This is a list of the world's most famous women, and most influential women, from ancient times to modern:
1. Sappho (c. 570 BC) Sappho is the first lyric poet we still know by name today, and
she is the
godmother of all lyric poets and singer-songwriters. She was called the Tenth
Muse by her peers.
2. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) Named the greatest of all human beings by Mark Twain, she
inspired the French to revolt against British rule.
Boudicca (?-60 AD) Boudicca was an inspirational leader and
general of the Britons. She led several tribes in revolt against the Roman
occupation. Initially successful, her army of 100,000 sacked Colchester and
3. Marie Curie (1867-1934) Polish physicist and chemist. First women to win
Nobel Prizes in both Chemistry and Physics. Prominent in the discovery of
radiation and the X-ray.
4. Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Queen of England, she
stabilized England after the turmoil of Henry VIII’s reign.
5. Catherine the Great (1729-1796) Queen of Russia who enacted reforms to
improve the welfare of serfs.
6. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) British nurse (born in Italy) who helped
improve standards of hospitals and nursing during the Crimean War.
Clara Barton (1821-1912) American nursing pioneer who founded
the American Red Cross.
7. Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) Third Prime Minister of India, 1966-77 and 1980-84.
Influential in shaping post-war India's constitution and society.
8. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) Queen of England, she oversaw a dramatic rise in
the prominence of the British Empire.
9. Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) Prime Minister of Pakistan. First woman to lead a
10. Cleopatra (69-30 BC) Last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. In order to defend
Egypt, she had relationships with
Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.
Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504) On the
good side, she financed Columbus's discovery of the Americas; on the not-so-good
side she exiled Jews and Muslims and created the Spanish Inquisition.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) Mystic, poet,
author and composer. She was consulted by popes, kings and other influential
people of her time.
Mirabai (1498-1565) Indian mystic and poet.
Mirabai was a devotee of Krishna who helped revitalize the tradition of bhakti
(devotional) yoga in India.
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) American abolitionist,
freer of 300 slaves, nurse, humanitarian and an armed spy and scout during the American
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) American abolitionist
and vocal women's rights activist.
11. Mother Teresa (1910-1997) Nun and charity worker. Mother Teresa dedicated
her life to serving the poor and disadvantaged.
12. Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) American wife of F.D. Roosevelt and human
13. Rosa Parks (1913-2005) Her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man
helped lead to some of the most significant civil rights legislation in
14. Princess Diana (1961-1997) Princess of Wales, married to Prince Charles.
Later divorced. Known for her humanitarian and charity work.
15. Madonna (1958-) American singer and songwriter. Often noted for
controversial lyrics and activities. Best-selling female artist of all time.
16. Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) Actress, model, sex symbol, first Playboy
Playmate and icon of post-WWII America.
17. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) Wife of John F. Kennedy. Cultural and
fashion icon of the 1960s.
18. Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) British Prime Minister during the 1980s. Known
for her strong, controversial leadership style.
19. Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) Queen of France and one of the wealthiest
and most powerful women of the middle ages.
20. Hillary Clinton (1947-) US Secretary of State 2009-2013. First lady during
Bill Clinton’s presidency and Democratic Party candidate for president in 2008 and
Sacagawea (1788-1812) American explorer, scout
and interpreter who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition.
21. Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1869) US Campaigner against slavery. Her
influential novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) helped challenge attitudes
slavery in pre-Civil-War America.
22. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) Campaigner against slavery and for the
promotion of women’s and worker’s rights.
23. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) American poet. She left many short vivid poems, often on themes of death and
24. Anne Frank (1929-1945) Jewish diarist who documented her life hiding in an
Amsterdam attic during the Nazi occupation. Died in Belsen concentration camp.
25. Mary Magdalene (4 BC-40 AD) Devotee of Jesus Christ. Present at Christ’s
crucifixion and the first person alleged to have seen Jesus after his
resurrection who believed, making her the first Christian.
26. Golda Meir (1898-1978) Israeli Prime Minister known as "Mother Israel."
27. Queen Elizabeth II (1926-) Elizabeth II is now the longest-serving British
monarch, passing Queen Victoria.
28. Helen Keller (1880-1968) At the age of 19 months Helen became deaf and
blind. Overcoming the frustration of losing both sight and hearing, she
campaigned tirelessly on behalf of deaf and blind people.
29. Angela Merkel (1954-) Merkel has been chancellor of Germany since 2005 and
has been the de facto leader of the European Union during her administration.
30. Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) One of the leading existentialist
philosophers of the Twentieth Century.
31. Oprah Winfrey (1954-) Chat show host and icon of American women. Winfrey’s
chat show and book club are very influential.
Lucille Ball (1911-1989) One of the first
American women able to headline and command a TV set in her own right.
32. Billie Jean King (1943-) Tennis player and advocate for equality between men
33. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Early feminist and writer.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982) Russian-born American
novelist, philosopher, playwright and screenwriter.
34. Coco Chanel (1883-1971) fashion designer and founder of fashion label
Chanel. Influential in 1920s for setting new fashion trends which broke with
35. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer, member of the Bloomsbury
36. Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge (1982) Wife of Prince William and
an influential figure in world fashion and charity work.
37. Mata Hari (1876-1917) Exotic dancer, executed as spy during World War I.
Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992) One of the first
women to reach the rank of rear admiral in the American navy, she was a pioneer
of computer programming languages.
Jane Addams (1860-1935) Addams was a social
reformer who won the Nobel Peace Prize.
38. J.K. Rowling (1965-) Author of the wildly popular Harry Potter novels, and adult novels such as
The Casual Vacancy.
39. Grace Kelly (1929-1982) American actress. Major Hollywood star in the 1950s.
In 1956, she married Prince Rainer of Monaco and became known as Princess Grace.
40. Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) Swedish actress. Featured in Casablanca,
considered by many to be the best movie of all time.
41. Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-) Burmese democrat who won the Nobel Peace Prize.
42. Mae West (1892-1980) US actress, singer, playwright, wit. Charismatic and
controversial, West was often the subject of censorship.
43. Agatha Christie (1890-1976) Best-selling crime fiction author, she created
the highly popular Poirot and Miss Marple detective series.
44. Shirin Ebadi (1947-) Iranian lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize.
45. Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) Kenyan environmentalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize.
46. Ellen DeGeneres (1958-) American comedian and TV personality. Starred in
her own TV sitcom Ellen and later The Ellen Show.
47. Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) French Queen, of Austrian birth, executed
French Revolution. Wife of King Louis XVI.
48. Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) British suffragette, Pankhurst was one of the
most high profile campaigners for women’s suffrage.
49. Jane Austen (1775-1817) English author. Her novels include Sense and
Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1816).
50. Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) Chilean poet, diplomat, educator and humanist.
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907-1954) Mexican artist
known for her self-portraits.
51. Jane Goodall (1934-) British environmentalist and
52. Daphne Du Maurier (1907-1989) British novelist.
Toni Morrison (1931-) The first African American
to win the Nobel Prize for Literature; winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
53. Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) Born in Florence, Italy, she
married the King of France at the age of 14.
54. Elizabeth Warren (1949-) An influential American politician and possible
future candidate for president.
55. Emily Bronte (1818-1848) One of the Bronte sisters, Emily is best known for
her novel Wuthering Heights, and her poetry.
56. Édith Piaf (1915-1963), Singer widely regarded as France’s national diva.
Famous songs include La Vie en rose (1946), Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
57. Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) American aviation pioneer and author. First woman
to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
58. Raisa Gorbachev (1932-1999) Wife of Mikhail Gorbachev, she engaged in
humanitarian efforts in Russia.
Sandra Day O'Connor (1930-) The first female
justice to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.
59. Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003) American actress who won a record four Oscars.
60. Billie Holiday (1915-1959) Given the title “First Lady of the Blues,” Billie
Holiday is widely considered to be the greatest and most expressive jazz singer
of all time.
61. Betty Williams (1943-) Together with Mairead Corrigan, Betty Williams
campaigned to bring an end to the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland.
62. St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) Spanish saint, mystic and writer.
63. Estee Lauder (1908-) US cosmetics executive.
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) Actress and co-inventor
of an anti-jamming device for radio-controlled torpedoes.
64. Eva Peron (1919-1952) Humanitarian and political activist. She campaigned
for the poor and less privileged. She died aged only 32 in 1952.
65. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) Social activist and leading figure in the
early women’s rights movement.
66. Yoko Ono (1933-) US artist, musician. Married John Lennon, star of the
Beatles. Yoko Ono is a musician and fashion icon.
67. Germaine Greer (1939-) Leading feminist icon of the 1960s and 1970s. Greer
is often outspoken on controversial issues.
68. Enid Blyton (1897-1968) British children’s writer, known for series such as
The Famous Five, The Secret Seven. Wrote an estimated 800 books over 40 years.
69. Lauren Bacall (1924-2014) American actress. One of the leading female actors
of the 1940s and 1950.
70. Chris Evert (1954-) US tennis star who won 18 grand slam single titles and 3 double
titles. She won 89.9% of her singles matches–the highest in the open
71. Martina Navratilova (1956-) Dominant female tennis player of the 1980s. Won
18 grand slam titles and 31 major doubles titles.
72. Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919) A leading Marxist revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg
sought to bring Social revolution to Germany.
73. Brigitte Bardot (1934-) French actress, dancer, singer and animal rights activist.
74. Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) British-American actress. Academy Award winning
actress. Also co-founded AIDS research charity in 1980s.
75. Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) Actress. Voted the greatest female screen legend of
all time. Fashion icon and humanitarian who worked for Unicef.
76. Maya Angelou (1928-2014) Modern American poet and writer.
77. Anita Roddick (1942-2007) UK businesswomen and environmentalist. The founder
of the Body Shop, a cosmetic firm, based on ethical principles.
78. Barbara Cartland (1901-2000) One of most prolific and best-selling authors
of the romantic fiction genre.
79. Shakira (1977-) Colombian singer, model, record producer and dancer.
80. Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) Russian ballet dancer, who set up her own touring
ballet company and invented ‘The Dying Swan.’
81. Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) English conservationist and author of Tales of
82. Emily Murphy (1868-1933) Canadian magistrate. The first women magistrate in
the British Empire.
83. Serena Williams (1981-) American tennis player. Williams has won 19 single
grand slam titles, making her the most successful female player of her
84. Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970) American burlesque performer, actress, author,
and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film
85. Whoopi Goldberg (1994-) American actress. Goldberg has won an Oscar for best
supporting actress and numerous TV Emmy Awards.
86. Janis Joplin (1943-1970) American blues singer considered by many to be the
greatest female singer of all time, or certainly in the top ten.
87. Maria Sharapova (1987-) Russian tennis ace. Has won all four major Grand
Slam tournaments and Olympic silver in 2012. Has a high profile outside the game
with her own business and modeling ventures.
88. Lady Gaga (1986-) American singer, songwriter, activist, actress, and
fashion designer. Known for her flamboyant stage performances.
89. Nadia Comaneci (1961-) Romanian gymnast who won three Olympic gold medals
at the 1976 Olympics and was the first gymnast to gain a perfect score of 10.
90. Malala Yousafzai (1997-) Pakistani schoolgirl who has campaigned for right
to education. She was shot by the Taliban, but survived.
91. Julie Andrews actor (1935-) British actress, dancer and singer. Most famous
for her roles in Mary Poppins (1965) and The Sound of Music (1966).
92. Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) German-American actress. Dietrich’s career
spanned several decades from silent movies to becoming one of Hollywood’s
93. Monica Seles (1973-) Yugoslavia-American tennis star who became the youngest
winner of the French Open in 1990, aged 16.
94. Scarlett Johansson (1984-) American actress, model and singer.
95. Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-) Hungarian-born American actress and socialite.
96. Beyoncé Knowles (1981-) American singer, dancer and actress. Lead singer in
R&B group Destiny’s Child before launching a solo career.
97. Bette Davis (1908-1989) US actress. Starred in a wide range of film, TV and
theater. Known for her acting versatility.
98. Juliette Binoche (1964-) French actress, artist and dancer.
99. Rihanna (1988-) Barbados singer, actress and fashion designer.
100. Angelina Jolie (1975-) US actress, film producer, humanitarian. Star of Lara
Croft: Tomb Raider.
Honorable Mention and/or Coming Soon: Abigail Adams, Adele, Madeline Albright,
Louisa May Alcott, Anna Akhmatova, Marian Anderson, Mary Kay Ash, Joan Baez,
Candace Bergen as Murphy Brown, Elizabeth Bishop, Nellie Bly, Louise Bogan, Anne
Boleyn, Helen Gurley Brown, Pearl S. Buck, Mariah Carey, Rachel Carson, Mary
Cassatt, Willa Cather, Julia Child, Shirley Chisholm, Dido, Hilda Doolittle,
Isadora Duncan, Mary Baker Eddy, Enya, Jackie Evancho, Geraldine Ferraro, Aretha
Franklin, Betty Friedan, Althea Gibson, Arianna Grande, Whitney Houston, Anne
Hutchinson, Carole King, Amy Lowell, Margaret Mead, Helen Mirren, Joni Mitchell,
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mary Tyler Moore, Annie Oakley, Michelle Obama, Georgia O'Keeffe,
Dolly Parton, Sylvia Plath, Mary Pickford, Grandma Moses, Dorothy Parker, Nancy
Pelosi, Pocahontas, Janet Reno, Sally Ride, Betsy Ross, Wilma Rudolph, Sade,
Margaret Sanger, Gloria Steinem, Margaret Chase Smith, Taylor Swift, Meryl
Streep, Martha Stewart, Lucy Stone, Marina Tsvetaeva, Barbara Walters, Martha
Washington, Edith Wharton, Babe Didrikson Zaharias