On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we’ve rounded up 20 self-empowered women who are an inspiration to the fairer sex everywhere.
1. Diana Vreeland was a great influence in the world of fashion in the 20th century. She worked as a columnist and editor for Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962 and for Vogue from 1963 to 1971.
2. “In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.” – Aung San Suu Kyi (1945). Burmese opposition politician Suu Kyi was under house arrest for 15 years for her pre-democracy campaigning. She only gained release in 2010 following an international campaign to let her free. She won a nobel prize in 1991 where it was said that “Suu Kyi’s struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades.”.
3. The courageous 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai rose to fame with her memoir “I Am Malala” documenting her fearless journey as a young student in Pakistan. Since, Malala has been traveling the world advocating for education rights for women and children.
4. Benazir Bhutto was the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan (1993-1996) and the first woman to head a Muslim state. During her leadership, she ended military dictatorship in her country and fought for women rights. She was assassinated in a suicide attack in 2007.
5. Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States, was raised in a one bedroom apartment in Chicago before she went on to excel in academics and study at Princeton and Harvard. She is considered the most stylish leading lady after Jackie Kennedy. Currently, she is working on a campaign to fight childhood obesity.
6. Oprah Winfrey, a generous Philanthropist, who is today worth $2.7 billion as a famous US talk show host and a media proprietor, was born to a poor single mother in Mississippi.
7. Madonna has achieved an unprecedented level of power and control for a woman in the entertainment industry. She has sold more than 300 million records of her music and she has turned her hands to songwriting, acting, film-directing and producing, fashion designing and writing children’s books.
8. Mary Quant was an influential fashion designer and she shaped the image of the swinging sixties. She was credited for creating the mini-skirt and hot pants.
9. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to ever fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932 and she became the first woman pilot in 1935 after flying solo from Hawaii to California. She embarked upon her lifelong dream of flying across the world in 1937, however, her flight went missing on that trip and she was never seen again.
10. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was a daughter to a laundrywoman and a market stall holder. Before becoming one of the greatest fashion designers the world has ever seen and revolutionizing fashion, she was a club singer and a hat maker.
11. Margaret Thatcher was loved and hated equally for some of her controversial policies but she never gave up. She was known as the ‘Iron lady’ for her uncompromising politics and leadership style. From being a grocer’s daughter to graduating from Oxford University, she went on to becoming Britain’s first and to date, only female Prime Minister elected in 1979 and the country’s fifth longest serving leader.
12. Aside from her extensive work as a UN diplomat, actress and philanthropist, in 2013, when Angelina Jolie chose to share her double-masectomy story, she changed the face of breast cancer awareness. In a personal essay, Jolie revealed how the health decision empowered her as a woman while encouraging other women to come forward with their own breast cancer stories.
13. After becoming the first lady of Arkansas in 1983 and then the United States in 1993, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been a powerful force in US politics ever since. She was the first ‘first lady’ to be a candidate in elected office in 1999 (in the race for New York Senator, which she won and served for two terms). She has won numerous awards for her work concerning women, health and children.
14. The famously known “Madame Curie”, a Polish-French physicist and chemist, Marie Curie was the first person to have received two Nobel Prizes. She was the first female professor at the University of Paris and the first lady to be enshrined in France’s national mausoleum, the Paris Panthéon, all based on her own merits.
15. An iconic figure of twentieth century cinema, Katharine Hepburn won 4 Oscars and received over 12 Oscar nominations. Her lifestyle was unconventional for the time and through her acting and life she helped redefine traditional views of women’s role in society.
16. While her efforts did not directly fight for women’s rights, Marlene Dietrich took a strong fashion stance. The Hollywood actress wore trousers and men’s suits during a time where it was considered extremely scandalous and taboo; both on screen and privately, once almost being arrested for wearing pants in public during the 1930s. She famously was quoted saying, “I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.”
17. Perhaps one of the most recognized faces of feminism, Gloria Steinem led the women’s liberation movements throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. Co-founder of the feminist themed magazine, Ms., Steinem was co-founder of several female groups that changed the face of feminism including Women’s Action Alliance, National Women’s Political Caucus, Women’s Media Center and more.
18. Through her literature, public speaking and powerful writing, Maya Angelou inspired both women and African Americans to overcome gender and race discrimination.
19. Diane Von Furstenberg has built her entire fashion career on the concept of female empowerment. “Feel like a woman, wear a dress” and “Proud to be woman!” are just two of the designer’s mantras evoked through her brand. Not only does she use fashion to empower women, she has also since founded The DVF Awards, which recognize incredible women who have made positive impacts on the world through leadership, philanthropy and hard work.
20. The generation’s newest voice of feminism, 24-year-old Emma Watson delivered a moving speech in front of the United Nations launching a new initiative for gender equality—reminding us all that feminism isn’t just a fight for women—it’s time for men to join in as well!
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