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These Are Some of the Most Influential Women in History

By Orgesta Tolaj


7 March 2024

Most influential women

© MiraMurati / X, Bettman Archive, & PD-US

Throughout history, women have played key roles in shaping the world we live in today. From political leaders to activists, scientists to artists, women have excelled in all fields and left a lasting legacy for future generations. Despite facing numerous obstacles and challenges, there are plenty of influential women who have broken barriers and paved the way for progress. But, who are the most influential women who have made the greatest impact and inspired change across the globe?

The 8 Most Influential Women Throughout History

Here are our picks for the most influential women ever:

10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an institutionalist advocating for radical constitutional change. Despite often being outnumbered politically, her determination strengthened over time, stemming from her experiences facing discrimination as a woman, Jew, and mother. By 2013, her powerful dissents had garnered international admiration. Despite challenges, Ginsburg remained optimistic, emphasizing the importance of grassroots movements and the inclusion of men in efforts for change.

Most influential women
© Public Domain

9. Rosa Parks

In 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American from Montgomery, Alabama, defied racial segregation by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. Her courageous act ignited the civil rights movement, leading to significant strides toward racial equality in the 1960s. Parks’ protest galvanized support among African Americans and inspired generations to fight for justice. Her legacy endured, symbolizing the ongoing struggle for equal rights. Four years after her passing in 2005, Barack Obama made history as the first African American President of the United States.

Most influential women
© Brettman Archive

8. Ada Lovelace

Augusta Ada Byron, known as Ada Lovelace, displayed exceptional mathematical talent from a young age. She became friends with Charles Babbage, the inventor of the difference engine and the analytical engine, and studied advanced mathematics under Augustus de Morgan. Lovelace was fascinated by Babbage’s inventions and translated an article about his analytical engine, adding her own extensive notes and ideas. In her notes, she proposed creating codes for the engine to handle letters and symbols, introduced the concept of looping in computer programs, and presented other innovative ideas. Her work earned her recognition as the first computer programmer.

augusta ada byron
© CC BY-SA 4.0

7. Serena Williams

Serena Williams, widely regarded as the greatest women’s tennis player and one of the greatest athletes of all time, has transformed the sport since the 1990s. Born on September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan, she grew up in Compton, California, under the guidance of her parents Richard Williams and Oracene Price. With her sister Venus, Serena underwent rigorous tennis training from a young age, practicing on public courts in Compton. Despite humble beginnings, Serena’s dedication and talent propelled her to win 23 Grand Slam titles and break numerous records in the sport.

serena williams
© serenawilliams / Instagram

6. Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig has emerged as a successful director and a symbol of the evolving landscape of storytelling. She represents the idea that we may soon move past the need to qualify directors by their gender. Gerwig understands the significance of seeing someone like oneself achieving one’s aspirations. However, she looks forward to a future where gender won’t dictate the significance of accomplishments, and where such distinctions will become irrelevant.

greta gerwig
© Kathy Hutchins / Vecteezy

5. Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama campaigned extensively for her husband Barack in 2008, facing heightened scrutiny due to her race. She delivered a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention that highlighted her journey from a working-class background to becoming the First Lady. Throughout her tenure, she focused on social issues such as education and healthy living, emphasizing the well-being of the nation, especially its children. Her charisma, confidence, and openness made her relatable to the public. Although her time as First Lady has ended, her influence remains strong, inspiring others to believe that with kindness, diligence, intelligence, and honesty, they too can make a meaningful impact on the world.

michelle obama

4. Princess Diana

Diana, Princess of Wales, was the first wife of Prince Charles, the future king of the United Kingdom, and the mother of Prince William and Harry. Born Diana Frances Spencer, she became Lady Diana Spencer in 1975. She married Charles on July 29, 1981, but their union was marked by media scrutiny and unhappiness, leading to divorce in 1996. Diana tragically died on August 31, 1997, in a car crash in Paris. Remembered as the “People’s Princess,” she gained widespread popularity for her humanitarian efforts worldwide.

Most influential women
© Wikimedia Commons

3. Mira Murati

Murati was one of the co-founders of OpenAI alongside Altman, Sutskever, and Brockman. Despite Altman’s dismissal, she remained loyal to him and advocated for his reinstatement as CEO. With a background in Mechanical Engineering from Dartmouth College, she held various positions including analyst at Goldman Sachs, engineer at Zodiac Aerospace, product manager at Tesla, and VP of product at Leap Motion before joining OpenAI in 2018. Moreover, her belief in the imminent development of general AI led her to be part of OpenAI’s mission.

Most influential women
© Mira Murati / X

2. Mileva Marić Einstein

Trbuhovic-Gjuric traced Mileva Einstein-Maric’s life, suggesting she was a brilliant mathematician who may have surpassed Einstein in mathematics. Additionally, it’s argued she was an unrecognized co-author of Einstein’s 1905 relativity paper, implying that her contributions, like those of many wives of great men, have been overlooked, forgotten, or suppressed.

Most influential women

1. Marie Curie

Marie Curie, born Maria Sklodowska, was a pioneering scientist born in Warsaw in 1867. She received education from her father and pursued further studies in Paris, obtaining degrees in Physics and Mathematics. In 1894, she married Pierre Curie, with whom she conducted groundbreaking research on radioactivity, leading to the discovery of polonium and radium. Moreover, after Pierre died in 1906, Marie Curie became the first woman to hold the position of Professor of General Physics at the Sorbonne. She continued her research and played a significant role in establishing the Radium Institute in Paris.

Most influential women
© Brettman Archive

Honorable Mentions of Most Influential Women Ever

Putting all of these wonderful women on one list is hard. Plenty of women deserve to be celebrated for what they have achieved throughout their lifetime. That is why we think these women also deserve a spot in the limelight of most influential women ever:

  • Amelia Earhart. She began her aviation career in 1921 at the age of 24. Within a year, she set the women’s altitude record by reaching 14,000 feet. In 1932, she made history by becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next five years, Earhart continued to break speed and flying records, cementing her legacy as a pioneering aviator.
  • Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, originally from Albania, was a Roman Catholic nun known for her extensive charitable work in India. In 1950, she established the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation dedicated to serving the impoverished and destitute.
  • Mary Shelley. The daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, and wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, achieved renown with her 1818 novel “Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus.” Combining elements of horror and sympathy, the Gothic and the Romantic, Shelley created a literary masterpiece that has endured as a classic.

Who are the most influential women in your life?

You might also want to read: The Entire History of Valentine’s Day

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!