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Do you ever just need a role model to inspire you as a woman to keep trying? Here is a list of 30 women who made a difference in a number of fields. Listed below, in alphabetical order, are artists, scientists, authors and singers of all races and nationalities, each one a woman who persevered no matter the odds against her.

30 Women Who Challenged the Status Quo

By Margo Smith

1. Jane Addams, created the first community kindergarten and was the compassionate founder of Hull House in Chicago, established in 1889 with her own inheritance.

2. Joan of Arc was a noteworthy woman. This is likely her most well known statement: “One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” Her incredible story began when she was elected at the youthful age of 17 to be a leader of the French army. She successfully led them to several important victories.

3. Lucille Ball a well known comedienne with a famous show. Her spoofs and comedic talent have delighted audiences for years.

4. Clara Barton served as a nurse during the Civil War and founded the American Red Cross in 1881.

5. Her Highness, Begum of Bhopal, was the only female to ever rule India. Her rule began in 1901.

6. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a medical degree. She graduated from a Medical school in Geneva, N.Y. in 1849.

7. Anne Bradstreet, 1650: her poems published in Britain, so she became the first American authoress to be in print.

8. Carol Burnett. She hosted her own variety show in 1967, in an era of male show hosts. She is a talented and versatile comedian beloved by many for her humorous characters.

9. Willa Cather, chronicler of the pioneering experience. Her most famous works are O Pioneers!, published in 1913 and My Antonia, 1918.

10. Carrie Chapman Catt created and founded the League of Women Voters in 1920.

11. Madame Curie, a Polish scientist who made important discoveries about the uses of radium. Her research was instrumental in offering new treatment for diseases.

12. Amelia Earhart This female pilot is most famous because of her disappearance, but she had many firsts in her flying career. She was the first to complete a successful solo flight of 2,408 miles – from Honolulu to Oakland, California. Later she was the first person to do a non-stop solo flight from Mexico City to Newark. She was the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean.

13. Mary Fields had many groundbreaking roles during her day. She was an African-American business woman, stagecoach driver and a pioneer as well.

14. Margot Fonteyn, a famous British ballerina, graduated in 1934, and her amazing talent won her the role of Giselle the very next year.

15. Indira Gandhi of India, she was the first female Prime Minister of India.

16. Zora Neale Hurston is the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God and other works. She was a member of the Harlem Group, a foundation of African American writers.

17. Harper Lee, Pulitzer Prize winner for her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, her coming of age book about a young girl and her growing awareness of class and racial issues in the South.

18. Dolley Madison, First Lady, and wife of James Madison, the fourth United States President. She is known for making the White House a particularly welcoming place during her years there. She started the tradition of holding a weekly reception open to politicians, citizens and diplomats.

19. In 1985 Wilma Mankiller was declared to be the first woman chief in Oklahoma. She led her people – the Cherokee Nation.

20. Golda Meir, an Ambassador from Israel to the Soviet Union in 1948, she became Israel’s Foreign Minister in 1956 and in 1969, at the age of 71 she became the 3rd female Israeli Prime Minister.

21. Dr. Antonia Novello, the first female U.S. Surgeon General. She filled this role beginning in 1990.

22. Sandra Day O’Connor – nominated by President Regan in 1981to be the first woman justice on the Supreme Court. She filled this position from 1981 to 2005 when she retired.

23. Annie Oakley is a better shot than her husband, Frank Butler. She proved this in a marksmanship competition in 1875 before they were married.

24. Anne Parrish, from Philadelphia, set up the very first American charitable association specifically for women, called the House of Industry.

25. Sally Ride, aptly named because she was the first American woman to be go into space. Her venture into the great unknown was in 1983.

26. Annie Peck Smith climbs the Matterhorn in 1895 and places herself in history in doing so since she was the first woman to have achieved this goal.

27. Madge Syers entered the men’s figure skating championship in 1902. Six years later she became the first to be presented with the first Olympic gold medal for women.
28. Mother Teresa, a hard working and empathetic advocate of the poor and downtrodden, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

29. Lady Margaret Thatcher was a tremendously influential political leader known for her forthrightness. In 1979 she was elected as the Prime Minister of the U.K.

30. Harriet Tubman was a woman born into slavery. She escaped in 1849 and during the 1850’s she returned to the South to help many other slaves escape via the Underground Railroad.

Hopefully you found some new heroes from this list of dedicated and resilient women. Do you have a famous female role model? Did you notice anyone who you think should be on the list? Limiting this catalog of accomplishments to only 30 means there are many more women worthy of inclusion. Leave a comment and let us know who you think should have made the list.

About the Author

Margo Smith earned her B.S. degree from BYU. She enjoys writing about a variety of subjects from gourmet recipes to online classes to ceramics. She draws from her own education, her years in college and an author’s perspective on life when compiling articles.