9 Influential Women Throughout the Past Century


Women's History Month may be in the rearview, but that doesn't mean we should stop celebrating our achievements! Let’s take a look at some of the most influential and inspiring women over the past 100 years. These women helped change America, and the world, into what it is today.


1. Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale changed the meaning of nursing since the 19th and early 20th centuries. She aided in sanitizing the hospital during the Crimean War, which resulted in lowering the hospital’s death count. Nightingale is to thank for the push for health care reform. Along with all of this, she established the St. Thomas hospital and her own nursing school named Nightingale’s Training School for Nurses.


2. Marie Curie

Marie Curie was, well, a genius. She was the first woman to earn a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. These Nobel Prizes were for Physics and Chemistry. Curie discovered radioactivity through Polonium and Radium. Her discovery has aided the world in many ways.


3. Audrey Hepburn

At the young age of 22, Audrey Hepburn starred in her first Broadway production: Gigi. Described as “wooing” Hollywood, Hepburn starred in Sabrina, and danced alongside Fred Astaire in the musical Funny Face. Hepburn became a fashion icon in her debut as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn was also one of the few women of her time to win an Emmy, Tony, Grammy, and Academy Award. In her later years, Hepburn became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and traveled the world raising awareness for children in need.  


4. Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, one of the most influential Jazz singers of all time, grew up in Baltimore with unstable home life. She used music to find herself and began her career singing in clubs. Billie began touring with Count Basie Orchestra but left shortly after being discriminated against due to her race. She began singing on her own and wrote many popular songs. Holiday recorded for Norman Granz and shocked people with her autobiography “Lady Sings the Blues”.   


5. Marilyn Monroe

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Marilyn Monroe quickly became one of the most popular sex symbols and Hollywood actresses. Kicking off her career was the film Niagara, a film that debuted Monroe as a sexy figure who was able to bring large audiences to her films. However, Monroe suffered crippling insecurities of her acting and had horrible anxiety. Due to her personal issues Monroe’s final films were box office flops. She made her way back, however, with her birthday song to John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, soon after this she was found dead in her home with a bottle of sleeping pills by her side.


6. Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan was a hard working feminist and is best remembered for her book, The Feminine Mystique, which focused on women finding their fulfillment outside the social norms. Friedan felt obligated to write this book after being fired from her job for being pregnant and becoming a housewife. Friedan used real data from real women and sparked a sort of a feminist revolution in the United States.


7. Margaret Thatcher

Margaret was the first woman to fill the role as prime minister in 1976 England. Thatcher also was the Conservative party leader for Britain. Before becoming prime minister, Thatcher was named Secretary of State for education and science. Thatcher held three terms as prime minister. While in office she cut welfare programs, reduced trade union power, and privatized industries. Thatcher chose to resign in 1991 due to unpopularity.


8. Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was the first woman prime minister of Pakistan. Bhutto inherited leadership of the PPP after her father’s death. Bhutto’s family faced many losses as her father and two brothers were killed. Bhutto was elected as prime minister almost immediately after the former dictator’s death.


9. Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama comes from a very prestigious education. She graduated from Princeton University and earned a degree from Harvard Law School. After school, she began working in a law firm, but soon left and began working in public service with the Mayor of Chicago. As a first lady, Michelle Obama began working with women and military families. She volunteered at homeless shelters and worked with children to create gardens and beehives on the lawn of the White House. Working with children was one of her passions as she tried to fight childhood obesity by starting her “Let’s Move” initiative.

These women are just a few of the most influential women throughout the past century. They have helped change the world with their discoveries and philanthropy.