Women across the globe have been fighting for equal rights for themselves and for others since the beginning of time. Yes, we're still often faced with blatant discrimination on the basis of sex, but real progress has been made. For inspiration that'll drive you to make your own mark on the world, find inspiration in the 45 women, ahead, who have shifted our culture in meaningful ways.
In 1928, Earhart was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She was also the 16th woman to be issued a pilot's license. She mysteriously disappeared during a flight in 1937, and was pronounced legally dead two years later.
When her husband FDR took office, Eleanor didn't just stand by—she dramatically changed the role of the first lady, advocating for human rights, women's rights, and children's causes. She went on to become chair of the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission in 1945.
In 1934, Hopper earned her Ph.D. in mathematics, becoming one of the very few women to hold such a degree. She went on to help "develop a compiler that was a precursor to the widely used COBOL language" for computers, and she became a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.
A force in the art world, Kahlo became known in Mexico and around the world for creating thought-provoking works grounded in magical realism. Her 1938 self-portrait, titled "The Frame," was the first work by a 20th-century Mexican artist to ever be featured in the Louvre.
The "Golden Age" actress was credited for helping to co-invent a radio signaling device, a.k.a a “Secret Communications System.” The system changed radio frequencies to confuse and hinder enemies during World War II, and it's a crucial part of how we communicate wirelessly today.
This photo of Parker bending over machinery with her hair pulled back in a red bandana was the inspiration behind behind "Rosie the Riveter." A version of Rosie was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943 in a patriotic campaign to get women into the workforce, but the iconic photo was originally created as a poster for Westinghouse Electric Corporation with the now-popular phrase,”We Can Do It.”
Frank was a young Jewish girl who died in a concentration camp in 1945. Her father, Otto Frank, escaped and published his daughter's now-famous diaries in 1947, which chronicled her experiences during the Holocaust. Her writing has helped historians (and readers) better understand the time.
The beloved sitcom I Love Lucy made its television debut in 1951. Ball became known as one of America’s top comedians for her iconic role on the show, which had storylines about marital issues and women in the workforce.
After the death of her father King George VI, Elizabeth became Queen on February 6, 1952, but her official coronation wasn’t until June 2, 1953. She is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch to date, and she’s made numerous changes to the monarchy during her rule.
Back in the '50s, the rule in Montgomery, Alabama, was that if a bus became full, the seats at the front would be given to white passengers. Parks, a leader in the local NAACP and the civil rights movement, iconically refused to give up her seat. Her willingness to disobey the rule helped to spark the Montgomery boycott and other efforts to end segregation in America.
She was already a widely-known American jazz singer when, in 1958, she made history, becoming the first African American woman to win a Grammy. She collected two that year: best individual jazz performance and best female vocal performance.
Serena Williams might be the most famous tennis player on earth, but she might not have gotten her start if not for the persistence of Althea Gibson. In 1951, Gibson made her historic debut as the first African American woman to play at Wimbledon.
Sanger, a feminist and women's rights activist, coined the term "birth control." She wrote pamphlets and opened a women's health clinic decades before her biggest achievement—getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, in 1960, six years before her death.
After starring in the 1961 film adaptation of The West Side Story, Moreno rocketed into superstardom, going on to work in Hollywood and on Broadway in numerous roles. Today, she is still the only Latino to earn the coveted EGOT (which means she's won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony).
Friedan is best known for writing the book The Feminine Mystique, which encourages women to seek more opportunities for themselves outside traditional home-based roles. She went on to co-found and become president of the National Organization for Women.
Goodall began studying chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park of Tanzania in 1960, and her extensive research (which has spanned almost 60 years) has provided some of the most groundbreaking insight into the minds and social lives of our closest relative, chimpanzees. The primatologist and anthropologist went on to found the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 as well as the Roots and Shoots program in 1991 as an effort to encourage wildlife conservation efforts.
In 1966, Gandhi became the third prime minister of India, and is one of few examples of women rising to power in the country. She continued in her role for more than 20 years until she was assassinated in 1984.
Johnson, a mathematician, was one of the brains behind the complex calculations that helped us fly into space. In 1969, she helped to successfully send the first man to the moon. Her work is highlighted in the film Hidden Figures, about the pioneering African American women at NASA.
When she joined forces with the popular band Sonora Matancera in 1950, Cruz had no idea that she would become the voice of a nation; throughout the '60s, the "Queen of Salsa" became one of the most prolific musicians in Latin America. At the same time, Cruz championed the cause of her fellow Cubans during the regime of Fidel Castro, speaking out against the violence of his government.
In 1968, Chisholm made history when she became the first Black woman to be elected into Congress. The Brooklyn-born activist and political leader later entered the 1975 Democratic presidential race—the first woman and the first Black American to do so.
Greer was well-known for holding radical feminist views, and her book The Female Eunuch, published in 1970, was pivotal in post-second wave feminism literature. Her book explores how society imposes expected behaviors on women.
Known for her progressive politics and work to abolish prisons, scholar and activist Angela Davis has been at the forefront of leftist causes–including the feminist movement, the Black Panther Party, and the anti-war effort–for over half-a-century. In 1970, the state of California prosecuted and wrongfully imprisoned Davis for three capital felonies, including conspiracy to murder, after an armed standoff occurred in a Marin County courtroom. She was released over a year later, in 1972. Undaunted, she continues to advocate for civil rights, gender equity, and prison abolition.
Memphis-born and Detroit-raised, Franklin was destined to be a legend. She got her start singing gospel music but made her name in soul with songs like "Chain of Fools," "Rock Steady," and the iconic anthem "Respect." In 1987, she was the first woman ever to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Mountaineer Junko Tabei shattered gender norms in 1975 when she became the first woman to successfully climb Mount Everest. She strengthened her legacy by later becoming the first woman ever to reach the Seven Peaks (the highest points of the earth's seven continents) in 1992.
Nicknamed "Mama Africa," Makeba is renowned throughout South Africa and the rest of the continent for her endless activism. She used her global platform as a singer-songwriter to speak against apartheid in the '70s and '80s, calling attention to the plight of black South Africans through her music.
Streep has now broken her own record for most Oscar nominations—21 to be exact. Her first nomination was for 1978's The Deer Hunter, but she didn't end up winning an Oscar until 1980 for her performance in Kramer vs. Kramer.
Bhutto became the first woman prime minister of Pakistan in 1988. After a military coup overthrew her father's government, she inherited leadership of the Pakistan People's Party . She pushed for open elections, and won, just three months after giving birth.
In 1981, O'Connor became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. O'Connor was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, and the senate vote to appoint her was unanimous. She was a key swing vote in upholding big cases, like Roe v. Wade.
Ride became the first American woman to travel to space on the shuttle Challenger in 1983. The astrophysicist and Stanford-grad beat out at least 1,000 other applicants for a spot in the NASA astronaut program.
Tan was the author of the book The Joy Luck Club, which “explored the relationship between Chinese women and their Chinese-American daughters.” It was the longest-running New York Times best-sellers in 1989. The novel has been translated into 25 different languages since it was first published.