Women need to be celebrated, possibly more than men, because the world has finally shifted, and it’s time to give credit where it’s definitely due. We all came from a woman, and heck, men have had their glory since the beginning of time. There is something very special, sacred and divine about women, especially these extremely inspiring ones through the history of time. They provide unconditional love for the world around them, and truly created long lasting ripple effects that impacted the planet for the better. From record breaking athletes, non-conforming actresses to the stigma breaking fashion designers and models. From the political law changing figures, world changing humanitarians and entrepreneurs to the leaders who pushed the feminist movement and human race forward, here are the 50 most inspiring females of all time. In no particular order and each of them equally giving their gift to the world to change it forever…
1.) Princess Diana
Getting married into the Royal Family meant nothing to Princess Diana in terms of luxury, class and fame. However, it gave her great opportunity to make humongous changes around the world as a Humanitarian, as she spoke to powerful people, visited the poor on the regular and was heavily involved with over hundreds of different charities and causes. She shook the world when she picked up and hugged a 7 year old African boy who had AIDS during a time when stigmas and misconceptions were that the disease was contagious through contact. She was widely known as the People’s Princess, and she inspired the world to make a difference, not matter who you are or where you are from.
“Everyone of us needs to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.”
2.) Mother Teresa
Sacrificing her entire life to helping others, Mother Teresa is the definition of selfless. She got it, she understood this life and the purpose behind it all. She knew what the real meaning of happiness was, and how it was very aligned with the gift of giving and serving. “Others” is the key word, spending our time focusing on ourselves doesn’t create real inner long lasting happiness, but focusing on others, does. Mother Teresa won the Nobel peace prize in 1979 for her humanitarian work which inspired generations of people after her to get involved. Her most notable work consisted of running hospices as she dedicated her life to caring for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta India.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
3.) Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe is much more than just her pretty face and Hollywood image. In fact, she overcame a very difficult childhood including a mother who dealt with mental health issues, and was forced to give her up to adoption. Marilyn bounced around through many foster homes, was sexually abused on many occasions and was raped by just the age of 11. She was an overcomer, she was bold and she was highly ambitious to be an actress rather than a model. Marilyn Monroe was actually much more than the blonde girl next door that she was heavily portrayed as, and she was a brunette who expressed her true self in poems. During an era where therapy was frowned upon, she regularly visited a psychologist for her battles with anxiety and depression – from several miscarriages, many failures in the industry and being always portrayed just for her looks.
“What I really want to say: That what the world really needs is a real feeling of kinship. Everybody: stars, laborers, Negroes, Jews, Arabs. We are all brothers. Please don’t make me a joke. End the interview with what I believe.”
4.) Oprah Winfrey
Oprah’s inspiring life story is about how she battled through so many big personal struggles, from growing up in rural poverty to a teenage unmarried mother, being raped and abused several times by family members, getting pregnant at a young age, running away from home, being the victim of bullying and many other adversities. Within the industry, she overcame huge obstacles and odds – she was not the stereo typical look and she was a black woman. Oprah Winfrey learned compassion and forgiveness and turned her wounds into wisdom. She has a massive purpose outside of herself that revolves around helping others and is an advocate for change.
“I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”
5.) Malala Yousafzai
Today, Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education who won the Nobel peace prize as the youngest recipient ever at just age 17. As a kid, she was an advocate for girl’s education and courageously stood up for her strong beliefs. She was accused by the Taliban, who gave her a death threat. Soon after she was shot on the way home from school and survived the fatal attack. This pushed her even harder to fight for her and other girls’ rights for education across the globe. Although she is still considered a target to the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai stands firm in her awareness spreading mission as an ambassador for change.
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
6.) Florence Nightingale
The pioneer of public health and nursing, Florence Nightingale felt a pull to become a nurse, during a time frame where the occupation was not well looked up to. Her parents and peers opposed her strongly but she persisted in her inner inhibitions and pursued nursing school. During the Crimean war, she began her work as a nurse and noticed more soldiers were dying from the infections in the hospitals than from the battle fields themselves. She insisted on new reforms of fresh air, healthy food, bandages, sheets blankets were properly cleaned. She was a revolutionary individual who reduced the death rate significantly. Florence Nightingale went on to dedicate her life to changes within medical care and founded a new school fro nurses as well as creating new concepts to maximize health for the community.
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.”
7.) Marie Stopes
Marie Stopes was an author, palaeobotonist and a revolutionary woman who was behind eugenics and women’s rights, especially in regards to abortion. She began the first birth control clinic in Britain and brought a lot of awareness to the subject through her newsletters.
“You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul’s own doing.”
8.) Anita Roddick
Founder of the Body Shop, Anita Roddick was an entrepreneur who had some serious vision revolving around natural beauty and cosmetic products. Her company was very ethical and proud of it’s practices, they prohibited animals testing and they promoted fair trade with third world countries. Anita Roddick is much more than just a business woman, she was also an activist who supported many environmental and social issues. She supported many charities and created COTE – Children On The Edge, which is an organization dedicated to Romanian orphanages, helping disadvantaged children who are affected by natural disasters, disabilities and HIV. In 2005, she would give away petty much her entire fortune of $104 million.
“If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just.”
9.) Diana Vreeland
One of the biggest fashion moguls of all time, Diana Vreeland was a journalist for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and ‘Vogue’. She was an influential woman who wanted to celebrate what made women unique. She was well known for her take on fashion and beauty, but she was prolifically noted for admiring the imperfections, for example Barbara Streisand’s nose was pictured up close on Vogue, and others were glorified for their authenticity where everyone else just saw flaws. She would also become a consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she would conduct fashion exhibits.
“The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”
10.) Katharine Hepburn
One of the great actresses who shaped the Hollywood industry with her high spirit and entertaining persona, Katharine Hepburn led the way for over 60 years. She pushed constantly changed the game and pioneered through many different genres. She would challenge herself immensely, taking on vast roles from comedy to dramas and eventually she succeeded at Shakespearean plays. Katharine was inspirational in that she never conformed to the way Hollywood wished to perceive woman. In fact she conformed against societies ways too! She was married briefly for a short time, but then lived most of her life independently. She was the first to wear trousers and she was much more assertive, outspoken and even athletic from the way women were in those days.
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
11.) Millicent Fawcett
Standing up for women’s rights and equality, Millicent Fawcett pushed humanity further. She was in charge of NUWSS, which was the largest suffrage organization. She was also a big contributing reason for women being the given the right to exercise a vote. Millicent had a strong calling for education and founded the Newnham College in Cambridge. She was heavily involved with other political aspects regarding worker’s rights and assisted in bending many laws in the nature of dual morality between men and women.
“A large part of the present anxiety to improve the education of girls and women is also due to the conviction that the political disabilities of women will not be maintained.”
12.) Hillary Clinton
Serving as the first lady from 93 to 2001, Hillary Clinton is the only American first lady to hold national office as she became a U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009. She ran for presidency until Obama had majority delegate votes, however Obama selected her as the United States Secretary of State from 2009 and 2013. Hillary continues to inspire others, especially women, as she proved that they can rise up and get into powerful positions and push for major changes. She continuously encouraged the empowerment of women and has authored several books. Hillary Clinton is no where near slowing down.
“We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”
13.) Rosa parks
An African American civil rights activist, Rosa Parks is widely known as the “first lady of civil rights”. Refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, Rosa Parks stood up for what knew was right. She was fired from her job and received many death threats. However, this act of courage in the Montgomery bus boycott became a symbol for racist segregation and she would work and collaborate alongside many civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. She would also support the political prisoners and she was involved with the Black Power movement.
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
14.) Indira Ghandi
A very influential women who served as prime minister for 15 years in a country where women were often very inferior. She led the country to becoming a democratic country until her 1984 assassination.
“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.”
15.) Audrey Hepburn
As a British actress and humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn followed her intuitive nudges very instinctively. She was considered the third greatest actress in the golden era of Hollywood and she was widely known for being a fashion icon. However, after her career, she began to be highly inspired by other worldly causes. She would go on to become a UNICEF Ambassador and travel to many third world countries to help with different global issues. She laid the pillars of foundations for the future of Hollywood stars to become involved with charitable causes.
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
16.) Marie Curie
Marie Curie was a breakthrough chemist and physicist who was in fact, the first person to ever win 2 Nobel Prize awards. She was also the first female professor at the University Of Paris and she was most famous for her findings and work within radioactivity.
“Have no fear of perfection; you’ll never reach it.””Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.”
17.) Helena Rubinstein
Helena moved to Australia in 1902 with massive odds opposing her, she had no money and knew hardly any english. yet she was able to create one of the biggest cosmetic companies in the world though you unique findings in sheep wool grease, lanolin and scented flowers. She would on to becoming one of the wealthiest women ever!
“Hard work keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit.”
18.) George Sand
George Sand was a socialist, novelist and essayist who broke major stigmas by wearing male clothing in public higher society circles. A non-conformist who shock the world with her idealistic ways. She was also known for starting her own newspaper company in a male dominant world.
“Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.”
19.) Margaret Thatcher
A brave and daunting woman in a political position, Margaret Thatcher was no easy woman to walk over. And for that, she had many haters, but at the same time many adorers of her uncompromising ways to not give in. Graduating from Oxford, she went on to become the first ever prime minister of England and served as the 5th longest leader.
“What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.”
20.) Angelina Jolie
Growing up and always feeling like an outcast, Angelina Jolie felt a challenge to find her unique self and was at one point known to be suicidal and depressed. Thankfully, her life course changed direction and she found much more purpose. Today, she is an inspirational woman not only for being an A-list actress and filmmaker, but for her role as a humanitarian and for promoting and supporting several important worldly causes from conservation and education, to women’s rights. She has adopted three kids from third world countries, and is noted as one of the most beautiful women in the world as well as one of the most influential.
“When I get logical, and I don’t trust my instincts – that’s when I get in trouble.”
21.) Coco Chanel
Growing up with a humble start, Coco Chanel worked as a club singer and hat maker. Coco would become notorious for her daring bold trend setting ways as she brought the comfort and style of men’s clothing into the female marketplace. In other words she was responsible for pant’s and suits for ladies rather than the traditional skirts and dresses. Her impact was massive and she goes down in history as oone of the great female entrepreneurs.
“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
22.) J.K. Rowling
Taking her imagination to new heights while battling through poverty and welfare turned J.K. Rowling into a female billionaire very quick. She had the right dose of vision as she created children’s novels all while riding a train as a single mother with her child.
“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
23.) Mary Quant
A fashion designer who changed the game rather than just play it the way it was already played. Mary Quant took the industry to a whole new level and shaped the sixties when she created the mini skirt and hot pants.
“Risk it; go for it. Life always gives you another chance, another go at it. It’s very important to take enormous risks.”
Madonna embarked a career like no other, making huge imprints on pop culture through music, film and even children’s books. She has always been very bold, raw and innovative, beinding the old to make way fro the new. Her non-conforming and unconventional ways make her revolutionary while remaining her self-expressive authentic self.
“I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams.”
25.) Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst fought for women’s rights with her husband until he passed away. Being a very passion driven woman, she never gave up her dream and would create the Suffragettes group alongside her 3 daughters. The political activist union fought hard to eventually earn the right for women to vote.
“”We are here not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.”
26.) Maria Callas
Maria Callas overcame huge odds to become one of the greatest Opera singers of all time. She was nearly blind, considered an “ugly duckling” by her own mother, was often considered very overweight, she was rejected from attending a certain school, and her voice always seemed to be criticized and it failed to impress the right people. Maria had the grits however, she overcame through an era where much wartime poverty existed and in a long road of adversity, she had the perseverance and passion to see her dreams unfold.
“I don’t need the money, dear. I work for art.”
27.) Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington is best known as the founder of the very popular website Huffington Post. She is an empowering entrepreneur who has done it all – from writing several best selling books, acting, and has been involved in politics from a journalist point of view with strong perspectives.
“But you have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid.”
28.) Kathryn Bigelow
The first female director to ever win an Oscar Academy Award for Hurt Locker where she beat out her ex husband James Cameron.
“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”
29.) Amelia Earhart
In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman ever to fly a plane on a solo mission. In 1935, she would go on to become the first female pilot ever, and changed the course of history.
“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.”
30.) Michelle Obama
From humble beginnings of being raised in a small one bedroom apartment in Chicago to becoming one of the best dressed first lady’s who prides herself in education, Michelle Obama took her life into her own hands. She is extremely intelligent and has studied at some of the most prestigious academic schools in Princeton and Harvard. And she is always concerned about the deeper issues and is always involved in helping big causes such as her campaign to fight child obesity.
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.”
31.) Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto was the first female leader in a Muslim country as she was the 11th prime minister of Pakistan. That alone is a grand accomplishment like no other. To add to her impressive resume, she was also responsible for ending military dictatorship in her country and was a strong supporter who fought very had for women’s rights. She also brought down the population growth rate.
“A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.“
32.) Billie Jean King
As a female tennis hero who won 20 Wimbledon titles, Billie Jean King did the unimaginable when she beat male tennis star Bobby Riggs for a $100,000 prize win after he made the sexist remark that men are the more superior athletes. This moment in history was a big accomplishment for women everywhere as it truly inspired them across the globe and for generations to follow that women can do anything they believe.
“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”
33.) Aung Sang Suu Kyi
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her acts of courage as she underwent 15 years of house arrest for protesting against dictator U Ne Win. She is a very powerful activist who has been serving many different sentences for her brave efforts to speak her voice loud and proud about democracy and many political and social issues in her native Myanmar.
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”
34.) Maya Angelou
As a writer, civil rig activist, poet and public speaker, Maya Angelou inspired people – especially women and African American. She endured a very colorful life full of many ups and downs and she shared her wisdom to the world through her ,many findings. She has been a prostitute, a poet, and a journalist in Egypt during the decolonization of Africa, just to put her diverse world into perspective.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
35.) Anne Frank
As a young confident and fearless Jewish girl who was hiding out in Netherlands from the Germans, Anne Frank wrote in a diary given by her father, about witnessing the torturous events of the Nazis during the Holocaust. Her book was discovered years later and became one of the most popular books ever.
“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
As a female music icon, Beyoncé Knowles has been empowering women everywhere to embrace being independent, confident and successful. Beyoncé is a multi talented entertainer who sings, performs, acts, and is involved with several charities and organizations as well as being an active business woman. She has huge influential power and she carries it with integrity.
“When you love and accept yourself, when you know who really cares about you, and when you learn from your mistakes, then you stop caring about what people who don’t know you think.”
37.) Venus Williams
From enduring a rough childhood growing up in Compton to becoming a tennis champion and a 4 time Olympic medallist, Venus Williams learned how to channel the negative environments and use it as motivation to succeed.
“Some people say I have attitude – maybe I do… but I think you have to. You have to believe in yourself when no one else does – that makes you a winner right there.”
38.) Diane Von Furstenburg
From a fashion design that brands solely around the empowerment of women through several catch mantras and slogans. Diane Von Furstenburg even created the DVF awards which is based on inspiring women who have made big impacts and serve as great leaders.
“I don’t like to talk about my dreams. I like to make them happen. I prefer to talk about them when they’re done.”
39.) Gloria Steinman
Gloria Steinman is considered the pioneer in the feminism movement and her efforts would never go unnoticed. She co-founded a feminist themed magazine as well as many female groups and was the key leader in the women’s liberation movement.
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
40.) Angela Merkel
The first female Chancellor of one of the most powerful nations on the planet, Germany, Angela Merkel served not only as a political woman, but is also known for her scientific research and is the Leader of the Christian Democratic Union.
“When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises.”
41.) Eva Peron
As an Argentinean civil rights leader, actress and first lady, she took a big initiative to make a change amongst women’s rights and even helping to improve the lives of the poor.
“I demanded more rights for women because I know what women had to put up with.”
42.) Barbara Walters
As a broadcast journalist, news anchor, TV host and author, Barbara Walters has the first female to ever co-anchor an evening news program. She is widely known for her ambitious efforts to get the first interviews and address the real questions that the public wants to know. She has had many critics due to this, however Barbara Walters continued to pursue what she felt was politically correct.
“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”
43.) Yoko Ono
As a peaceful protestor alongside her boyfriend John Lennon, Yoko Ono served to inspire millions in a generation that was thirsty for the truth. She wore several hats from art, music to filmmaking and being activist.
“Remember, each one of us has the power to change the world. Just start thinking peace, and the message will spread quicker than you think.”
44.) Coretta Scott King
Husband of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta was an American author, activist and civil rights leader who stood strong behind her beliefs. She was a very driven woman who helped in leading the African American Civil Rights movement. She would even use her voice to sing about powerful messages.
“I’m fulfilled in what I do. I never thought that a lot of money or fine clothes – the finer things of life – would make you happy. My concept of happiness is to be filled in a spiritual sense.”
45.) Patti Smith
Patti Smith was a musician, poet and visual artist who used her talents to spread a positive message. She was always about liberation and freedom and used her music to express peace and equality.
“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
46.) Marissa Mayer
As the President and CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer proves to the world that women can seek and secure extremely top end executive positions for massive conglomerate companies. She was initially a key person for Google but made switch for a higher position with Yahoo. Marissa Mayer was listed as 6th on the Fortune 40 under 40 list.
“I always did something I was a lit not ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘wow I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough.”
47.) Bethany Hamilton
As a professional surfer, Bethany Hamilton, at age 13 survived a vicious shark attack that took off her left arm. In an incredible 3 weeks after the fatal and traumatic experience, she remarkably returned to her passion and learned how to adapt with what she had. In fact, she went on to win several competitions and wrote a book about the event and her comeback too!
“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what littler girls are made of.”
48.) Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen is very well liked for her positive spirit and her bold ways for being a true extension of who she really is. She came out publicly about her sexuality and her fan base loved her for her authenticity and strength. On her very popular daytime show, Ellen is always expressing herself and doing her best to lighten the load for the entire world with her witty comedy, hilarious dance moves and her extremely optimistic energy – which is highly contagious.
“Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.”
49.) Barbara Streisand
As the most successful female recording artist of all time and a big time achiever in every field of endeavour she has taken part in, Barbara Streisand is the definition of pure focus, mastery and attaining perfection. She endured many life challenges from a painful childhood of never fitting in for looking different and being very shy, her father passing away at age 15, being raised by a single mother through extreme poverty, being verbally abused by her step father and never attending college.
“You have to do discover you, what you do, and trust it.”
50.) Alek Wek
Alek Wek is a South Sudanese British Model who helped change the typical look and perception of beauty and fashion within the industry. She fled her home in Sudan due to the turmoil regarding the civil war and became a model in Britain at the age of 18 as she broke down stereotypical look!
“I have no problem with whatever the next big look is. Just don’t try and tell me that only one look is beautiful.”