Top 100 Women in History — Who’s on Your List?

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Jill Miller Zimon takes a look at’s Top 100 Women in History list, and is understandably skeptical. How one even comes up with a “top 100 women” list is a mystery to me, and all the lists that I’ve seen are very Western-centric. But Jill makes some excellent additions, so I thought I’d turn it over to you all: Who’s on your heroine list? Who do you think made invaluable contributions to feminism, politics, the arts, literature, philosophy, sports, culture, social justice and the world in general?

In a similar vein, Glamour has a spread this month in which celebrity women dress up as American icons. It’s not as terrible as it could be (although it certainly is lacking, to be generous, in a lot of areas), but the repeated emphasis on beauty stuck in my craw (for Rosie the Riveter: “Strength is beautiful;” for Althea Gibson: “She showed women…you can be sweaty, be gorgeous and do a great job;” for Audrey Hepburn: “She was so simply beautiful. And she loved charity work, something even more beautiful about her”). Plus the fact that the only time they use the word “feminist” is in describing Carrie Bradshaw, who isn’t even a real person.

So who should our icons be? Surely we can create a better list than Glamour and

101 comments for “Top 100 Women in History — Who’s on Your List?

  1. March 5, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Rigoberta Menchu

    Comandanta Ramona (and all the Zapatista women in Chiapas, Mexico finding for indigenous rights)

    Dorothy Day

    Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz

  2. Shelby
    March 5, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Lori Piestewa, off the top of my head.

  3. ClassicsGrad
    March 5, 2009 at 11:53 am

    As the handle suggests, I’m glad to see Artemisia, Hypatia, Sappho and Cleopatra on the list. It’s a bit typically Greco-centric, though – I’d happily swap in Livia, the first empress of Rome, or Tanaquil, one of the important women at the start of Rome’s history.

    One of the problems of playing at this end of the academic field is that all my immediate thoughts are fundamentally Western-canon-centric, and from at least two centuries ago to boot. Mind you, you could interestingly wonder what Cleopatra does on these kinds of lists, given the debates about her ethnicity.

  4. March 5, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Oh gosh, where to start…

    Okay, I’m going sidestep away from your question a bit (because I have an ongoing discussion about women in history in my space and can talk about this subject *for days*).

    Don & I both picked up books about history over Christmas. I grabbed one that was a selection of awesome women, called “Bad Girls”. He picked up one called “Heroism”.

    Because women who rebel or lead armies or become pirates or whatever are “Bad”, and men who do the same things are “heroes”.


  5. March 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Yoko Ono!

    Okay, that’s probably just my and only my list, and rather predictable for me. But still! Most likely, no one else was going to say her, so I had to :)

  6. Sarah
    March 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Some names that probably should be on the list, American-centric and in no particular order:

    Emily Greene Balch
    Coretta Scott King
    Angelina and Sarah Grimke
    Harriet McBryde Johnson
    Catharine Beecher (for fame and influence, if not for being a feminist role model)
    Fannie Lou Hamer
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    Fanny Wright
    Frances Willard (if we’re looking at politically influential women, her omission is pretty glaring)
    Julia Ward Howe
    Sandra Day O’Connor
    Condoleeza Rice
    Madeline Albright
    Frances Perkins

    There are probably more, this is just off the top of my head. I’m tempted to put down the two little-known activists I’m writing my senior thesis on, but will pass.

  7. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Murasaki Shikibu – first novelist EVER.

    I don’t have time to click over to, but someone please tell me she at least made their list.

  8. shah8
    March 5, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    that…was a terrible list.

    Wu Zhetian was pretty much the most powerful and influential woman in world history, and she ain’t on the list. No Maria Theresa either. And speaking of Theresas, there are a ton of notable goody goody women who were more inspiring and non-insipid than Maria Theresa.

    The list *really* goes off the rails when it comes to female scientists, mathematicians, and public intellectuals. No Helen Kellers, no Rosa Luxumburgs, no Marie Curies or Lise Meitners, no Byron-Kings, no religious leaders like Aishas (joan of arc doesn’t count as a religious leader).

    Then there are all of the people on the list that they kinda sorta obviously do not understand, like Hatshepsut. And in other ways, Pocahontas is a vastly less significant figure than Sacajewa!

    And I have always felt that Sojourner Truth tends to overshadow more interesting women like Phyllis Wheatley or Ida Wells.

  9. shah8
    March 5, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    eh, St Theresa, not Maria…

  10. Nia
    March 5, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    I’d include Carme Chacon, current Spanish Defence Minister, who was the first pregnant minister in the world ever.

  11. March 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Carrie Bradshaw is the EXACT reason why I’m trying to post one woman a day on my own blog. (To be fair, it’s also an exercise to work on writing entries that are engaging–and I know some of the women’s history ones aren’t right now–insightful but won’t “damage” anyone as most of the things in my life are related to an accident I was in last fall. So it was “I also really need a break but don’t want to stop writing.) I think I can come up with 100 names by the end of the day, and though I’m guilty of having included women in my own on-going project who aren’t real, I want to think I had a really good reason. :) I know I can pick real people.

  12. March 5, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Oh jeez–so now we have to be an actress/model/or butch-y enough to be interesting while still doing everyone a favor and remaining skinny and dying (Airheart on the Glamour list).

    I’m biased towards literature but still:

    Simone de Beaurevoir
    Zora Neal Hurston
    Tony Morrison
    Spivak and Butler
    Rosa Parks
    Virginia Woolf
    Nawal el-Saadawi (for her activism, not a fan of her writing)
    Ahdaf Soueif
    Fatima Mernissi

  13. Norah
    March 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Well, to be perfectly fair,’s list was not just names picked by some woman, but was decided by their popularity on the internet based on the number of searches. The woman who wrote the article made a list of 300+ women (granted, that list was probably Western-centric) and went from there.

    Empress Wu Zetian would be on my list. She ruled China from 665-690 through her husband and her sons and then from 690-705 she founded her own Dynasty (Zhou) in 690 – how badass is that? That’s not to say she was a *good* ruler, but certainly exceptional.

  14. Kai
    March 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Unfortunately I have to agree with shah8, I felt that was pretty awful. You’d never ever guess from these lists that over 60% of the people on this planet are Asian and that Asia is home to the most voluminous continuous historical records in the world.

    Though of course I second Cara’s pick. ;)

  15. March 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm
  16. Trixe23
    March 5, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Not that it means anything to anyone outside my family, but my grandmothers and one of my great-grandmothers.

  17. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    And speaking of Theresas, there are a ton of notable goody goody women who were more inspiring and non-insipid than Maria Theresa.

    Which reminds me of all those crazy esoteric vision-having female saints, like St. Theresa of Avila, and both Hildegard von Bingen and Margery Kempe (are either of them formally saints?). Not so historically important, but definitely contributed a lot to the theological and artistic periods they lived in.

  18. bleh
    March 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    seconding Shelby’s choice of Piestewa

    Adding Wangari Maathai.

    Also like Chava’s choice of Butler, Morrison, and el-Saadawi (though I do like her writing)

  19. March 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Well, Mother Theresa would be off my list for her exaltation of human suffering and for how her order and attendant charities actually functioned rather than the press releases, but I am shrill and unforgiving that way. Naturally, I expect the Roman Catholic Church to have her canonized in short order.

  20. shah8
    March 5, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    correction: Keler and Curie are on the list…oops…

    If I had the time, I’d go off on a rant about “real history” and “imagined history”. There is a reason why Stevie Wonder’s Pasttime Paradise is a favorite song of mine.

    I mean, I’d think *reeeeaaally haaaaard* about why Salome is on this list and Queen of Sheba isn’t. Or Jezebel.

    As far as I can tell, there are just three women from Latin America, although, I suppose the recognizable talent pool is small. I certainly don’t know many really well known people of latin origin.

    It’s just the whole Michelle Kwan and Indira Ghandi being held up as representative of Asia that really gets me.

  21. ZiaTroyano
    March 5, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    I’m a fan of Ella Baker.

  22. March 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    @ Opoponax:

    The women you listed did more than have crazy visions. Teresa of Avila was a major reformer of her religious order, and her writings still remain incredibly significant (the Vatican even took notice and named her a “doctor” of the church, up with heavy hitters like Thomas Aquinas). Hildegard of Bingen was an amazing composer, writer, and herbalist, to name a few of her important contributions.

  23. shah8
    March 5, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Norah, she’s generally considered a good ruler –grudgingly, by chinese historians. They do think she was a bad person. However, a ton of this is because most of these historians were intensely patriarchal, and Zhetian was pretty much a Patriarchy.Is.Bullshit!! sort of gal. I believe most feminists should be at least slightly familiar with the woman because she was one of the practically nonexistant few who directly challenged male superiority, had the power to make changes, and was moderately successful in the no compromise vein of anything a guy can do, a girl can do better sense. This included creating a place for women in previously all-male religious ceremony, addressing the unfairness of inheritance and other rather direct attacks on patriarchy. It also included having a harem of beautiful men with long dicks, too.

    I also think she was important because she is pretty much the classic example one would point to with reference to Machiavellian. While her body count was pretty high among the nobles, she did pretty well for her nation, and most people were better off because she was defacto and juris leader in comparison to the alternatives.

    And I haven’t even talked about other critical reasons why she was important, like printing presses, buddhism, meritocracy, etc, etc.

    I also am a fan of Theodora, Justinian’s wife.

  24. March 5, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Khadijah bint Khuwaylid
    Fatima bint Muhammad
    Rabia Al-Adawiyyah
    Shajar al-Durr
    Razia Sultana
    Jeanne d’Arc
    Rosa Parks
    Jane Elliot
    Amina Wadud
    Suheir Hammad


    Umm Kalthoum
    Azam Ali
    Lisa Gerrard
    Elizabeth Fraser
    Denitza Seraphimova
    Abida Parveen
    Noor Jahan

  25. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Yes, Victoria, that’s what I said in the remainder of my 2 sentence post.

    I just kinda have a mental category of “esoteric religious women of the middle ages”. Which makes me feel like a total geek.

  26. March 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Um, I’m going with Victoria. Generally going into a convent was your only way out of marriage and endless pregnancy/rape. Women who took holy orders and used their intellects, or even who just had “crazy visions” (Joan of Arc, anyone?) were incredibly iconoclastic and brave. To add to the “crazy religious” women–Heloise (of the Letters), the Maid of Ludomir, and yeah, Joan of Arc.

    Just because you necessarily function in the mental paradigm of your time (religious or not), doesn’t make you worthy of dismissal.

  27. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Oum Kalthoum!

    *makes mental note to listen to Enta Omry next…*

    Was Noor Jahan important for anything aside from being the inspiration for the Taj Mahal? There are lots of exciting Mughal women who wielded “behind the throne” influence, though. Jodhabai/Mariam-uz-Zamani and Jahanara Begum Sahib are particularly interesting.

  28. March 5, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    @Broken Mystic–

    Yea! I can’t get with you on Umm Ketholoum, though, I’m just too Western. Kadija kicked serious butt. As did Aisha.

    Also, Fatima al-Fihri.

    What about Scherezade? I know, I know, fictional….but still.

  29. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Just because you necessarily function in the mental paradigm of your time (religious or not), doesn’t make you worthy of dismissal.

    Errr, ummm, I’m confused. I mentioned Theresa of Avila, Hildegard von Bingen, and Margery Kempe as women worthy of note. And then reconfirmed that with Victoria who apparently took issue with my flippant identification of them as “crazy esoteric vision-having” people. How did we get to anyone denigrating them for being religious?

  30. shah8
    March 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Someone needs to correct Frances Wright’s wiki. I don’t think her father was the friendly neighborhood rapist.

  31. March 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    @ Opoponax,

    I was actually referring to the singer, Noor Jahan. She is considered to be one of the greatest singers in South Asia. I mentioned her because of how her music still has a huge influence on contemporary singers in the region.

    Lisa Gerrard (of “Dead Can Dance”) is known for her unique singing style. She often sings in a made-up language. She uses her voice as an instrument in order to express that many things in the human life experience (Love, Joy, Pain, Sorrow, etc.) transcend the limitation of words. Her work inspired by singers like Azam Ali and Denitza Seraphimova, who both sing in similar styles.

  32. March 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm


    I read through the comments quickly and ended up conflating yours and a few others. Apologies!

  33. March 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I would mention Charlotte Bronte if it wasn’t for for the Bertha Mason character in “Jane Eyre.”


    Oh yeah, Scheherazade! It’s been a while since I’ve read the Arabian Nights, but I think she could fit in (if she was real, lol).

  34. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I was actually referring to the singer, Noor Jahan. She is considered to be one of the greatest singers in South Asia. I mentioned her because of how her music still has a huge influence on contemporary singers in the region.

    ‘s cool. I just didn’t realize that’s who you were talking about. I’ll have to look her up.

    OOooh, I just did and discovered she’s also considered the first Pakistani female film director.

  35. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Also, duh, I feel like a moron for not getting that Noor Jahan was listed in your post under the subheading “musicians”. Sorry again…

  36. March 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    @ The Opoponax,

    Haha, no worries :)

  37. Sarah
    March 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I’m sort of wary of Helen Keller being on a list like this, since so much (all?) of her fame was because people couldn’t believe that a deaf-blind person could be intelligent. It’s really very tokenistic. A disability rights activist like Harriet McBryde Johnson is a much more suitable choice IMO.

  38. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    so much (all?) of her fame was because people couldn’t believe that a deaf-blind person could be intelligent. It’s really very tokenistic.

    This is what they tell you in grade school because they don’t want to tell you that the real reason she was famous was as a suffragist, socialist, feminist, and pacifist.

  39. March 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    @ Sarah,
    Helen Keller was actually a very outspoken socialist/leftist for her time, but that part of her story always gets edited out in favor of the tokenistic slant you’re right to point out. See Howard Zinn’s writing for more about her.

  40. March 5, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I would add Yoko Ono as well. She has a huge body of incredible, varied work, and her ideas of total communication continue to be inspiring. As is the fact that she is always, always exactly who she is and has always stood firm in that.

    Another artist I would add is Baroness Elsa Freytag von Loringhoven. She was a true original, completely ahead of her time. Known as the mother of New York dada, she influenced famous artists like Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, but never received the recognition they did. A lot of her work centered on her own body, and prefigured a lot of the gender based performance art that was to come in later years. She died poor and alone, and she is finally receiving some of the recognition her incredible life and art (which she lived as one) deserve. Check out:

    Holy Skirts by Rene Steinke (historical fiction)
    and Baroness Elsa by Irene Gammel (biography)

  41. March 5, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Sorry, I should have clarified more. I disagreed with your comment that they are “not so historically important,” given the lasting contributions they’ve made, within the realm of religion/spirituality and otherwise. The fact that we’re talking about them and their significance in a 21st century forum says volumes! :)

  42. debbie
    March 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Helen Keller was a socialist activist, and at one point, a member of the IWW. She was anti-war, supported birth control, women’s right to vote, and worker’s rights.

  43. March 5, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Sarah, Helen Keller was a radical marxist activist who wrote damning letters and publications about the conditions of workers. She was also a strong advocate for PWD. She used her fame in order to advance the causes that were important to her, such as suffrage and birth control, and was damned in the newspapers for it. Suddenly, the woman they’d been praising as being incredibly intelligent was dismissed as being crippled.

    They don’t talk about her politics when they teach about her in schools. It’s “nicer” to let her live be a Very Special Lesson in how Anyone Can Overcome Disabilities than it is to examine her politics and her activism.

  44. March 5, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    My heart warms so immensely at the Yoko love!

  45. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    She has a huge body of incredible, varied work,

    If anyone is in/around New York City, the Guggenheim has a show up right now on the influence of Asian philosophy, religion, and art on American artists (with lots of art from a pretty broad spectrum of both American, Asian, and Asian-American artists) which features her work pretty heavily. Of course the Guggenheim is The Most Pointlessly Expensive Museum On The East Coast. But if you can swing the $20 entrance fee and like Yoko Ono, it’s worth checking out.

  46. ClassicsGrad
    March 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Seconding Kaninchen’s suggestion of Rosalind Franklin – can’t believe I lived in a building named after her for a year and didn’t think of her!

  47. March 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    ah dammit. I was getting a list all together by category and I went to look someone up and I screwed the pooch. Dammit.

    A few names to toss out there:
    Nina Simone
    Billie Holiday
    Tori Amos (RAINN)
    L7 (Rock 4 Choice)
    Murasaki Shikibu
    Margaret Attwood
    J.K. Rowling
    Katherine Hepburn
    Tad Lucas and Alice Sisty
    Jane Goodall
    George Sand

    That’s not my “list.” I’m surprised Billie and Nina weren’t on anyone else’s list.

  48. Sarah
    March 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the Helen Keller info, Debbie and Anna. I knew a bit of that before, but I guess her public image as Inspirational Cripple made me wary of why she was on the original list.

  49. March 5, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    If you have the time and/or inclination, Sarah, she’s one of the people discussed in the book “Lies My Teachers Taught Me”. It’s a book that looks at the way history is taught in US classrooms and the reasons behind it. Keller is in the first chapter.

    I get kinda gushy about her, I have to admit. I’m writing my thesis about the history of Deafness in Canada, and she was here in Halifax at our wee little school in 1902, giving a speech at graduation. I was very amused by the anecdote about her and Alexander Graham Bell flying kites together. [AGB wrote “On a Deaf Variety of the Human Race” and was deathly afraid of Deaf people outbreeding Hearing people. I don’t think that comes up in schools much either.]

    Okay, it’s true: I can turn anything into a conversation about my thesis. *cough*

  50. The Opoponax
    March 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    GB wrote “On a Deaf Variety of the Human Race” and was deathly afraid of Deaf people outbreeding Hearing people.

    Because then nobody would want to buy phones?

  51. Persia
    March 5, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you, Anna, you beat me to it and did a better job.

    The Trung sisters (Vietnam) and Pantea (Persian) leap immediately to mind, but that’s mostly because I’ve been reading about women warriors.

  52. March 5, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for the link, Jill and also for encouraging us to think on our own, outside of SEO-determined top 100. ;)

    By the way, the end of your post reminded me of the notorious Enjoli perfuem ad which was no doubt before your time but in heavy rotation when I was a teen:

    Sigh – what if I don’t WANT to fry up the bacon?

  53. March 5, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    In case it’s too much to include the video, here’s the URL for the Enjoli commercial:

  54. March 5, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Oh, I could list 1000, but here’s a start (also, admittedly, literary-centered):

    Mary McCarthy (of the flying diaphragm scene in The Group, and one of the New York intellectuals)

    Tillie Olsen (writer and activist)

    Rebecca Harding Davis (working class writer of haunting “Life in the Iron Mills”

    Lucille Clifton (who loves her hips:

    Margaret Fuller (author of Woman in the 19th Century)

    Judy Syfers (author of Why I Want a Wife)

    Sojourner Truth (Ain’t I A Woman?)

    Louisa May Alcott (not just of Little Women fame, she supported her entire family for decades)

    Emma Goldman (I still think of Maureen Stapleton playing her in the film Reds)

    I could go on….

  55. March 5, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Sylvia Rivera.
    An amazing trans, latina, queer, & sex worker rights activist; she threw some of the first bottles at the Stonewall Inn uprising, marched with the Young Lords, helped start the early LG rights groups and worked with them until they betrayed her/trans* people one time too many, set up places for other trans*/queer sex workers (especially kids) to stay, marched for folks’ rights, worked to get petitions signed, etc. Much of it while living on the edge of or actually on the streets, while being addicted to drugs, while being involved in survival sex work, she had very little formal education, and was often jailed for either “vice” laws or for her political work.

  56. March 5, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I second Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz – for those not in the know, she was a Mexican nun of the mid-to-late 17th century who entered the convent primarily, it seems, because that was the only way a woman of her time could get an education. Along with a lot of poetry (some of which was pretty damned feminist for a Catholic nun in 17th-century Mexico, like one poem calling out on their hypocrisy men who publicly condemned prostitution and privately hired prostitutes) and religious lyrics, she wrote an amazing piece of rhetoric laying out a case for the importance of studying math and science to nuns and the importance to herself of being allowed to exercise her intelligence (I’m not doing it justice; it’s an incredible piece of writing).

    Also, I don’t know that she’d make it into my top 100 worldwide, but because no one else is going to mention her: Luisa Capetillo was a feminist, social-anarchist [I think], pro-labor, anti-marriage, atheist writer & activist in early twentieth century Puerto Rico (which… seriously, think about how amazingly radical that is for that place & time). She was practically a movement unto herself, the worker’s rights/socialist movement she worked with being incredibly male-dominated (they figured once capitalism got overthrown then women wouldn’t have to work outside the home unnaturally & then men would stop beating their wives because capitalism was no longer getting them down). She used to go around dressed as a man giving lectures. She was pretty fucking badass. Sadly I don’t think her work has ever been translated into English, and it’s also many years out of print.

    I don’t know that I would want her on the list, but I was kind of surprised Oprah didn’t make it.

  57. March 5, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Matilda Gage and Patti Smith.

  58. March 5, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Anita Garibaldi
    Naomi Wolf
    Camille Paglia
    Marie Curie
    Joan of Arc
    Frances Cabrini

  59. March 5, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    The founder of International Women’s Day, Clara Zetkin.

    Also, Rosa Luxemburg.

    (Somebody has to speak up for the Red Team!)

  60. March 5, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    To throw some athletes into the mix, I’d like to add:

    Billie Jean King!
    Martina Navratilova
    Lisa Fernandez
    Crystl Bustos
    Jackie Joyner-Kersee
    Dara Torres

  61. exholt
    March 5, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Norah, she’s generally considered a good ruler –grudgingly, by chinese historians. They do think she was a bad person. However, a ton of this is because most of these historians were intensely patriarchal, and Zhetian was pretty much a Patriarchy.Is.Bullshit!! sort of gal.


    And a lot of that is a relatively recent development as she has long been regarded as an illegitimate usurper, especially after she founded her own dynasty.

    The patriarchal factor cannot be denied, however, as she’s long been heavily villfied alongside Cixi(a.k.a. Empress Dowanger during the late 19th/early 20th century.).

    Then again, usurpers who went against the social orthodoxy and/or were unable to maintain power within their lifetimes tended to villified almost as heavily as we’ve seen in traditional Chinese historiographical treatment of Wang Mang

  62. Falyne
    March 6, 2009 at 12:12 am (The world’s first chemist.)

    Wu Zhetian, definitely.

    Dido of Carthage, if she existed.

    Cheng I Sao, one of the awesomest pirates ever.

    If Elizabeth I’s not on the list (I’m too lazy to look, but…), I shall not be amused. Ditto Catherine the Great.

    Boudica didn’t accomplish much in the long run, but she was damn awesome, too.

    Don’t forget Hatshepsut, either.

  63. Falyne
    March 6, 2009 at 12:22 am

    And, duh! Queen Victoria! And Maria Theresa of Austria!

    Ada Lovelace, too.

    If Biblical characters are in, I’d vote for Deborah. And, relatedly, Jael. (Tent spike to the face! Woo!)

  64. Az
    March 6, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Two new ones off the top of my head:

    Queen Lili’uokalani, last monarch of sovereign Hawaii. When some militant US citizens pointed their guns at the palace, she surrendered to avoid spilling Hawaiian blood. She was imprisoned in her own palace for months, and from the time she was released until the time she died she continuously lobbied Washington to return Hawaii to the Hawaiian people. She was a brave and honorable woman.

    Na Hye-seok, one of the very first Korean women writers. Hye-seok was an amazingly talented writer and artist, and in fact was the first Korean artist to study in France. She was one of the few Koreans allowed to travel the world during the Japanese occupation of Korea, due to her husband’s years in service as a diplomat to Manchuria (also Japanese-occupied at the time). While in France, Hye-seok had an affair with another man, and when she returned to Korea, her affair was made public. She was outcaste, and she openly criticized the fact that she was such a scandal and yet men were allowed to have affairs with no social repercussions. She was disowned by her family and spent the rest of her days wandering, trading paintings for food and shelter. Her paintings and stories are lovely and feminist.

  65. Az
    March 6, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Na Hye-Seok was one of the very first modern Korean women writers. Sorry. There were lots of Korean women who wrote prior to the 20th century.

  66. March 6, 2009 at 1:32 am

    No love for composer, author, and stone-healer freaky Christian mystic Hildegarde of Bingen?

    Or how about Elinore of Aquitaine, Queen of the Troubadours?

    I did like the Glamor inclusion of the Brandi Chastain moment. Roar! Battle cry!

    I’ve always considered Margaret Mead kind of a hero of mine.

  67. Eccaba
    March 6, 2009 at 1:51 am

    Yeah, I’m pretty floored that Wu Zhetian was left out. She’s only the most powerful woman in history. I was also thinking that Hildeguard von Bingen, Charlotte Perkins Gillman, and Yoko should have been included.

    Some ideas that haven’t come up yet:
    Christina Rossetti I can’t believe no body mentioned her yet!
    Mary Lyon
    Billie Jean King
    Victoria Woodhull (on Jill’s list but not this one)
    Mary Shelley
    Anais Nin (although I have to say I’m really not a fan ;) )
    Octavia Butler
    Andrea Dworkin
    Mary Pickford

    Hm, I appear to be heavy on the authors.

  68. Eccaba
    March 6, 2009 at 1:57 am

    Oh, I can’t believe I forgot Harriet Taylor Mill!

  69. Sarah
    March 6, 2009 at 4:43 am

    I’d add Julian of Norwich to the list–she was one of the esoteric mystic vision medieval nuns, but she also published the first book written by a woman in English, all about how the fact that she was a woman shouldn’t stand in the way of her teaching people about God.

    Also, Anne Bradstreet, for writing the first book of poetry published in America, full of super feminist (for a Puritan) lines about the role of women, as well as some pretty sexy poetry (for anyone) to her husband.

  70. Reductionist
    March 6, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Emmy Noether, first german female Professor and discoverer of the Noether Theorem, which is crucial for modern physics.
    It links Symmetries and Conservation Laws.

  71. The Opoponax
    March 6, 2009 at 7:03 am

    If Biblical characters are in, I’d vote for Deborah. And, relatedly, Jael.

    Or Judith (she of the many, many gory paintings).

    Or Sarah (the only person in any monotheistic scripture I’ve ever heard of who actually had the nerve to laugh at God.)

  72. The Opoponax
    March 6, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Cheng I Sao, one of the awesomest pirates ever.

    Then Anne Bonny should also make the list. She also had a female pirate lover, Mary something, forgetting the last name pre-coffee…

  73. AndiF
    March 6, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Emilie, Marquise du Châtelet
    Clara Schumann
    Barbara McClintock
    Rebecca West
    Jane Adams

  74. debbie
    March 6, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Camille Paglia? Really?

    And Mother Teresa? A woman who campaigned against birth control and abortion? And who (I believe) had connections to numerous fascist regimes?

    And without reigniting the zionist/anti-zionist debates on this blog, I am disappointed to see Golda Meir on the list.

    What about:

    Gloria Anzaldua
    Audre Lorde
    Angela Davis

    And as others have said, Emma Goldman and Rosa Luxemburg.

  75. March 6, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I made an art-themed list (which is, admittedly, really really heavily bent towards 20th & 21st century art since that’s what I know best):
    Yayoi Kusama
    Frida Kahlo
    Georgia O’Keeffe
    Sophie Calle
    Mary Edmonia Lewis
    Ana Mendieta
    Properzia de’ Rossi (the only woman artist to be mentioned in Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, alongside Michelangelo and Da Vinci)
    Artemesia Gentileschi
    Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun
    Kara Walker
    Louise Bourgeois
    Claude Cahun
    Helen Frankenthaler
    Faith Ringgold
    Judy Chicago
    Diane Arbus
    Yuriko Yamaguchi
    Eva Hesse
    Betye Saar

    etc. etc. etc.

  76. Sid
    March 6, 2009 at 8:56 am

    No female musician list would be complete without the incomparable Lata. I can’t believe she hasnt been mentioned already.

  77. March 6, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Oh shoot! I forgot to add:
    Coco Fusco, Kathe Kollwitz, Marjane Satrapi, Allison Bechdel, Cindy Sherman, Catherine Opie, Tracey Emin, Hannah Hoch, Sara Rahbar, etc.

  78. March 6, 2009 at 9:14 am

    so you’d object to Margaret Thatcher, too? They were both typed as “Iron Ladies” and tougher than even the men…echos of Hillary much?

  79. March 6, 2009 at 9:15 am

    I agree with many of the commenters about more important women in history than those on the list — but to be clear, this was a list of who is most POPULAR on the Net. I measured search engine interest over three years, at different times of the year. Thus, the list won’t include people like Rachel Maddow who have had a rise in interest recently, and, unfortunately, a lot of the non-western figures just aren’t who people are searching for.

    If someone’s not on the list — and believe me, I checked on many of those who are listed by others here in the comments, and was sad to see that they aren’t in that top 100 — then it’s a judgment on the general public’s interest. And motivation to work harder to include others in media stories, history standards, etc., so they become better known.

    If you explore the women’s history site you’ll see that there are many, many more women documented there; I know that I’ll have many more years of writing to go before even my own favorites are all there. We’re even currently searching for a contributing writer to help keep up with the needs around articles and biographies about the 1960s/1970s women’s movement. (See the site for that announcement.)

    I appreciate seeing all the interest in women’s history — and all the passion about getting more attention to women who don’t make a “Who are people searching for most?” list. I share that!

  80. March 6, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Jone Lewis who is he guide for Women’s History left a comment fleshing out the methodology etc. more. Maybe we need to figure out how we can, on a regular basis, move the names that should be up higher to their appropriate place!

  81. debbie
    March 6, 2009 at 10:00 am

    chava, I’m assuming your comment was directed as me?

    I must have skimmed over Margaret Thatcher, but I do find it troubling that she would be included.

  82. Persia
    March 6, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Thus, the list won’t include people like Rachel Maddow who have had a rise in interest recently, and, unfortunately, a lot of the non-western figures just aren’t who people are searching for.

    Or at least they aren’t in English. I checked Takahashi Rumiko– a best-selling author in many languages and Japan’s richest woman– and got 248K hits in English, and 673k hits on her Japanese name, which puts her in chasing distance of Isadora Duncan. The Trung sisters get over nine million hits if you search on “Hai Bà Trưng,” but only 120,000 if you search on “Trung Sisters.”

    It is interesting to see what ‘the Net’ thinks, though.

  83. Persia
    March 6, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I should say what the english-speaking/Western Net thinks.

    Debbie, pointing out that someone’s been influential doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. At least I sure hope not.

  84. Persia
    March 6, 2009 at 10:15 am

    And…geez, I can’t shut up today– there’s also a district in Hanoi named after the sisters, so that would have influence the sample. I’m sure there are plenty of places named after Catherine the Great et. al too, though.

  85. debbie
    March 6, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Right, but if we’re talking about people who made “invaluable contributions” to feminism, social justice, literature, and the arts, etc. on a feminist blog (which to me implies that the list that we would come up with would reflect our values as feminists), people like Margaret Thatcher would be excluded.

  86. Eccaba
    March 6, 2009 at 11:02 am

    “And without reigniting the zionist/anti-zionist debates on this blog, I am disappointed to see Golda Meir on the list. ”
    Really? Because that’s what it seems you’re trying to do. This is a list about the most important women in history, not who you want as your friend. Maybe you should get upset by people saying Cheng I Sao too. I mean, it’s not terribly feminist to offer up captured women to the male pirates for a price. Actually, if you’re going to take that route, there are a lot of people here you need to get really upset about, not just Golda Meir.

  87. March 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I was going to say Murasaki Chichibu too! She’s not on the list.

  88. March 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Have we missed Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma?

  89. The Opoponax
    March 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    No female musician list would be complete without the incomparable Lata. I can’t believe she hasnt been mentioned already.

    Or the Rolling Stones to her Beatles, “the incomparable” Asha Bhosle!

    And, yes, you might have noticed I’m not submitting my own list, just brainstorming based on others’ suggestions.

  90. March 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    I’m going to be unoriginal and say Hillary Clinton. She was on the list but doesn’t appear on anyone’s favored list above.

  91. Sarah
    March 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I was under the impression that this was a list of women who were “important” (however you want to define that) in terms of history, politics, science, the arts, etc. A feminist role model list would presumably be different, and far more contestable. I included an anti-feminist, Catharine Beecher, on my list because she was an extremely influential woman in her day even though her ideas about women are deplorable. And when some of the ancient/medieval women rulers on the lists were despotic rulers, I find it hard to get worked up over Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher. I know commentators were disappointed at the dearth of Asian women on this list and one influential woman I thought of was Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife. She wielded considerable political influence in engineering the Cultural Revolution, which biographers of Mao and Chinese historians often omit or leave out. Though her political influence had tragic effects, she is still a notable figure in modern history. I’m uncomfortable in limiting such a list to “good” women who did “good” feminist things.

    Some other names:

    Lucy Stone
    Alice Paul
    Carrie Chapman Catt
    Dorothea Dix
    Christine de Pizan
    Margery Kempe

  92. Kate
    March 6, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I’d add Camille Claudel. She was a highly gifted and misunderstood French sculptor.

  93. March 6, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I’d add Queen Margrethe I, who unified Denmark, Norway, and Sweden while being the regent of her son (who died before taking the throne).

    I presume she is on the list, but Marie Curie should be on it. Twice winning the Nobel Prize is quite an achievement.

    Aung San Suu Kyi should also be on the list.

  94. March 6, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Re the comment about 9,000,000 hits on searches for Hai Bà Trưng vs. the Trung Sisters — the list also isn’t about how often they are mentioned in published articles on the web, but how many searches there are for the information. Which women are drawing interest from the general public?

    As one source of such search info, try for “Madonna” and “Elizabeth Cady Stanton” and “Hai Bà Trưng” and “Trung sisters” and “Marie Curie” and “Ada Lovelace” (as just a few examples) or any of the other women you’re interested in.

    The lack of mention of some of our favorites is a sign that fewer people know about them and look them up. Talking about them (online and in educational publications and the media) will help with that, but it’s still likely that more will be looking up celebrities and those who are included in history standards and those who get movies made about them.

    In that context, I’m thrilled that women like Mother Jones, Anne Bradstreet, Anais Nin, Harriet Tubman, and Helen Keller made it as high on the list as they did!

    For those who want to see the whole list at once, here’s a tip: Use the “Print” icon near the upper right of the page, and you’ll get a page with all 100 listed in (reverse) sequence. If you don’t really want to print it, you can cancel the printer dialog that pops up automatically, and just read it in that sequence.

  95. March 6, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Simone Veil (French minister who made abortion possible)
    Eleanor of Aquitaine
    Elizabeth I
    Wu Zhe Tian
    Wei Hui (chinese author)
    Tzu Hsi(last empress of China)
    Matilda of Flanders (wife of William the Conqueror)

  96. exholt
    March 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Kwon Ki-Ok First Korean female aviator and first female pilot in China.

    Qiu Jin Anti-Qing revolutionary who was executed after a failed uprising which foreshadowed the 1911 Revolution which toppled the Qing Dynasty.

    Ada Lovelace First computer programmer.

    As for some of the choices named above:

    Queen Victoria was widely known for being against Woman’s Suffrage from her publicly disparaging comments against activists advocating for it.

    Tzu Hsi/Cixi – While much of Chinese historiographical criticism was Patriarchal and failed to account for the fact she was subjected to the constraints of Western/Japanese colonialist demands and an increasingly moribund government, the highly negative assessments aren’t totally groundless.

    For instance, she lead the reactionary counter-revolution in 1898 which crushed the 100 days of Reform under the Guangxu emperor and his reform-minded ministers. Many Chinese historians have argued that if these reforms were not impeded as they were at the time, that China had a good chance of evolving into a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy and thus, avoided several calamitous civil wars and further colonialist depredations because of China’s internal chaos, poverty, and lack of effective power to resist colonialist encroachments/demands.

    By the time Cixi and her ministers realized that institutional reform was necessary in the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, it was already too late as many Chinese had already felt the Qing Dynasty was too moribund and corrupted to be redeemed by “too little, too late” reforms. A reason for the increasing popularity of Anti-Qing revolutionary movements during the late 19th/early 20th centuries.

  97. Kelsey Jarboe
    March 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Stephie Coontz, author and teacher
    Sarah Haskins of target women<3
    Nina Simone
    Twisty Faster, blogger
    Amanda Palmer is pretty cool
    Sargent Mel at my college’s public safety, the only one who really cares about the safety of student and the only one who takes women’s voices seriously <3<3
    Some of my friends…

  98. courage the cowardly dog
    March 8, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Ok, my daughter is not quite a woman yet (she is 12), but she stands up for herself in ways I have not seen my sons or many men do. No job or challenge has any gender association to it. She wants to try out for the football team her brother who is 17 months older than plays. I have not discouraged her, but the thought of it makes me nervous, she is not big like her brother. She plays soccer and we have reached a compromise she going to try to be the team’s placekicker. I guess a defining moment for her occurred recently. The school she attends specializes in teaching to kids with learning impairments. She is dyslexic. Now for whatever reason there are very few girls in the school and she is in fact one of only 2 girls in her class of 12. As a consequence she and her girlfriend are the virtual constant recipients of teasing and verbal abuse by the boys. She apparently has reported this to her mother who has told her to let a teacher know when this occurs, but she won’t because doesn’t want to appear like “a rat”. My wife has complained to the school on her behalf, but apparently it was a problem that was not subsiding, until recently. She and her friend were on the recess playground huddled off to the side chatting when 3 boys came over and started calling her and her friend names and calling them wimpy girls and fat etc. When one of boys approached more closely my daughter and her friend grabbed one sleeve each of his hoodie sweatshirt which was large on him and tied him to a pole and commenced to kick him. One of those kicks landed in the boys croch. Of course, I did not condone this behaviour and she was duly punished, but I did point out to the shcool that that the incident was the result of their failure to reign in these boys. This incident occurred about 2 months ago and I recently asked her if things had gotten better for her and whether the boys teasing had subsided and she said it had. But I reinforced the notion that there were more constructive and peaceful means of solving problems and she responded, “Yeah, but sometimes you just have to kick’em in the balls to get their attention.”

  99. March 8, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    De-lurking to say: Doris Lessing!

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