Go Big or Go Home
Women with power is a relatively new concept — if you’re taking into account thousands upon thousands of years of international history. Having the resources, influence, and autonomy to be textbook “powerful” is the trifecta most women traditionally have been denied.
But recent progress (think the last 100 years or so), along with even more recent progress, has yielded a growing list of women who have not only possessed power — they’ve talked about it.
Alice Walker is a highly decorated poet, author, and activist. She has published seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. Her 1983 novel, The Color Purple, earned the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, making her the first African-American woman to win the award.
Anita Hill is an attorney and a professor of social policy, law, and women's studies at Brandeis University. In 1991, she famously accused her boss, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment.
Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She is the only woman to have served as British prime minister and the longest-serving British PM of the 20th century. Thatcher was a research chemist before becoming a barrister.
Cher is a record-breaking singer, actress, and television host. Her albums have sold more than 100 million copies internationally and she is considered one of the best-selling performers of all time. Cher is reportedly the only artist to have a number one Billboard hit for each decade of her career (60 years).
Helen Gurley Brown
Helen Gurley Brown was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years, beginning her tenure in 1965. In the early 1960s, while working as a secretary for the advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding, her writing abilities advanced her to the copywriting department, where she reportedly rose quickly in the ranks. She eventually became one of the highest-paid copywriters in the United States at her time.
In 1962, at the age of 40, she published her best-selling nonfiction advice book for women, Sex and the Single Girl, which advocated financial independence from men, as well as experiencing sex before marriage. (Sex and the Single Girl inspired the 1964 film of the same title, which starred Natalie Wood and Henry Fonda.) The book, which sold two million copies in the first three weeks of publication, was a triple best seller, making the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Time best-seller lists. It was published in 28 countries.
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was one of the many leaders of first-wave feminism in the United States. Her advocacy resulted in the passing of an improved Married Women’s Property Act in 1860, which gave married women the right to own property, enter into contracts, and be legally recognized as joint guardians of their own children.
Beyoncé is no. 1 on Forbes’s 2014 "100 Most Powerful Celebrities" list, with an estimated earnings of $115 million as of June 2014. To date, Beyoncé has won 17 Grammys and received 45 nominations. She regularly sings about women’s empowerment. Who run the world? Girls.
Anne Sophie Swetchine
Anne Sophie Swetchine was a member of Russian nobility known for hosting, and maintaining, a noted salon in Paris for 30 years. Attendees included French literary, political, and ecclesiastical society.
Abigail Adams was the second First Lady of the United States. She advocated for the property rights of married women as well as more educational opportunities for women.
Isabel Allende is a Chilean-American writer famous for writing such novels as The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts. In 2004, Allende was acknowledged by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and, in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize. In 2014, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award of the United States — for her cultural contributions.
Her novels have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 56 million copies.
Carolyn Gold Heilbrun
Carolyn Gold Heilbrun was a professor of English at Columbia University for more than three decades: from 1960 to 1992. She became the first woman to receive tenure within Columbia’s English department. She also wrote popular (and feminist) mystery novels under the pen name Amanda Cross.
Deborah Tannen is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. She has written 20 books on communications; her first, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, was published in 1990. Her debut book was a New York Times best seller for nearly four years and has been translated into 30 languages.
Jane Goodall is an English primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and an official UN Messenger of Peace. She has famously studied chimpanzees for 55 years in Tanzania. In addition to founding the Jane Goodall Institute, an international wildlife conservation organization, she has been a board member of the Nonhuman Rights Project for almost 20 years.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a Filipino politician who held office as the 14th president of the Philippines, from 2001 to 2010 (the country's second female president). Prior to her presidential run, she served as the 12th VP and as a member of the House of Representatives.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist, author, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She first gained international attention at age 15 after being shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. She co-founded the Malala Fund, which works to empower girls through education and invests in early-stage initiatives and small organizations in countries like Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, and Jordan.
Her memoir, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, was a number-1 seller on Amazon.
Mary Shelley was an English novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and biographer. She is best known for her classic novel Frankenstein.
Emily Dickinson is considered to be one of the greatest American poets. Of the estimated 1,800 poems she crafted in her lifetime, very few were published while she was alive. Four years after her death, Dickinson’s first volume of poetry was published. She has remained in print since 1890.
Tory Burch is an entrepreneur and fashion designer. She launched her now-iconic fashion line, TRB by Tory Burch, in 2004. Since then, her brand has grown to more than 120 brick-and-mortar stores across the world, with flagship locations in Los Angeles, London, Rome, Tokyo, New York, and Seoul. Her clothes are sold in more than 1,000 department stores internationally.
Audre Lorde was a poet, essayist, and civil rights activist. She co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which published the notable feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.
Roseanne Barr is an American actress, comedian, director, writer, producer, and 2012 presidential nominee. She was a stand-up comic before assuming the lead role in the hit sitcom Roseanne, for which she won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Best Actress.