These 125 Influential Women Will Inspire You To Crush Your Goals

March 8, 2023
8 mins read
These 125 Influential Women Will Inspire You To Crush Your Goals

Truly inspiring women in American history and beyond.

Women don’t always get the credit they deserve, but they’ve paved the way for so many other women and men as authors, activists, entertainers, business people, scientists, and so much more. And they continue to do so.

Whether you’re feeling uninspired or simply want to be reminded of just how amazing women are, here are 125 influential famous women in history!

Famous Women in History

Influential actresses and entertainers

  1. Katharine Hepburn, 1907-2003. Known for Lion In Winter, On Golden Pond and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
  2. Marilyn Monroe, 1926-1962. Known for Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  3. Ruby Dee, 1922-2014. Known for American Gangster, A Raisin In The Sun and Do The Right Thing.
  4. Julie Andrews, 1935-. Known for The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and The Princess Diaries. 
  5. Ellen Burstyn, 1932-. Known for Requiem For A Dream, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and The Exorcist. 
  6. Whoopi Goldberg1955-. Known for Ghost, Sister Act and The Color Purple. 
  7. Viola Davis, 1965-. Known for Fences, The Help and Widows. 
  8. Meryl Streep, 1949-. Known for The Devil Wears Prada, Sophie’s Choice and August: Osage County.
  9. Bette Davis, 1908-9189. Known for All About Eve and What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 
  10. Ingrid Bergman, 1915-1982. Known for Notorious!, Spellbound and Gaslight.
  11. Vivien Leigh, 1913-1967. Known for A Streetcar Named Desire, Gone With The Wind and Waterloo Bridge.
  12. Awkwafina, 1988-. Known for Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell; first woman of Asian descent to win a golden globe for lead actress in a film category.
  13. Alfre Woodard, 1952-. Known for Star Trek: First Contact and Twelve Years A Slave. 
  14. Helen Mirren, 1945-. Known for Red, The Queen and Hitchcock
  15. Samantha Bee, 1969-. Comedian, political commentator, longest-running Daily Show correspondent, host of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”
  16. Margaret Cho, 1968-. Standup comedian, famous for her critiques of social and political problems.
  17. Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011. Known for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer.
  18. Audrey Hepburn, 1929-1993. Known for Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Charade and Roman Holiday.
  19. Judy Garland, 1922-1969. Known for The Wizard of Oz and A Star Is Born. 
  20. Dorothy Dandridge, 1922-1965. Known for Carmen Jones, Porgy and Bess and Bright Road
  21. Joan Crawford, 1904-1977. Known for What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, Mildred Pierce and Sudden Fear.
  22. Lauren Bacall, 1924-2014. Known for To Have And Have Not and The Big Sleep. 
  23. Shirley MacLaine, 1934-. Known for Terms of Endearment, The Apartment and Steel Magnolias. 
  24. Jane Fonda1937-. Known for Klute and Barbarella. 
  25. Sissy Spacek, 1949-. Known for In The Bedroom, Carrie and Coal Miner’s Daughter. 
  26. Marlene Dietrich, 1901-1992. Known for Witness For The Prosecution, Touch of Evil and Judgement at Nuremberg.
  27. Lucy Liu, 1961-. Known for Kill Bill and Charlie’s Angels
  28. Maureen O’Hara, 1920-2015 Known for The Quiet Man, Miracle On 34th Street and The Parent Trap.

Famous female authors

  1. Jane Austen, 1775-1817. Author of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility and more.
  2. Louisa May Alcott, 1832-1888. Author of Little Women. 
  3. J.K. Rowling, 1965-. Author of the Harry Potter series.
  4. Toni Morrison, 1931-2019. Author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and more.
  5. Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941. Author of Mrs. Dalloway, A Room of One’s Own, To The Lighthouse and more.
  6. Margaret Atwood, 1939-. Author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. 
  7. Mary Shelley, 1797-1851. Author of Frankenstein.
  8. Charlotte Bronte, 1816-1855. Author of Jane Eyre. 
  9. Zadie Smith, 1975-. Author of White Teeth and On Beauty. 
  10. AgathaChristie, 1890-1976. Known for writing 66 detective novels.
  11. Octavia E. Butler, 1947-2006. Known for Kindred and Parable of the Sower. 
  12. Harper Lee, 1926-2016. Author of To Kill A Mockingbird.
  13. Isabelle Allende, 1942-. Author of The House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune.
  14. Alice Walker, 1944-. Author of The Color Purpose. 
  15. George Eliot, 1819-1880. Author of Middlemarch and Silas Marner.
  16. Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960. Author of Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  17. Joan Didion, 1934-. Author of The Year of Magical Thinking, Play It As It Lays and more.
  18. Willa Cather, 1873-1947. Author of O Pioneers! and The Sound Of The Lark. 

Influential women pioneers in medicine, science and math

  1. Ann Preston, 1813-1872. American physician who worked to educate women about their bodies.
  2. Mary Edwards Walker, 1832-1919. Surgeon, abolitionist, and only female student in her medical school in 1855.
  3. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, 1831-1895. The first black woman to earn her medical degree in the United States.
  4. Mary Putnam Jacobi, 1842-1906. Medical physician, scientist and suffragette.
  5. Alice Ball, 1892-1916. African American chemist who developed the most effective treatment for leprosy in the early 1920s.
  6. Amelia Earhart, 1897-1937. Aviator and first-ever woman to fly solo across the country.
  7. Georgia E.L. Patton, 1842-1906. First black doctor to be a licensed doctor in the state of Tennessee.
  8. Marie Curie, 1867-1934. Physicist and scientist who discovered two new elements and coined the term “radioactivity.”
  9. Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852. English mathematician and the world’s first computer programmer.
  10. Edith Clarke, 1883-1969. Inventor of the Clarke calculator, a calculator that sped up the calculation of engineering equations.
  11. Grace Hopper, 1906-1992. Computer scientist who helped invent English programming languages.
  12. Sally Ride, 1951-2012. Astronaut and the first American woman to go to space.

Related: 10 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions (With Apps to Help Achieve Them) 

Famous female politicians

  1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 1989-. Activist, U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, and the youngest woman to serve in the United States Congress.
  2. Elizabeth Warren, 1949-. U.S. senator from Massachusetts, bankruptcy expert, 2020 presidential candidate.
  3. Angela Merkel, 1954-. German politician who has served as the chancellor of Germany since 2005.
  4. Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955. Director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on issues of minority affairs and interracial relations.
  5. Hillary Clinton, 1947-. Former Senator, Secretary of State and first-ever woman to be nominated for president by a major party.
  6. Carol Moseley Braun, 1947-. Illinois Senator, first woman of color elected to the U.S. Senate.
  7. Nancy Pelosi, 1940-. First woman to hold the position of speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  8. Julia C. Addington, 1829-1875. First woman elected to public office in Iowa, some records indicate she may have been the first woman ever elected to public office in the U.S.
  9. Madeleine Albright, 1937-. First woman to be elected Secretary of State in the United States
  10. Tammy Baldwin, 1962-. First openly gay person elected U.S. Senator, first woman elected in the Wisconsin senate.
  11. Elaine Chao, 1953-. Served as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, first Asian American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet.
  12. Shirley Chisholm, 1924-2005. First black woman elected to congress, a steadfast advocate of liberal causes.
  13. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, 1916-2000. Former head of state of Sri Lanka, first woman to become head of government in a modern state.
  14. Geraldine Ferraro, 1935-2011. First woman to chair the Democratic platform committee, first female vice-presidential candidate for a major party.
  15. Gabby Giffords, 1970-. U.S. Representative from Arizona who resigned in 2012 following brain injuries sustained in an attempted assassination, gun control advocate.
  16. Patricia Roberts Harris, 1924-1985. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977, first black woman to hold a Cabinet position.

Influential activists

  1. Simone de Beauvoir, 1908-1986. Author of The Second Sex, a book that paved the way for modern feminism.
  2. Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962. First Lady of the United States, known for being outspoken and involved in women’s issues.
  3. Betty Friedan, 1921-2006. Author of The Feminine Mystique. 
  4. Gwen Ifill, 1955-2016 . Journalist for The New York Times and The Washington Post, first African American woman to moderate a major television-news analysis show.
  5. Gloria Steinem, 1934-. Co-founder of Ms. magazine and women’s rights activist.
  6. Angela Davis, 1944-. Political activist and famous leader in the women’s and Black Power movements.
  7. Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006. Wife of Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for women’s equality.
  8. Tanana Burke, 1973-. Founder of the #metoo movement.
  9. Rosa Parks, 1913-2005. After a refusal to give up her seat on the bus, Rosa Parks sparked the civil rights movement.
  10. Maya Angelou1928-2014. Famous for her writing and public speeches that inspired people to overcome gender and race discrimination.
  11. Audre Lord, 1934-1992. Writer, poet and civil rights activist.
  12. Patrice Cullors, 1984-. Co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  13. Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883. Abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
  14. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-. Supreme Court justice and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter.
  15. Yoko Ono, 1933-. Wife of the late John Lennon, peaceful protester and voice for gender equality.
  16. Oprah Winfrey, 1954-. TV show host who has dedicated her life to helping women grow and thrive.
  17. Greta Thunberg, 2003-. Climate change activist.
  18. Malala Yousafzai, 1997-. Author of I Am Malala, a memoir that documents her fight for access to education in Pakistan.
  19. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 1977-. Author and feminist, famous for her TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists.”
  20. Beyonce Knowles, 1981-. Singer and songwriter, brought the feminist movement to modern-day pop culture.
  21. Roxane Gay, 1974-. Author of Bad Feminist.
  22. Edith Cowan, 1861-1932. Australia’s first-ever female member of parliament and women’s rights activist.
  23. Jodi Kantor, 1975-. Pulitzer prize-winning American Journalist who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse story with fellow journalist Megan Twohey.
  24. Shannon Watts, 1970-. Founder of the gun violence prevention organization Moms Demand Action.
  25. NikoleHannah-Jones, 1976-. An investigative journalist is famous for her coverage of civil rights in the United States.
  26. Emma Gonzalez, 1999-. Survivor of the Parkland, Floria shootings and outspoken advocate for gun control.
  27. Bella Azbug, 1920-1998. Lawyer specializing in labor and civil rights in the ’50s and ’60s, vocal member of the anti-war movement.
  28. Abigail Adams, 1744-1818. Wife of John Adams, women’s rights and anti-slavery activist.
  29. Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977. Civil rights activist, member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, co-founder of Mississippi Freedom Democratic party.

Related: Ignite Your Inner Fire With These 125 Empowering Quotes From Some Of The Strongest Women In History

Famous women in sports

  1. Doris Burke, 1965-. American sports announcer and the first female announcer to call a New York Knicks game.
  2. Becky Hammon, 1977- . First female assistant coach in NBA history.
  3. Jackie MacMullan, 1960-. Trailblazing female sports journalist.
  4. Pat Summitt, 1952-2016. Women’s college basketball head coach who accrued 1,098 wins throughout her career—the most in college basketball history.
  5. Billie Jean King, 1943-. Former number one professional tennis player, winner of 39 Grand Slam titles.
  6. Megan Rapinoe, 1985-. Professional women’s soccer player and LGBTQ activist.
  7. Abby Wambach, 1980-. Retired soccer player, coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
  8. Michele Roberts, 1956-. The first woman to become executive director of the NBA.
  9. Simone Biles1997-. Gold medal-winning gymnast.
  10. Linda Cohn, 1959-. Sportscaster for ESPN.
  11. Serena Williams, 1981-. Professional women’s tennis player and the winner of the most single titles of any woman or man.
  12. Venus Williams, 1980-. Professional women’s tennis player credited for igniting a new wave of power in women’s tennis.

Influential women in business

  1. Sheila Johnson, 1949-. Co-founder of BET, CEO of Salamander Hotels and the first black woman to attain a net worth of a billion dollars.
  2. Sheryl Sandberg, 1969-. CEO of Facebook and founder of the “lean in” movement.
  3. Marissa Mayer, 1975-. Former CEO of Yahoo!
  4. Indra Nooyi, 1955-. CEO of PepsiCo and consistently ranked among the world’s most powerful women.
  5. Arianna Huffington, 1950-. Politician and founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global.
  6. Martha Stewart, 1941-. Retail businesswoman, TV personality, and founder of Martha Stewart Omnimedia.
  7. Mary Barra, 1961-. CEO of General Motors.
  8. Marilyn Hewson, 1954-. President and CEO of Lockheed Martin.
  9. Abigail Johnson, 1961-. American billionaire and president and CEO of Fidelity Investments.
  10. Ginni Rometty, 1957-. President and CEO of IBM.

Feeling inspired? Watch these amazing feminist movies to celebrate Women’s History Month.

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