The Polish-French physicist was the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize, in 1903, and the first person to win the Nobel Prize for two separate categories, in 1911. Curie was a maverick for her research into radioactivity and chemistry. She also helped develop the first x-ray machines. “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood,” she once said.
When it comes to generating timeless fashion, few can match Chanel. The French iconoclast, who opened her first store on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910, started out selling hats. It didn’t take her long to expand her vision. She gave us the tweed suit, the little black dress, fluid jersey separates, and covetable costume jewelry. Chanel challenged traditional gender roles through her designs, revolutionizing the way women dressed and allowing them to feel confident and empowered through fashion.
Prolific doesn’t even begin to describe the remarkable talent that was Angelou. Over a 50-year period, she wrote award-winning autobiographies, essays, volumes of poetry as well as plays, TV shows and even cookbooks. Angelou, who died in 2014, was a civil rights activist, educator and renaissance woman whose legacy lives on in her powerful prose.
The Facebook COO, perhaps the most successful woman in business, has helped steer the social network into a global powerhouse. Lean In, Sandberg’s best-selling 2013 book, is one of the most illuminating studies on the barriers women face in the workplace. “Women have made tons of progress. But we still have a small percentage of the top jobs in any industry, in any nation in the world,” she once said. “I think that’s partly because from a very young age, we encourage our boys to lead and we call our girls bossy.”
As the first-ever Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, appointed in 2009, Sotomayor is a living testament to the power of determination. Her memoir, My Beloved World, recounts her steps from a Bronx housing project to the highest court in the land. Sotomayor, once called “the people’s justice,” is known as much for her toughness as she is for her equity. “Don’t mistake politeness for lack of strength,” she has said.
As the US ambassador to the United Nations, the youngest American to ever assume the role, Power advocates for the rights of women everywhere. Last year she launched #FreeThe20, an initiative to highlight female political prisons around the globe. “When people stand up and they’re exposing corruption… there is still a temptation in so many parts of the world to muzzle their voices,” she told Refinery 29.
As a scientist at JPL, the NASA space exploration center, Cooper spends her days reflecting on whether there is a life on other planets. “In my field, you have to develop new ideas to overcome each challenge,” she says. Asked where she sees herself in the next five years, she instead points to space exploration. “I will be celebrating the recent launch of the 2020 mission to Mars!”
As a young girl, this strong-willed Pakistani schoolgirl defied the Taliban by becoming an advocate for girls’ education, and survived an attempted assassination. In 2014, she became the youngest individual to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – she was 17. Last year, the activist opened a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon. “We must invest in books instead of bullets,” she said.
She’s been on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated, the subject of a Spike Lee documentary and is an inspiration for young women everywhere – and she’s not even yet 15. Davis is the teen star baseball pitcher who made waves as the only girl to ever pitch a shutout in the history of the Little League World Series, and is also a dominant force in basketball. We’re excited to see what she conquers next.