18 of the Most Influential Women — Celebrating Women’s History Month

This March marks the 34th annual Women’s History Month, a time for me to celebrate strong female role models and reflect on the women who helped pave the way for all of us. From early activists and suffragists to modern-day politicians and CEOs, these women’s accomplishments have made a significant impact on the world.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I encourage you to read up on powerful quotes from inspirational women and spend the day learning about and taking inspiration from these iconic figures.

Susan B. Anthony

One such figure is Susan B. Anthony, a women’s rights activist who spent her entire adult life fighting for gender equality and women’s right to vote. Led by the Quaker teachings that every human is equal, she began collecting antislavery petitions at age 17 and passed away in 1906, 14 years before women gained the right to vote. However, many leave their “I voted” stickers on her gravesite each election day as a way to say thank you for her contributions.

Sally Ride

In 1983, the world watched as Sally Ride, an astronaut and physicist, became the first American woman in space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. She was the third woman ever in space and paved the way for future female scientists.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams, a professional tennis player with 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, is another inspiring figure. She currently holds more titles than any other active player, has won four Olympic gold medals, and became the highest-paid female athlete in the world in 2016. She has spent much of her career advocating for equal treatment of women and women of color within sports, and has been outspoken about the gender pay inequality in athletics.

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton, a novelist and writer, was known for her portrayal of New York’s upper class and became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence. She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1927, 1928, and 1930, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996, almost 30 years after her death.

Maria Skłodowska-Curie

Marie Skłodowska, a physicist and chemist, conducted groundbreaking research in radioactivity. She was the first woman to win the Nobel prize and the first person to win two Nobel prizes in two different fields. Her findings overturned scientific ideas and also shifted perspectives of women in science. Leukemia caused her death, which she developed due to long-term exposure to radiation during her research.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, a singer, songwriter, pianist, and actress, quickly became a household name in the 1960s. After finding success with songs like “Respect,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Franklin was known as the Queen of Soul and was the first woman to ever be elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart, a female pilot who became the first to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, is another inspiring figure. She went on to become a best-selling author and a cofounder of The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots. In 1937, Earhart went missing during a flight over the Pacific Ocean.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a justice on the United States Supreme Court from 1993 until her death in 2020, was known for her iconic collars and her advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality. She graduated first in her class at Columbia Law School, and was the first Jewish woman (and only the second woman) to ever serve on the court.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, after serving as District Attorney of San Francisco, California Attorney General, and United States Senator, became the Vice President of the United States in 2021 and is the first female, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to hold the office.

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay, a director and filmmaker, is known for her work on titles including 13th, When They See Us, Selma, and Middle of Nowhere. She was the first Black woman to win the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first Black woman to be nominated for both a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink, after a successful career as an attorney in Hawaii, became the first woman of color elected to Congress in 1965. As a third-generation Japanese American, Mink was the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress where she fought for social welfare and civil liberties.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader of the women’s rights movement in the late 1800s, was a firm advocate for equal rights for all. She hosted the first Women’s Rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, wrote speeches for Susan B. Anthony, and even scheduled her honeymoon around a World’s Anti-Slavery convention. Like Anthony, she passed away before the 19th Amendment (which gave women the right to vote) was passed, but it could not have been passed without her advocacy.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, was outspoken about the civil rights movement. After leaving office, she went on to become the United State’s first delegate of the United Nations where she served on the UN Commission on Human Rights and helped pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, after a successful career as a lawyer in Chicago, became the first woman of color to become first lady of the United States in 2008. She used her position to advocate for health initiatives, access to higher education, and international education opportunities for girls all over the world. In 2018, her book Becoming broke records when it became the best-selling book of the year, selling more than 10 million copies within the first year.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, an activist in the civil rights movement, is known for her works I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Still I Rise. She has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and three Grammys.

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor, after graduating from Yale Law School, served as Assistant District Attorney in New York before she was nominated to the U.S. District Court by President George H.W. Bush. In 2009, she became the first Hispanic and Latina Justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court after she was nominated by President Barack Obama.

Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham, a publisher who led The Washington Post for almost thirty years, was the first female publisher of a major newspaper and the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company as the CEO of the Washington Post company. She also won a Pulitzer Prize for her memoir Personal History in 1998.

Ada Lovelace

Ada was a mathematician and writer. She was one of the first to recognise the potential of machines applications to progress past pure calculation and published the first algorithm for such a machine. She is considered one of the first computer programmers!

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