Women can do amazing things. There are some women in this world who have changed it completely, and for the better. The following women have had great influence on the world we live in, and have achieved more in their lifetimes than most of us ever dream about. Without further ado, here are twenty great women in history. 

List of 20 Great Women in History

Please note that the order of appearance for those great women in history does not in any way indicate the order of their importance. Each and everyone of them has made great contribution for humankind.


She was the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt, and fought hard to save Egypt from the Roman Empire. In order to do so, she formed alliances with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, both of which led to numerous stories of her female wiles and prowess. She passed away in 30 BC. 



This Greek poet lived around 625 AD. She was important for creating the “Sapphic stanza,” a poetry style of three long lines coupled with one short line, which is still very commonly used today. She also created the lyre, an instrument with 21-string that produces a beautiful, almost poetic sound. 


Joan of Arc

Born in 1412, she was only 19 years old when she was charged with heresy, a crime punishable by death. Long before her death, she was very active in political and war issues at a time when women didn’t do such things. One of the most astonishing things she accomplished was overcome the condescension of military leaders and worked to lift the siege of Orleans in nine short days. Twenty-four years after her death, she was declared innocent and a martyr


Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was born in 1913 and grew up during a time when people of color were oppressed. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to obey when she was told to move to the back of the bus to allow a white passenger to sit in her seat. This simple act of a tired woman on a bus just wanting to get home made her a symbol of the civil rights movement. She was ninety-two years old when she died in 2005, and in several cities the front seat of buses were reserved with black ribbons to honor her. 


Florence Nightingale

Known as “the lady with the lamp,” Nightingale was pioneer of the nursing profession, one of her greatest contributions was the belief that sanitary conditions and better nutrition were the key to successfully treating those who have been injured or fallen ill. She reduced many deaths during the Crimean War, and went down in history as the mother of modern nursing, which unarguably made her one of the great women in history.


Audrey Hepburn

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Hepburn was considered one of the great screen sirens. She lit up the screen and after she retired, she used her celebrity to do good works. She was a vocal supporter of UNICEF and other humanitarian causes until her death in 1993. 


Simone de Beauvoir

Born in 1908, this leading philosopher penned the groundbreaking book, “The Second Sex” By pointing out the sexism that dominated society and history, she helped others figure out ways to change it, and her book became the defining volume of the feminist movement. She passed away in 1986. 


Mother Teresa

This Catholic nun was born in 1910, and during her long lifetime she helped thousands of people who were sick, starving, and otherwise hurting. She was an icon of selfless service, and inspired others to follow in her footsteps. Known throughout the world for her kindness, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and millions mourned when she passed away in 1997. 


Coco Chanel

A fashion designer who burst onto the scene in the early 1900s, the Chanel name is now the standard of quality for women’s fashion. Many of her stunning designs came from taking men’s clothing styles and adapting them to suit a woman’s frame. The fashion house she built remains strong long after her 1971 passing. 


Marie Curie

Born in 1867, this brilliant scientist was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person to win it in two separate categories; the first was for physics in 1903, and the second was for chemistry in 1911. She developed x-ray machines, among many other things. All these achievements undoubtedly make her one of the great women in history. But her work also poisoned her, and she died in 1934. 


Margaret Thatcher

Born in 1925, this women knew a thing or two about politics. That’s why she was elected three times as the British prime minster, the first time anyone was popular enough to accomplish that feat. She was also the first woman to hold the position. Her influence reached to far-flung countries and she was truly a global political powerhouse. 


Oprah Winfrey

One of the most well-known women in our modern times, Winfrey was the influential host of a long-running talk show, as well as dabbling in the arts – she became a famous actress with a star turn in “The Color Purple.” Today, she owns her own television company, and continues to shed light on the things that matter to her, such as health, family issues and the eradication of child abuse. 


Emmeline Pankhurst

Born in 1858, Pankhurst lived during a time when things were changing dramatically for women. A member of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain, she was instrumental in pushing for change, whether it was by hunger strikes, public demonstrations or even violence. She died in 1928, three weeks before women over 21 won the right to vote. 


Eleanor Roosevelt

She might have been the wife of a President, but she had plenty of good works in her own right. Born in 1884, she served as an advisor to her powerful husband, made a significant contribution to human rights worldwide, and helped draft the 1948 UN declaration of human rights. The world mourned when she passed away in 1962. 


Queen Elizabeth I

Born in 1533, she became queen at an early age and ruled until her death in 1603. Beloved by many for the way she ushered in stability and financial strength during a time of worldwide crisis and unrest, she fought hard to maintain the throne during a difficult time. She passed away in 1603, having never married and instead, been considered “married to the throne.” 


Princess Diana

Born in 1961, this remarkable woman became a member of the royal family when she wed Prince Charles in 1981. She then set about putting a softer, gentler face on royalty, one that continues today with the legacy of her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. A champion of humanitarian causes, she shone a spotlight on those less fortunate. The world was shocked when she died in a tragic car accident in 1997. 


Susan B. Anthony

Anthony believed in the rights of women, the end of slavery and workers’ rights. Born in 1820, she dedicated her life to ensuring that all those around her would be considered equal in the eyes of the law. By the time she died in 1906, she was at the forefront of numerous causes for human rights. 


Emily Dickinson

Though she lived most of her life in seclusion, this astoundingly astute poet is now read by millions. Born in 1830, she wrote countless poems before passing away in 1886. She rose to enormous fame after her death, when most of her poetry was published. Her poetic style is still appreciated and mimicked today. 


Helen Keller

Born in 1880, Keller was deaf and blind by the age of 19 months. Through the help of a very good teacher, Keller learned how to communicate very well despite her physical limitations. She became a champion for those with disabilities, and made huge strides for those who are deaf and blind. 


Malala Yousafzai

This young woman was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to go to school and encourage others to do the same. At a very young age she became a symbol of women’s rights, especially the right to an education. Born in 1997, Malala is an example of a woman who is changing the world right now. 


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  • Helen MillerOct.17 14:59
    Please write about 20 great men in history - we also have husbands, sons, and grandsons! - Helen
  • DavidSep.18 01:28
    Catherine de Medici, Mother of Kings
  • leslie groomsMay.12 18:40
    Why is Hypatia not on here? That's heartbreaking.
  • MyraJan.12 12:39
    Great article but i would very much appreciate it if you removed Malala Yousafzai from the list of the greatest women of the world. The only think that girl should be awarded with is a Tony for the best actress of the millenium. After leaving her country, she has not stepped back once. True that the region she lived in was notorious for crushing the rights of women. that raises the question of her well eductation? how did she get so good in English and where did all that confidence come from? What about the other two girls who were shot with her? they disappeared in the dark. Malala is the most despised person in her homeland. because she depicted Pakistan in the worst way possible to the world.
  • EmsMar.8 01:32
    @ : Have you read her book? There are some answers for your question there. She gets her early education started before Taliban was taking over her village (or entire country) and opressed people's self-confidence. There's also the story of those two girls. If you have read her book, you'll know that she never tried to overshadow her 2 friends (she deifinitely spent a lot of pages telling about them) and never gave bad words about her country. She tells a lot of beautiful culture and things about her countries. But, she indeed tells how Taliban changed all that. You don't have to believe everything there, but at least you can see from her sight and see if her story line match with history recorded from other source. Only then, you can make a balanced opinion.
  • GwenJul.19 04:43
    @ : @ Ems and @ Myra. I read the book. I'm not a fan of hers. I had some issues with the book, but overall it was definitely interesting. She did talk about her education pre Taliban and how important it was to her father and mother. You see how focused she was on her studies and how her parents encouraged/supported it. Anyone who is semi intelligent, works hard and has the support of at least one person can easily have the confidence you talk about and overcome incredible odds to accomplish great things. How safe would it really be for her to return to her country? Taliban hates her and some other people in the country hate her. She's a woman, fighting for education/rights for women and she talks negatively about the Taliban. It's not safe. Why should she be forced to return to try to prove something. She did paint a realistic picture of her village (and country), but it wasn't all bad and negative like I thought she would. She definitely tells some beautiful things about her friends, her family, and her country. It was interesting to see things from a perspective other than my own. As I was reading her book, I would stop to look up pictures, maps, people's names, and others things. It gave me a reason to learn about her culture/country/history and it made it more fun and humanized people. Even if you don't believe her story, she is serving a purpose. Let her be on the list. @ Myra, maybe you should read her book with an open mind and heart. It's obvious you didn't read it before bashing her because she answers your questions in the book and your words also sound like a script I might have read before.
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