March is the month to celebrate the women who have fought for equal rights for themselves and for others. Ahead, find inspiration for Women's History Month with 30 women who have made their mark on our culture in meaningful ways.
The actress—formerly known for her scandalous love affairs—started the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation after her close friend, Rock Hudson, died from the disease. The foundation lends support to those who are sick, and funds research for more advanced treatments. Taylor was a pioneer at a time when many celebrities and most politicians were not talking about the AIDS crisis.
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 Theodore Roosevelt 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.
The "Golden Age" actress was credited for helping to co-invent a radio signaling device, a.k.a “Secret Communications System.” The system changed radio frequencies so that enemies couldn’t decode messages, 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.”
The Kenyan long-distance runner became the first African American woman to win the NYC Marathon in 1994. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Since Loroupe's victory, Kenyan women have won five of the intervening New York marathons and now own six world records in distance running." She has her own peace and humanitarian foundation called the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.
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 in 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 known bus 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 her seat when the bus became full. Her willingness to disobey the rule helped to spark the Montgomery boycott and other efforts to end segregation in America.
She was a widely-known American jazz singer, and in 1958, she made history, becoming the first African American woman to win a Grammy.
Sanger was the first person to coin the term "birth control" through her work as a feminist and women's rights activist. Sanger’s work with birth control long precedes her biggest achievement—getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, in 1960.
Friedan is best known for writing the book The Feminine Mystique, which encourages women to seek more opportunities for themselves outside their traditional roles at home. She went on to co-found and become president of the National Organization for Women.
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 over 20 years until she was assassinated in 1984.
Johnson 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.
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.
Rowling is the author of the popular Harry Potter series. In 1999, the first three installments of the books took over the top three spots on the New York Times bestseller list. The first novel came out in 1997.
Streep has now broken her own record for most Oscar nominations—21 to be exact. Her first nomination was in 1979, but she didn't end up winning an Oscar until the next year for her performance in Kramer vs. Kramer.
Bhutto became the first woman prime minister of Pakistan after a military coup overthrew her father's government and won.
In 1981, she 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.
Jemison was the first African American woman to be accepted into NASA’s astronaut program. She went on to also become the first African American woman to fly into space in 1992 aboard the Endeavour.
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 one of the longest-running New York Times best-sellers for 1989. The novel has been translated into 25 different languages since it was first published.
She became the first female secretary of state in 1996 under President Clinton, representing the United States in foreign affairs.
Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 and began her term in January 2001, becoming the first American first lady to ever win a public seat. She went on to become the first U.S. woman in history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party.
Frank was a young Jewish girl who was killed in a concentration camp in 1945. Her father, Otto Frank, escaped and published his daughter's famous diaries in 1947, chronicling her experiences during the Holocaust, two years after her death. Her writing has helped historians (and readers) better understand the time.
Winfrey started out as a Nashville reporter in the '70s before she was offered her own 30-minute talk show on a Chicago station. The Oprah Winfrey Show went national in 1986. She became the first female African American billionaire in 2003.
Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her film The Hurt Locker, which also won Best Picture in 2009, making it the first film by a woman director to win that honor.
Yousafzai survived a gunshot wound to the face by the Taliban, and has since become a spokesperson for human rights, education, and women’s rights. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
DuVernay was the first female African American director to earn a Golden Globe nomination, and have a film nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, both for "Selma." She recently directed the film A Wrinkle in Time, starring Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mindy Kaling.