20 Women Who Changed the World

There are hundreds of powerful women throughout history whose lives are serving as inspiration for many.

Their astonishing contributions to medicine, politics, sports, and technology stand strongly behind the phrase “The Future is Female”. Here are 21 of the most remarkable women of the world.

1. Ali Stroker

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Broadway has never been the same after Ali Stroker. In 2015 she was the first actress to appear in a wheelchair on the stage. Not only that but in June 2019 she won a Tony Award for her powerful performance in the revival of Oklahoma! which made her the first-ever actor in a wheelchair to win this honorable prize.

“Growing up in a chair, I was used to people staring and looking at me, and that was difficult. And then when I got onstage people were staring and looking at me for the reason that I wanted. And I felt powerful.” -Ali Stroker

2. Alice Coachman

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Ever since she was a teenage girl Alice dreamed of being an athlete. She was so focused on her goals that even segregation didn’t stop her from training. In 1939 she was offered a scholarship at the Tuskegee Institute where she was winning races and breaking records in Amateur Athlete Union competitions. Her most impressive achievement was in 1948 at the Olympic Games. Her spectacular high jump made her the first black woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics. What is more, in 1952 Alice was chosen to be a representative for the Coca-Cola Company and became the first African-American woman to support a campaign in an international product.

3. Anna Bissell

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In 1876 Anna Bissell’s husband invented the carpet-sweeping machine. After Melville Bissell’s death in 1889, Anna took over the company and became the first female CEO in the US. She developed a well-working marketing strategy and even took the business overseas. She raised 5 wonderful children by herself and still managed to be an active philanthropist in her community.

4. Betty Friedan

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Betty Friedan was a journalist, a women’s rights activist, and a co-founder of the National Organization of Women – NOW. She gained popularity with her book The Feminine Mystique in which she motivates women to find happiness outside their traditional roles. In 1966 Betty started the fire of feminism organizing the  Women’s Strike for Equality and actively helping the launch of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

5. Clarissa “Clara” Barton

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Clara Barton is one of the most remarkable women in American history. During the devastating Civil War, she risked her life to bring medicines and supplies to the battlefield. Moreover, in 1881 she founded the American Red Cross which is now the largest volunteering organization in the world.

6. Edith Wharton

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In 1921 Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Age of Innocence. Although she never attended school, she was an amazing novelist and short story writer. Wharton is the author of 38 more books including The Glimpses of the Moon and Old Ney York. Furthermore, she was awarded France’s Cross of the Legion of Honor for taking care of more than 600 Belgian refugee orphans in World War I. 

7. Elizabeth Blackwell

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Elizabeth Blackwell changed the course of history becoming the first American woman to receive a medical degree. After graduating from New York’s Geneva Medical College in 1849, she helped the founding of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Later on, she became a professor at the London School of Medicine for Women.

8. Ella Fitzgerald

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For more than half a century Ella was the most famous and loved female jazz singer in the US. She gained popularity at the blooming age of 21 when she recorded a playful version of the nursery rhyme, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” The album sold more than 1 million copies, hit number one, and was on the pop charts for 5 months.“The First Lady of Song” was also the first woman to win the Grammy award. In her dazzling lifetime, she won 13 Grammies and sold over 40 million music albums.

9. Gertrude Ederle

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The athletic deaf swimmer Gertrude Ederle was the first female to cross the English Channel in 1911. Not only she managed to finish one of the most challenging long-distance swims but she also set a world record of 14 hours and 34 minutes.

10. Grace Hopper

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Hopper is the woman we should be grateful for whenever we use computers. She was the leader of the team that invented the first programming language with words instead of numbers COBOL – Common Business-Oriented Language. What is more, Grace Hopper was also part of coining the term “debug” after removing a live moth from the server of a Mark II computer. Among her many awards are a National Medal of Technology and absurdly the Data Processing Management Association’s Computer Sciences Man Of The Year.

11. Joan Ganz Cooney

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In 1966 Joan Cooney was one of the most powerful women in the media industry. She caught the attention of Carnegie Corporation executive Lloyd Morrisett when she was working for the Ney York public television. Together they first considered then later found the Children’s Television Workshop. In 1969 Cooney produced the CTW’s first show we all love today, Sesame Street.

12. Julie Taymor

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Taymor’s best work id the directing of the Broadway version of The Lion King from 1997. This musical became the biggest box office hit of all time. Her brilliant work made her the first female director to win a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. Not only she directed the show, she also designed the costumes and won another prize for Best Costume Design of a Musical.

13. Juliette Gordon Low

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In 1912 Juliette Low founded the Girl Scouts organization in the US. She was inspired by the founder of the Boy Scouts. Thanks to her talent for fundraising and networking the Girl Scouts are now everywhere across America, volunteering and raising funds for those in need. The latest honor she received was the Medal of Freedom, given her by President Barack Obama in 2012.

14. Junko Tabei

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The Japanese adventurer Junko Tabei was the first woman who reached the peak of Mount Everest. She made it to the very top in 1975, leading a team of 15 women and 6 guides. Her achievements didn’t stop there. Junko Tabei is also the first woman to climb all the Seven Summits – the highest peaks of every continent.

15. Katherine Johnson

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The mathematician Katherine Johnson’s calculations of orbital mechanics were crucial to the success of the first and subsequent US crewed spaceflights. As a NASA employee, she became famous for mastering complex manual calculations and helping pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. Johnson was recognized as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist. She was also a part of the teams for the Project Apollo Lunar Lander, the Space Shuttle, and the Earth Resources Satellite.

16. Kathryn Bigelow

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Bigelow is the first female to win an Oscar for Best Director. She was directing movies for over three decades but her best cinematic achievement was with the drama The Hurt Locker in 2009. In fact, she is still the only woman honored with this award in the 91 years of the Academy Awards’ history.

17. Malala Yousafzai

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The Pakistan girl Malala is the youngest person to win the Noble Peace Prize in 2014. Her story begins when she is only 11-years-old. When the terroristic group of the Taliban started to take over her hometown by attacking girl’s schools, Malala gave a powerful speech about women’s right to an education. In 2009 by using a fake name she started a blog for the BBC, where she talked about life under the brutal Taliban dictation. Soon her cover was blown but that didn’t stop her from speaking loudly about the terrorism. Tragically when she was at the age of 15 she was ruthlessly shot in the head. However, she survived the attack and after her recovery, she published her first book I Am Malala. She also established the Malala Fund which is working for a world where every girl can learn and lead.

18. Marie Curie

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This must be the most famous female physicist in the world. In collaboration with her husband, Pierre Curie, Marie was working on researches and observations on radioactivity. They achieved the isolation of the two new heavy elements polonium and radium. Marie won two Nobel prizes and her outstanding work helped the way radiation is wielded in medicine. This forever changed many diagnostic techniques such as the modern oncology we know today.

19. Susan B. Anthony

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Susan B.Anthony was a women’s rights activist. Her name stands behind the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution from 1920, authorizing all the U.S. women over 21 with the right to vote. She dedicated her life to attending women’s rights conventions, circulating petitions for married women’s property rights, giving speeches and many other feminist activities. In 1869 she was called the first Woman Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C. Among the many movements she was leading, Susan Anthony was also an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society and she played a critical role in creating the International Council of Women.

20. Virginia Apgar

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Virginia was an American anesthesiologist who invented the Apgar Score in 1952. This is a method of quickly summarizing newborn children’s health condition. There are 5 standardized criteria which are formed by using Virginia’s last name as a bacronym – Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration. What is more, Apgar was also the first woman to be a full professor at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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