917-1984)
“Opportunities are not offered. They must be wrested and worked for. And this calls for perseverance… and courage.”
Indira Gandhi was the only female Prime Minister of India. She forged the historic 1972 Simla agreement to end war between India and Pakistan. She was second longest-serving Indian prime minister after her father and sadly was assassinated by her own bodyguards in 1984. Thirty six years after her death, Time magazine named her among the world’s 100 powerful women who defined the last century.
68. Katherine G. Johnson (1918-2020)
“Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.”
As famous women in history go, Katherine G. Johnson was up there as an insanely clever mathematician. She was one of the brains behind the complex calculations that, in 1969, helped to successfully send the first man to the moon.
As one of the the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist, she not only mastered complex manual calculations but also helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. Her role in the space race was documented in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.
“I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.”
Author of the seminal autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, which was a New York Times best-seller for two years, Maya Angelou was so much more than just a writer. Dancer, singer, journalist, poet, screenwriter and civil rights activist.
Maya worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. And in 2010 Barack Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honour in the United States.
70. Dame Jane Goodall (1934-present day)
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Seen as the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall is best known for her 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees.
Her studies were unconventional – she gave the chimps names like Fifi and David Greybeard instead of numbers and she witnessed human-like behaviours amongst chimpanzees, including armed conflict. In April 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace and is a welcome member of Goodto.com’s curated International Women’s Day list.
71. Margaret Hamilton (1936-1985)
“Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world. There was no choice but to be pioneers; no time to be beginners.”
Without Margaret Hamilton, Neil Hamilton (no relation) may not have walked on the moon in 1969. Her team pioneered the on-shuttle software that was required to navigate and land on the moon. She was also a working mother – something quite radical for a woman in the ’60s. She later helped popularise the term software engineering, and secured her spot in the International Women’s Day round ups.
72. Valentina Tereshkova (1937-present day)
“One cannot deny the great role women have played in the world community. My flight was yet another impetus to continue this female contribution.”
As famous women in history go, this story started from very humble beginnings. Russian-born engineer Valentina became the first and youngest woman woman in space. In June 1963, she orbited the Earth 48 times, spent almost three days in space, and remains the only woman to have been on a solo space mission.
73. Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)
“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose.”
Despite being told that she wouldn’t walk after suffering from childhood illnesses, athlete Wilma Rudolph went onto become the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at the 1960s Olympic games. She became a role model for black and female athletes and her Olympic successes helped elevate women’s track and field in the United States. She went on to use her platform for social causes.
Famous women in history: 1950s
“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”
As famous women in history go, Rosa is a leader. On 1 December 1955, Rosa Parks was on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama when she showed how tough she was. Asked by the bus driver to give up her seat for a white man, Rosa refused – and by this simple gesture, she sparked an entire civil rights movement in the States.
These were the days when Alabama was still governed by segregation law, with a policy that only allowed black passengers to sit in the back. After her refusal, Rosa was arrested, which sparked a host of protests across America. She died aged 92 in October 2005. And with her death she made history once more, as she became the first woman in the nation’s history to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
75. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
“Your faith rests on the future of yourself and others as individuals, mine in the future and fate of our successors.”
As famous women in history go, British scientist Rosalind Franklin had the dirty done on her. She made a huge scientific discovery, and men stole her idea. She’s best known for her contribution towards the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. However, she never got to enjoy her 1952 discovery as it was snaffled by two men.
Scientists Francis Harry Compton Crick and James Dewey Watson discovered her unpublished notes and announced ‘their’ discovery to the world without sharing the credit with her. Sadly she died aged only 37, and never got to see just how her discovery transformed medicine and crime solving.
76. Sheila van Damm (1922 – 1987)
It’s a sport that even today isn’t known for the quantity of women drivers so when Sheila van Damm began her competitive driving career in 1950, she was one of a kind.
She went on to win the Coupe des Dames, the highest award for women, in the 1953 Alpine Rally. At one point, Sheila was “the fastest woman in Europe”, having beaten her team-mate, Stirling Moss! After retiring from racing, Sheila took over running the Windmill theatre in Soho from her father.
77. Jackie Moggridge (1922-2004)
“I pulled off my helmet. ‘Good God. It’s a woman!’”
Jackie Moggridge was a pioneering pilot. After gaining her commercial pilot’s licence in the 1950s, in 1958 she became the first woman airline captain of scheduled passenger services. Oh, and in 1952, she was the first woman to do a parachute jump in South Africa. A sure-fire thing for the International Women’s Day list.
“I have to be seen to be believed!”
She was just 25 when, in 1952, after the death of her father King George VI’s, she took to the throne. And, as famous women in history go, Queen Elizabeth II is an impressive woman. She is now the longest reigning British monarch and female head of state. Regardless of your views on the monarchy, 70 years in a job is pretty impressive by anyone’s standards.
79. Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989)
“We didn’t start the sexual revolution but I think we gave it a good kick in the pants!”
Christine Jorgensen, a trans woman, was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery.
Jorgensen, who grew up in the Bronx, underwent her gender reassignment operations in Europe beginning in 1952. On her return to the States, she became an instant celebrity as her story hit the front pages. Using her experience and fame, she became an advocate for transgender people.
80. Althea Gibson (1927-2003)
“I always wanted to be somebody. If I made it, it’s half because I was game enough to take a lot of punishment along the way and half because there were a lot of people who cared enough to help me.”
In 1951, Althea Gibson made history on the tennis courts by being the first African American woman to play at Wimbledon.
In 1956, she became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title, winning both Wimbledon and the US Nationals the following year. In all, she won 11 Grand Slam tournaments: five singles titles, five doubles titles, and one mixed doubles title.
And, she didn’t stop there, in the early 1960s she also became the first black player to compete on the Women’s Professional Golf Tour!
Famous women in the 40s
81. Una Marson (1905-1965)
“What man has done women may do.”
As famous women in history go, Activist and writer Una Marson was the first black woman ever hired by the BBC. In 1941, she hosted and produced a radio series Calling the West Indies, in which World War II soldiers would have their messages read on the radio to their families.
82. Susan Travers (1909-2003)
“It is a delightful feeling, going as fast as you can in the dark!”
A Red Cross nurse and ambulance driver, Susan Travers is the only woman ever accepted into the French Foreign Legion. During the war, Susan was stationed in Libya when it was surrounded by German troops. Despite all the other female staff being evacuated, she stayed alongside the other soldiers for 15 days. When supplies started to run out, they launched a night time escape with Susan behind the wheel. Her truck was hit by 11 bullets, but she made it to Allied lines and helped save the lives of 2,500 Free French soldiers in the process.
83. Irena Sendler (1910-2008)
“You see a man drowning, you must try to save him even if you cannot swim.”
As famous women in history go, Polish humanitarian, social worker, and nurse Irena Sendlerowa was sometimes known as the female Schindler. She rescued 2,500 Jewish children in Poland, rescuing them from the Warsaw Ghetto. Saving them from certain death, and getting them to safety.
In October 1943 she was arrested by the Gestapo, and despite being tortured and imprisoned, Irena never revealed anything about her work or the location of the saved children. She was sentenced to death but thankfully narrowly escaped on the day of her scheduled execution after German officials were bribed.
84. Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000)
“Films have a certain place in a certain time period. Technology is forever.”
Imagine Angelina Jolie inventing something so far-reaching that it would change technology for decades after her death. Well that’s exactly what Hedy Lamarr did.
An actress in ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood, Hedy starred in many a movie alongside big names like Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. But, outside of Hollywood, she loved inventing. One of these inventions was a radio signalling device, which she co-invented with composer George Antheil.
The system changed radio frequencies to confuse and hinder enemies during World War II. And, it’s still a crucial part of how we communicate wirelessly today. It is in fact a precursor to wireless technologies including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
85. Dame Vera Lynn (1917-2020)
“There is always something we can be concerned about. The secret is to rise above it and do whatever we can to make the world a better place.”
The ‘forces sweetheart’ not only recorded popular songs during wartime to keep morale high, but also performed in Egypt, India and Burma during the war. Her recording career spanned decades and in 2009, at the age of 92, Vera became the oldest living artist to make it to No. 1 in the British album chart. Her compilation album We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn outsold both the Arctic Monkeys and the Beatles.
86. Jean Barker, Baroness Trumpington (1922-2018)
“At the age of 80, there are very few pleasures left to me, but one of them is passive smoking.”
As famous women in history go, Nazi codebreaker and Thatcher minister who flicked a V-sign in the House of Lords, Baroness Trumpington was an amazing woman.
At just 18, she was sent to Bletchley Park during the Second World War where she used her knowledge of the German language to help crack secret codes. After the war, she took to a life of politics and when Margaret Thatcher became PM , she was appointed the UK Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women where her role was to promote women’s equality, marriage and divorce, healthcare, child-rearing, and human rights.
Throughout her career, she was known for having raised uncomfortable truths about topics most politicians would have avoided, such as the plight of women in prisons, or the fate of single mothers with mental health issues. She finally retired from the House Of Lords aged 95.
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”
As famous women in history go, Anne Frank is one of the youngest at the helm. She was just 16 when she died in a concentration camp in 1945. She gained fame posthumously after her father Otto Frank, escaped and published his daughter’s now-famous diaries in 1947.
The diaries chronicled her experiences during the Holocaust and has helped historians – and millions of people around the world – better understand the time. The book, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ has sold more than 30 million copies since then has been translated into more than 70 languages.
Famous women in history: 1930s
88. Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976)
“An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.”
British novelist Agatha Christie gave the world Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and the longest-running play in the West End, The Mousetrap. Born in Torquay, Devon, Agatha is not only the best-selling novelist of all time (she’s sold over 2 billion books), but also the most-translated individual author of all time.
89. Hattie McDaniel (1893 – 1952)
“The entire race is usually judged by the actions of one man or woman.”
In 1939, Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actor to receive an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone With The Wind. Sadly, when she went to pick up her Best Supporting Actress, she was sat at a segregated table at the side of the room.
“The woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune.”
In 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first female passenger to cross the Atlantic by air plane. And just four years later, in 1932, she was the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic.
She was also the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license. Dubbed the ‘Queen of Air’ by the press, she undertook a series of celebrity endorsements for products in order to pay for further aviation adventures. Sadly, she mysteriously disappeared during a flight in 1937, and was pronounced legally dead two years later. As famous women in history go, this was all pretty impressive… and curiously sad.
91. Marlene Dietrich (1901- 1992)
“I don’t think we have a ‘right’ to happiness. If happiness happens, say thanks.”
One actress who rebelled against the pressures of Hollywood was Marlene Dietrich. As one of the highest-paid actresses of the era, Marlene defied sexual norms, choosing androgynous film roles and clothes . She rocked that tuxedo, as well as her bisexuality. She was also celebrated for her humanitarian efforts during World War II, providing financial support and housing to German and French exiles.
92. Amy Johnson (1903 – 1941)
“Had I been a man I might have explored the Poles or climbed Mount Everest, but as it was my spirit found outlet in the air…”
British aviator Amy Johnson achieved worldwide recognition when, in 1930, she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. She went on to make and break many flight records, and was the first British woman to qualify as a ground engineer.
93. Clare Hollingworth (1911-2017)
“I must admit I enjoy being in a war”
As exclusives go, being the first journalist to break the news that Germany had invaded Poland, kicking off World War II, is pretty huge. This is exactly what happened for British war reporter Clare Hollingworth. As a rookie reporter for The Telegraph she spotted German reporters on the Polish border. This was her first big scoop and just a week after she started a new job as correspondent for The Telegraph in Poland in 1939. She went on enjoy a to 40-plus-year career covering conflicts across the globe.
Famous women in history: 1920s
“Women had always fought for men, and for their children. Now they were ready to fight for their own human rights.”
As famous women in history go, Emmeline is ring leader. She was the main force behind the suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst demanded equality for women. Her efforts led to the vote being granted to some women (those over the age of 30 who owned property or were married to a man who owned property) in 1918. It took another 10 years, 1928, for women over 21 to get the vote – the same year that Pankhurst died.
95. Margaret Bondfield (1873 – 1953)
“We shall never reach a satisfactory State until we have the recognition of the citizen irrespective of sex.”
As famous women in history go, this British politician and women’s rights activist became the first woman member of the British Government when she was appointed Minister of Labour in the Labour government of 1929–31. After her Government career ended, she founded The Women’s Group on Public Welfare. This focused on the improvement of social conditions by investigating issues and publishing reports.
96. Dr Marie Stopes (1880 – 1958)
“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul’s own doing.”
Dr Marie Stopes founded Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921, and came to be seen as the ‘figure-head of the birth control movement’ in the United Kingdom. Her sex manual Married Love, published in 1918, was extremely controversial at the time, bringing as it did the subject of birth control into wide public conversation.
97. Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)
“Why are women… so much more interesting to men than men are to women?”
As famous women in history go, this English writer is considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors. In particular her book Mrs Dalloway, published in 1925, not only challenged ideas of how a novel could be structured, but also punctured the idea of the perfect housewife. Long after her death, she became an icon during the feminist movement of the ’70s.
98. Lilian Wyles (1885 – 1975)
“I thought of the several thousand children, girls, and women who had given me their confidence, and of those who had regained their self-respect and happiness.”
Lilian Wyles was a pioneer within in the police force. One of the early female police officers in England – she joined the Met Police in 1919 – she became the first female officer in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Specifically employed as a sex statement taker for North of the Thames in December 1922. She later took ownership of cases involving child abuse, establishing a specific role for policewomen.
99. Mary Pickford (1892 – 1979)
“Failure is not falling down, it is not getting up again”
The first actress to ever sign a million-dollar contract. Mary Pickford was a huge silent movie star. As famous women in history go, she was known as the Queen of the Movies, one of the most popular actresses in the 1910s and 1920s. In addition Mary also played an important role in the development of cinema as we know it today. She co-founded multiple studios, including United Artists alongside Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks and established the body that presents the Oscar annual ceremony.
100. Gertrude Ederle (1905 – 2003 )
“When somebody tells me I cannot do something, that’s when I do it!”
As famous women in history go, New Yorker Gertrude had gumption. She made history in 1926 when, at age 20, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel. She was also pretty fast! At 14 hours and 31 minutes she bettered the previous record – set by male counterpart Argentinian Enrique Tiraboschi – by two hours!
101. Josephine Baker (1906 – 1975)
“All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world can learn to live together in peace if they are not brought up in prejudice.”
As famous women in history go, not only was Josephine Baker an amazing entertainer, a star of the French scene in the ’20s, but the America-born singer and dancer was also a spy during the war. Recruited by the French intelligence agency she used her star power to mingle with the ‘enemy’ at parties and gain classified secrets.
After the war, she helped to fight racism in her native America and went on to adopt 12 – yes, 12 – children from countries across the world including Japan, Algeria, Israel, and Colombia, raising them all alone. Phew!