You’ve heard the adage “Be the change you wish to see in the world?” Well, this year women really took that to heart: A record 257 women won nominations for Congress, female artists topped charts and snagged landmark Emmy nods, and many women spoke out about sexual harassment, gun violence, and injustices—proving time and again that our voices are too strong to be silenced. Ahead, the 56 most inspiring/motivating/pride-inducing female milestones of the last, roughly, 365 days.
A version of this article appeared in the holiday 2018 issue of Marie Claire.
More than 300 women in Hollywood publish a letter announcing the $13 million Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to support women seeking justice for sexual harassment and assault.
Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman delivers a scorching victim- impact statement to Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics national team doctor who sexually abused her and at least 265 other gymnasts: “[The] women you so heartlessly abused…are now a force, and you are nothing.”
Rachel Morrison, director of photography on 2017’s Mudbound, is the first woman to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography.
Pizza Express says it will stop using plastic straws after a five-year-old girl named Ava wrote a letter asking it to do so because straws are “very bad for animals.”
Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama is unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery; Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, who painted President Barack Obama’s portrait, are the first African-American artists to paint the Smithsonian’s official presidential portraits.
After 17 of her classmates and teachers were shot dead in Parkland, Florida, Emma González gives a forceful speech at a gun-control rally, galvanizing the March for Our Lives movement. “If all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” she says.
Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, thwarting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), warns of imminent immigration raids, saying it is her moral and ethical duty.
Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia each win their primaries in Texas, making them the likely first Latinas in Congress from the state. (Spoiler alert: They both win their general elections, too. More on that later.)
Taylor Richardson, 14, an aspiring astronaut from Florida, raises more than $100,000 to send girls to see A Wrinkle in Time.
The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, announces Sarah Zorn as the first woman in its history to serve as regimental commander, the highest-ranking cadet officer, leading the 2,350-student corps.
Ellen Stofan, the former chief scientist at NASA, is named head of the National Air and Space Museum.
Coachella (er, Beychella) will never be the same. As the first black woman to headline the music festival, Beyoncé plays a 27-song set to 100,000-plus concertgoers that includes five Balmain costumes and more than 100 dancers. It’s the most-watched live-streamed performance to date, with 41 million viewers.
New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey win the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for exposing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. (The prizes are awarded by Dana Canedy, the first woman and first African-American to administer the prizes.)
Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults completes an emergency landing after one of the plane’s engines explodes and blows a hole in the cabin, saving 148 lives.
Cardi B breaks the Guinness World Record for most simultaneous Billboard U.S. Hot 100 entries by a woman by having 13 tracks on the list at once, following the release of her album Invasion of Privacy. The album also debuts at number one, making her the fifth female rapper in history to top the famed chart.
Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth casts a historic vote with her newborn daughter, Maile, by her side. The Senate had to first change its outdated rules barring members from bringing guests (including newborns) onto the Senate floor.
Bill Cosby is found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. After the verdict, Constand tweets, “Truth prevails.” In September, Cosby is sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison.
Backstage Capital CEO Arlan Hamilton announces a $36 million fund to invest in black female founders; in 2017, just 2.2 percent of $85 billion in VC funds went to women.
LaToya Cantrell is sworn in as mayor of New Orleans, the first female mayor in the city’s history; now, Louisiana’s three largest cities—Nola, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport—are all led by black women.
The Associated Press reports that women make up a majority—60 percent—of commencement speakers at the U.S.’s top colleges for the first time in at least 20 years.
Stacey Abrams wins the Democratic primary in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, making her the state’s first black female nominee for governor. Thus far, no state has elected a black woman governor.
Stacey Cunningham puts a chip in the glass ceiling over Wall Street when she becomes president of the New York Stock Exchange; with Cunningham’s promotion, and Adena Friedman as head of Nasdaq, both of the world’s largest stock exchanges are women-led for the first time.
Democrat Deb Haaland wins her primary in New Mexico. She'll go on to be elected the first Native American woman in Congress (along with Sharice Davids of Kansas).
London Breed is elected mayor of San Francisco, a first for an African-American woman.
Ava DuVernay, director of A Wrinkle in Time, joins the “$100 million club” of directors with films surpassing $100 million in earnings; DuVernay, the only black female director to achieve the milestone, tweets, “Lovely room to be in. But can’t wait for more sisters to be here.”
Jennifer Lee, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and codirector of Frozen, is named chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Anna and Elsa would be proud.
In a major upset, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old running her first campaign, ousts 10-term incumbent representative Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary.
A surveillance video showing Emelia Holden, a waitress at a pizzeria in Savannah, Georgia, slamming to the ground a male customer who touched her butt goes viral, with four million views within days. “You don’t touch me,” she berated the man, who was arrested and charged with sexual battery.
Women win big in Mexico’s elections, taking 51 percent of the senate and 49 percent of the house. Mexico is now ranked fourth globally for gender parity in legislative representation and the only country with an elected senate that is majority female.
Therese Patricia Okoumou protests the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border by climbing the Statue of Liberty’s base and refusing to leave until “all the children are released.”
Female pro surfers win their fight for equal pay when the World Surf League announces women will be eligible for the same prize money as men in 2019; in 2018, men competed for $607,800, while the women’s pot was $303,900.
Naomi Osaka, the half-Japanese, half-Haitian rising star in tennis, defeats Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final, becoming the first athlete representing Japan to win a Grand Slam Final.
State primaries ahead of the 2018 midterm elections end with a history-making 235 women winning nominations for the house and a record-setting 22 women securing bids for the Senate. There are also a landmark 16 female nominees for governor, and more than a third of all female nominees are women of color. #RepresentationMatters
Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Amazon Studios’ The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, makes Emmy history as the first woman to be awarded for comedy writing and directing in the same year.
Meghan Markle causes an Internet firestorm for daring to close a car door by herself—a break in royal protocol that shows how she is redefining the monarchy.
Christine Blasey Ford bravely testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, alleging then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh groped and attempted to sexually assault her in high school, setting off a national firestorm.
Canadian physicist Donna Strickland is jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics; she’s the first woman in 55 years, and the third in history, to win the physics prize.
Nadia Murad, the 25-year-old Yazidi woman abducted by ISIS in 2014, shares the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for work to end sexual violence. She will donate her $500,000 winnings to her charity, which helps Iraqi women.
Taylor Swift urges her 112 million Instagram followers to register to vote, as does Rihanna two days later to her 65 million followers; more than 434,000 people register in the next five days, 65 percent of whom are under age 30. Way to use your platform for good!
The pink wave is a real thing. Midterm election night comes with a host of firsts for women: More than 100 women are voted into office in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women elected to Congress; over in the upper chamber, Republican Marsha Blackburn becomes Tennessee’s first female senator.
After their school was destroyed in the devastating Camp fire in California, Sheri Eichar, a third-grade teacher in Paradise, CA, turned her three-bedroom house into a makeshift classroom and began hosting lessons just three days after the blaze that destroyed 20 of her 24 students' homes.
New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayla Benson spent $93,502 to pay off about 400 layaway items at a New Orleans-based Walmart. Tis the season!
Carolyn Kenyon (left) and Judith Jones of Ithaca, New York, wipe out $1.5 million in medical debt for 1,284 strangers; the women raised $12,500 and then donated the funds to the debt-forgiveness charity R.I.P. Medical Debt, which purchased and forgave a portfolio of $1.5 million of past-due medical bills on their behalf.
Irene O’Shea of Australia jumps out of a plane on her 102nd birthday, becoming the oldest skydiver in the world. She dedicated the 14,000-ft. plunge to her late daughter, who died of Motor Neuron Disease (also called Lou Gehrig’s) and used it to raise awareness and funds for the illness.
The Indiana Pacers hire Kelly Krauskopf (left) as assistant general manager; she’s the first woman to hold the title in NBA history.