Top 10 Most Influential Women

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Throughout our history there have been women whom without their contributions the world we live in would be a completely different place. Each of these women will be continue to remembered well into the future for the way they changed popular opinion. This being said there are many deserving women who did not make this list, so to clarify, when I was creating this list I put a lot of thought into what they did for society and what our lives would have been like without them.

10. Jane Goodall

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Jane was born in London in 1934, and went on to become the most famous chimpanzee expert and conservationist in the world. Her life’s work began in 1960 when she set out to Gombe National Park, accompanied by mother, to study chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Her observations lead to the discoveries that chimpanzees were omnivores that were capable of making and using tools and that they have a highly complex set of social behaviors and are capable of emotional relationships. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education, and Conservation. She has received countless awards and honors for her work and was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2002 and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004.

9. Amelia Earhart

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One of the most famous pilots in history, Amelia was born in 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. She saw her first air show in the winter of 1920 and was inspired to fly, and by the next December she had earned her pilot’s license. Her short aviation career is full of flight records including being the first woman to fly solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These records launched Amelia into the spotlight and she used her fame to become an advocate of both women’s rights and commercial aviation. In 1937 she set out in an attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. After accomplishing more than two thirds of the distance, her plane disappeared into the South Pacific and neither her nor her navigator Fred Noonan or her plane has ever been seen again.

8. Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War

Born in 1820, Florence was give the nickname “The Lady With the Lamp” for her work as a British nurse during the Crimean War, making her one of the first women to serve in a wartime hospital. Abhorred by the conditions in these hospitals, she pushed army officials for more sanitary conditions and won the hearts of many soldiers. After the war, she launched herself into a persistent study of the health of the British Army and published Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army in 1858. This was followed by Notes on Hospitals in 1859 and Notes on Nursing: What Is It and What Is It Not in 1860. Also in 1860 she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses as she believed that nurses should be trained in science. In 1883 Queen Victoria awarded her the Royal Red Cross and in 1907 she was honored with the Order of Merit, making her the first female recipient. She continued her relentless struggle for public health reform until her death in 1910.

7. Margaret Thatcher

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Born Margaret Roberts in 1925, she worked her way up the British political ladder starting as a lawyer before being elected to Parliament and finally being named Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979, the first woman to hold the office. During her time in power, she favored political patriotism, privatization, low taxes, balanced budgets and individual initiative. She focused on international affairs with her greatest victory being the Falklands War or 1982 in Argentina. She has earned the nickname The Iron Lady for her rough-talking rhetoric.

6. Marie Curie

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Born in Warsaw in 1867 she is best known for her work in the field of radioactivity which lead her to become the first person to ever have been given two Nobel Prizes. She is also credited for the discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium, as well as being the first person to isolate radioactive isotopes to be used as a possible cure for cancer. After the death of her husband Pierre she took over his job as professor at the Sorbonne, making her the first woman to teach there. She passed away on July 4, 1934 due to the effects of her prolonged exposure to radiation, and to this day she is remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time.

5. Joan of Arc

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Joan was born in 1412 to a prosperous farmer and is best remembered as the Maid of Orleans who was burned at the stake after her heroic involvement in the Hundred Years War. She began her rise as a teenager when she heard voices telling her to save France from the English. She traveled to Chinon and begged Charles VII to allow her to ride with his army to the siege of Orleans. Because of her visions, she led the French army into several battles as a way of boosting the morale of the troops. After a failed attack on Paris she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English who tried her for witchcraft and heresy. She was defiantly burnt at the stake on the 30th of May at the marketplace in Rouen, and her ashes were thrown into the Seine. She was canonized in 1920 by Benedict XV and is now France’s second patron.

4. Rosa Parks

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Born Rosa Louise McCauley in 1913, she stepped into the pages of history on December 1, 1955 when on the bus on her way home from her work as a seamstress she refused to give up her seat for a white man. Her actions that day sparked Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. She moved to Detroit in 1957 and got a job as a receptionist for John Conyers, an African American member of the House of Representatives. She later became his staff assistant and in her spare time continued her work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP, as well as co-founding the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.

3. The Virgin Mary

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The mother of Jesus, she is revered for her motherly love and humility. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches believe that Mary remained a virgin and that Jesus was divinely conceived. However, the Roman Catholic also believes in Immaculate Conception. Many Christians pray to Mary as an intercessor and mother of the church. As a main figure in Christianity and the mother of Jesus Christ she has been worshiped the world over and touched millions of people.

2. Queen Elizabeth I

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Best known as the Virgin Queen of England, she was born in 1533 to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She ascended the throne in 1558 and lead England into its Golden Age by returning it to Protestantism and beginning its colonization and global expansion, which brought both Sir William Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh into her favor. Her most impressive achievement as Queen was leading her army in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. She became depressed and fell ill after the deaths of several close friends and died in March 1603 bring an end to her 44-year unmarried reign.

1. Mother Teresa

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Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910, by the time she was 12 she knew she was meant to help the poor. She went to India when she was 17 and her first assignment after becoming a nun was teaching at a school in Calcutta. In 1948 she left the convent and founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity which ministered to the poor, sick, dying and orphaned first in India and then in other countries. Her humanitarian work led her to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest honor, in 1980. She died in 1997 after being plagued by years of heart problems, and was later beatified by Pope John Paul II.

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36 Comments

  1. Great concept and list, except for Thatcher. Unlike the rest of the women, her influence was almost entirely negative. Eva Braun or Lady Mao would have been savvier choices if the listmaker is allowing evil women into her Valhalla. If she favors conservatives, then Ayn Rand should have been included, as she is still to this day, far more influential than Old Ironsides

    Although Mother Mary certainly is influential, her accomplishments are mythical, and she should have been cited as an honorable mention. There are plenty of candidates whose actual deeds are more noteworthy.

    • Many people, yes Christians, believe Mary's accomplishments are not mythical, but factual. The author of this list obviously believes this to be the case as well. I do like your choices, Yogi. Thanks for sharing them.

    • some random bloke on

      Pah, Thatcher fits there perfectly. She brought Britain back from the brink and put in place policies that survived a long time despite Labour's attempts to demolish them. Having taken credit for much of her legacy to start with they have finally succeeded. Shame we don't have enough leader with the same balls and focus as she had!

  2. thank you for not putting Betsy Ross this might come as a shock but, BETSY ROSS DIDN'T MAKE THE AMERICAN FLAG!! if you've seen the original flag you will believe me. her grandson made up the myth.

  3. Good list.

    I always find talk of Jane Goodall and others like her to be quite amusing. I've never understood how one can observe animals in a "natural habitat" while being present. Their presence makes it not so "natural" anymore, right?

    Maybe I'm just overthinking. Good list though.

  4. Hey, first time checking out this website. Although I've been to several other top 10 lists. First off, I like how organized the site is. Kudos.

    I have an issue with #10. Jane Goodall…I've met her before, and several of my colleagues have even stayed with her for a few nights as guests. She has admitted herself, that her work is flawed. That almost every research she's done on chimps has been tainted. In her efforts to study chimps, they were unable to attract enough curious chimps for studies; so often time, they would create artificial environments that would look more appealing to the chimps. While it worked initially, and Ms. Goodall was able to study in depth, once other research facilities were open (years later), they found that by creating an attractive environment, they changed the behavior of the chimps; making them more aggressive, even cannibalistic.

  5. No Pankhursts? No Margaret Sanger? No Mary Wollstonecraft? No Simone de Beauvoir? Emma Goldman?

    I appreciate that there's a list, but it seems a very 'safe' list to me.

  6. Mother Teresa and the Virgin Mary? Why not include some more fictional female characters? How about Wonderwoman or Adam's Eve? Outside the Catholic hegemony Mother Teresa has been tainted by several accounts of her withholding pain medication from her dying patients. The manner in which her organization completely devoted itself to banking the donated $$$$ for the mother church rather than improving the conditions for the patients, and the obvious promotion of its leader as a fast-track saint is highly suspect.

  7. fatimehin olusola on

    please i am a first timer on this wonderful site but i have not seeing what i am actually looking for.
    please i want the latest update on the most influential women on the globe.
    thank you.

  8. Disappointed not to see Mary Seacole on here. Not only did she also go to the Crimea to nurse wounded (and dying) soldiers, she paid her own way there after being told by the posh nobs in charge that a woman of her colouring wouldn't be suited to the cold weather in Russia. Yes, part of the reason she doesn't get the recognition she deserves (and much more so than Florence Nightingale) is because she was black.

    • We will always have a division of the races with comments like yours. We will never move past racial discrimination when every time someone still sees a lists they want to see a "spectrum of color" its what is on the inside people – get over yourself!!

  9. Remember that the list is "most *influential* women". Not "most selfless", "most positive role models", "most popular", etc.

    So, Mary Seacole probably doesn't make it due to being relatively unknown. Whether Lady Thatcher is considered a heroine or villianess is irrelevant compared to her level of influence. Murasaki Shikibu was a pioneer, but did she launch the novel as a medium? If not, then "first" but not necessarily "influential". And so on, and so on.

    Benazir Bhutto and Margaret Sanger certainly would have deserved consideration, and probably a couple of the others mentioned; whether they would deserve to "bump out" any of the ten listed is a tough call.

    Only real quibble is with Mary, #3 – not that she's on the list, but with the description. Catholics and Orthodox believe she remained a virgin for her whole life; Protestants in general only believe that she was a virgin up until Christ's birth. Also, while she may be "worshipped" in some areas, in general Catholics and Orthodox actually "venerate" her, a level of devotion greater than simple honor but less than worship (which properly is given only to God), while most Protestants do not venerate Mary. This is not to start a theological debate – who's "right" and who's "wrong" isn't relevant to the list at all – I just wanted to correct the description so the characterizations were accurate.

  10. I liked your list, but I have a little problem with that. Why the Queen Elizabeth is above the Virgin Mary? I think it's a silly choice. For me, it would be that way:

    1st: Virgin Mary

    2nd: Mother Teresa

    3rd: Queen Elizabeth

    I have that problem with the choices of the first places. But, thanks for remember Mother Teresa.

  11. It is quite a wonder to discover that the first Women's Rights Martyr was not even a westerner. She was from Persia (now Iran), Her name was Tahirih (The Pure One) or Quarratu'l-Ayn. She was executed simply because of showing her beautiful face.

    Mid-nineteenth century Persia saw the birth and quick stem of the new and controversial Faith. Its followers were called Babis and eventually, Baha'is. Up until that time in the world's history, women were seen as less than second class citizens. They could not own land, could not vote or excersise most any of the rights that men of the time (and we now)would take for granted. Now, after centuries of silence, women have found their voices and are themselves becoming vehicles for the changes and advancements of the world.

    A woman appearing unveiled, especially in context of the time and country in which she lived, was perceived as a sign of promiscuity and a grave transgression against the clegry and even God Himself.

    The moment Tahirih unveiled herself in Badasht, became the first act of public unveiling in Iranian history and the first agressive movement against the oppression of women everywhere.

    She was captured in 1852, along with other Babis, imprisioned and eventually executed that year. Dressed in white silk, she had prepared for her death with fasting and prayers. She was strangled with a silk handkerchief and then thrown into a well, later filled with stones and dirt.

    With her voice proclaiming a new day in which women and men would be equal she once said: "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women."

    Maybe you could mention her in your list.

    Sources:

    Website:

    http://www.rozanehmagazine.com/julyaugus
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%A1hirih
    http://bahai-library.org/articles/women….
    http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/areprint/tah
    http://www.tahirih.org/tahirih/about/tah

  12. Top 10 Most Influential Women between

    Top 10 Starting Pitchers since 2000 and Top 10 Myths About Sex

    i like the way you think

  13. Having the Virgin Mary on the list killed it for me. What about Margaret Sanger or Golda Meir? Indira Gandhi? Not the best list.

  14. Jacqueline Applewhite on

    I will be gathering information from this site and many others for my next article in Today’s Texas Woman magazine on the most influencial who changed our world for the better. I am an historical writer and want to add a different dimension to the magazine which will inspire women from all walks of life to find their own special gifts and change their own world, one woman at a time.

    Since I am new at this, please don’t hesitate to email me with your suggestions of women who have been influencial in your life, or history, which have given you wings to fly, a heart to love, and a reason to live on the planet.

    Thank you.

    Jacqueline Applewhite

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