16 Strong Female Figures to Celebrate During Women's History Month

These icons have helped make the world better for all women.

This March marks the 34th annual Women's History Month, which means we'll be celebrating strong female role models. This year, we're taking a look back at the women who helped us get to where we are today. From early activists and suffragists to modern-day politicians and CEOs, the accomplishments of these women helped pave the way for all who came after them.

This Women's History Month, read up on powerful quotes from inspirational women, then spend the day learning about and taking inspiration from these iconic figures.

01 of 16

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony portrait
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Susan B. Anthony was a women's rights activist known for her work during the suffrage movement in the early 1800s. Led by the Quaker teachings that every human is equal, she began collecting antislavery petitions at age 17 and spent her entire adult life fighting for gender equality and women's right to vote. Although she passed away in 1906—14 years before women gained the right to vote—many leave their "I voted" stickers on her gravesite each election day as a way to say thank you for her contributions.

02 of 16

Sally Ride

Sally Ride the astronaut on Space Shuttle Challenger
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In 1983, the world watched as Sally Ride—an astronaut and physicist—became the first American woman in space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. She was the third woman ever in space, paving the way for future female scientists.

03 of 16

Serena Williams

Serena Williams with a tennis racket on a blue background
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Serena Williams is a professional tennis player with 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name—the last of which she won while pregnant. She currently holds more titles than any other active player, has won four Olympic gold medals, and became the highest-paid female athlete in the world in 2016. She's spent much of her career advocating for equal treatment of women and women of color within sports, and has been outspoken about the gender pay inequality in athletics.

04 of 16

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton black and white portrait
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As a novelist and writer, Edith Wharton was known for her portrayal of New York's upper class and became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for her novel The Age of Innocence. She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1927, 1928, and 1930, and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1996, almost 30 years after her death.

05 of 16

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin in a red dress with a turquoise background
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Aretha Franklin did it all: As a singer, songwriter, pianist, and actress, she quickly became a household name in the 1960s. After finding success with songs like "Respect," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," Franklin was known as the Queen of Soul and was the first woman to ever be elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

06 of 16

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart near an airplane
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There's a reason you immediately recognize Amelia Earhart's name. In 1932, she became the first female pilot (and only the second person ever) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She went on to become a best-selling author and a cofounder of The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots. In 1937, Earhart went missing during a flight over the Pacific Ocean.

07 of 16

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg headshot
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Known for her iconic collars, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a justice on the United States Supreme Court from 1993 until her death in 2020. She graduated first in her class at Columbia Law School, and was the first Jewish woman (and only the second woman) to ever serve. She spent much of her career fighting for women's rights and gender equality, and has since become an icon for the feminist movement.

08 of 16

Kamala Harris

Kama Harris with a US flag behind her
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After serving as District Attorney of San Francisco, California Attorney General, and United States Senator, Kamala Harris became the Vice President of the United States in 2021 and is the first female, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to hold the office. After the election in 2020, Harris said "While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last—because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities."

09 of 16

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay in gold gown
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Ava DuVernay is a director and filmmaker known for her work on titles including 13th, When They See Us, Selma, and Middle of Nowhere. She was the first Black woman to win the directing award at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first Black woman to be nominated for both a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Picture.

10 of 16

Patsy Takemoto Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink
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After a successful career as an attorney in Hawaii, Patsy Takemoto Mink became the first woman of color elected to Congress in 1965. As a third-generation Japanese American, Mink was the first Asian-American woman to serve in Congress where she fought for social welfare and civil liberties.

11 of 16

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton women's rights activist
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As a leader of the women's rights movement in the late 1800s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a firm advocate for equal rights for all. She hosted the first Women's Rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, wrote speeches for Susan B. Anthony, and even scheduled her honeymoon around a World's Anti-Slavery convention. Like Anthony, she passed away before the 19th Amendment (which gave women the right to vote) was passed, but it could not have been passed without her advocacy.

12 of 16

Eleanor Roosevelt

Black and white portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt
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Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, but she did much more than simply support her husband in the presidency. Although it was a bit taboo for a First Lady to speak on such issues in the 1960s, Roosevelt was outspoken about the civil rights movement. After leaving office, she went on to become the United State's first delegate of the United Nations where she served on the UN Commission on Human Rights and helped pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

13 of 16

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama in turquoise top
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After a successful career as a lawyer in Chicago, Michelle Obama became the first woman of color to become first lady of the United States in 2008. She used her position to advocate for health initiatives, access to higher education, and international education opportunities for girls all over the world. In 2018, her book Becoming ($10, Target) broke records when it became the best-selling book of the year, selling more than 10 million copies within the first year.

14 of 16

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou sitting in a green outfit
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Chances are good that you've heard Maya Angelou's work (even if you didn't know it at the time). Her works I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ($15, Barnes & Noble) and Still I Rise are commonly quoted today in reference to her years of activism in the civil rights movement. She's been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, and three Grammys.

15 of 16

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor
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After graduating from Yale Law School, Sonia Sotomayor served as Assistant District Attorney in New York before she was nominated to the U.S. District Court by President George H.W. Bush. In 2009, she became the first Hispanic and Latina Justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court after she was nominated by President Barack Obama.

16 of 16

Katharine Graham

Black and white photo of Katharine Graham at a desk
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Katharine Graham was a publisher who led The Washington Post for almost thirty years. She was the first female publisher of a major newspaper, and in 1972 she became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company as the CEO of the Washington Post company. She also won a Pulitzer Prize for her memoir Personal History in 1998.

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