American women who changed the world
Oprah Winfrey (b. 1954)
Through her ability to connect with and encourage people to use their own lives to improve the lives of others, Winfrey has become one of the most influential women in the world.
Believing that education is the key to freedom and a better future, one of her most influential projects has been literacy promotion. Her unique, intimate talk show style draws an enormous global audience and her foundation’s philanthropy empowers women, children and families around the world.
One of the most influential female tennis player in history, King has championed social change and equal rights. Committed to working toward gender equality in sports, she profoundly affected the way women perceived themselves physically and fostered the acceptability of women pursuing strenuous physical activity other than childbirth. Through her Women Sport’s Foundation, she works to advance the lives of women and girls through physical activity, and promotes health, fitness, education and social change.
An American civil rights leader, Anthony dedicated her life to the belief that all people are equal. She spoke out against violence toward women at the hands of alcoholic husbands, and her work in the anti-slavery movement emphasized the need for equality. She campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights and the suffragist cause. Though she didn’t live to see the realization of her efforts, her work was pivotal to the process of women achieving the vote.
Paul was a suffragist and facilitator of major political achievements regarding women’s rights who profoundly impacted American history. Co-founder of the National Women’s Party, she organized the first political protest that picketed the White House, demanding the right of women to vote. Utilizing nonviolent civil disobedience, the group’s pressure resulted in securing the vote for women in 1920. The original author of the Equal Rights Amendment proposed in 1923, she devoted her entire life to the fight for equality.
Her refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a bus resulted in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and catapulted Martin Luther King to the forefront of the civil right’s movement. After years in the NAACP, she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, dedicated to motivating young people to achieve their potential. The Presidential Medal of Freedom established Parks as the “Mother of the modern day civil rights movement.”
As runaway slave, she risked her life to escort more than 300 slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she led Union troops in a battle that freed more than 750 slaves, becoming the only woman in U.S. military history to plan and conduct an armed raid against enemy forces. Dedicated to civil rights and the suffragist cause until her death, her strength and humanity in the face of oppression is her greatest legacy.
As publisher of The Washington Post for two decades, including the period of Watergate coverage that led to the resignation of President Nixon, Graham is regarded as one of the most powerful American women of the 20th century. Despite the lack of female role models and a struggle to be taken seriously, she became a leader in the male-dominated world of business and journalism, embodying the experience of women moving out of traditional roles into public positions of power.
Sanger’s work had a monumental impact on modern society. She dedicated her life to making birth control legal and available, opened the first U.S. birth control clinic, and founded the National Birth Control League (today’s Planned Parenthood). Her efforts led to the Supreme Court ruling allowing doctors to legally provide contraception. Sanger’s efforts lifted families out of poverty by liberating women from unrelenting pregnancy and made it possible for women to experience much broader life options.
Sally Ride (b. 1951)
As the first American woman in space, Ride proved that women can achieve greatness in the fields of science, math and technology. With a Ph.D. in astrophysics, she was chosen in 1983 for an eight-day mission on the shuttle Challenger. She currently runs Imaginary Lines, a company committed to encouraging and empowering girls in their exploration of scientific subjects. It includes programs, products and The Sally Ride Science Club for elementary and middle school girls