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List of Top 50 Credible Women to Admire

When I was a little girl, I loved to read. I still do. In fifth grade I discovered a children’s book series of biographies. I think it was called the “Famous American’s Biography series. I read every one in the library. Even at that young age I was disappointed there were not more women heroes to emulate. When I was 29, I spent a year reading biographies of famous women. Sadly, many of the women I read about had horrible childhoods and or disastrous romantic relationships and marriages. When I got cable, I watched the biography of every single woman they featured. I was looking at their body language and listening to their voices searching for clues to being a powerful woman. I still look for feisty brave women to look up to and admire. While working on my first impressions book today. I wanted to give examples in the book of powerful feisty women. That task inspired me to create a list of the top 50 women who I admire. I would love your suggestions. What women do you think show any or all of the four first impression factors of credibility, likeability, attractiveness and power?

This list includes some of my personal heroes since I was a little girl. My list has lots of feisty women. I especially love women who have overcome adversity, physical pain and who have been the first woman to do something in their field.

1. Helen Keller - “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.’” That quote was on the wall of my teenage bedroom and later my college dorm room. She also said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” The story of Helen Keller has inspired millions: though she was deaf and blind after a childhood illness, with the support of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she learned signing and Braille, graduated from Radcliffe, and helped change the world's perception of the disabled. I played Helen Keller in a play in Junior High. I studied all of the amazing work she did and watched tapes of her speeches. She had this amazing smile and energy and was so enthusiastic about life.

2. Laura Hillenbrand - she is the author of two non-fiction books, "Seabiscuit"and "Unbroken". If you haven’t read Seabiscut, go get it right now and when you're finished reading the book read about her life. For over twenty years, she has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which at times interrupts her writing. She wrote much of Seabiscut lying flat on her back, as her illness often meant she couldn’t sit up at a desk.

3. Marie Curie - scientist

4. Jane Austen - extremely talented, Victorian author of "Pride and Prejudice" and other marvelous books. She was also brave enough not to marry in a time when women had extreme pressure to do so.

5. Dr. Ruth Westheimer “Our way is not soft grass; it’s a mountain path with lots of rocks. but it goes upwards, forward, toward the sun.” I saw Dr. Ruth speak when I was in college. She sat on a small chair and hundreds of college kids sat on the floor at her feet. The audience was transfixed. She is wise, funny, warm and very very smart. I want to be like her when I grow up.

6. Annie Oakley - sharp shooter, feisty lady, part of Wild Bill Hickok's Wild West show.

7. Elizabeth Kulber-Ross - gave us great insights into Death, Dying, Grief and Care Giving. “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

8. Charlotte Brontë - was one of three brilliant sisters, writers of the 19th century, each of whom died early. Charlotte's best known work is the novel, "Jane Eyre", which drew from her own experience as a student in an inhumane school and as a governess

9. Temple Grandin - Animal Behaviorist. She was described as "An Anthropologist on Mars" by Oliver Sacks in the title of his book (1995). The title is derived from Grandin’s description of how she feels around neurotypical people. She first spoke in public about autism in the mid-1980s at the request of Ruth C. Sullivan, one of the founders of the Autism Society of America. Grandin is considered a philosophical leader of both the animal welfare and autism advocacy movements. Both movements commonly cite her work regarding animal welfare, neurology, and philosophy. In 2004 she won a “Proggy” award, in the “visionary” category, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. One of her most important essays about animal welfare is “Animals are not Things”, in which she posits that animals are technically property in our society, but the law ultimately gives them ethical protections or rights.

10. Florence Nightingale - practically invented the profession of nursing, and also brought sanitary conditions to soldiers in wars -- at a time when more soldiers typically died of disease than of injuries in battle.

11. Erma Bombeck - columnist and humorist of wit and warmth “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.” I use to read her column every day in the newspaper. My mom even sent her columns to me when I went off to college. If you are aware of the physical pain and suffering she lived and worked through in her last years, all the while still writing and being a wonderful wife and mom you would admire her even more. Erma Bombeck's humor helped document the life of women in the 20th century as wives and mothers in suburban homes.

12. Clara Barton - nurse and founder of the Red Cross. I read her biography in fifth grade and I have admired her ever since.

13. Eleanor Roosevelt- not just the wife of the former president. Wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was his "eyes and ears" when he could not travel freely due to his disability. Her positions on issues like civil rights were often ahead of her husband and the rest of the country. She helped establish the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. If you have not read it look it up and read it right now. Powerful feisty woman. You must look on Net flicks for her autobiographical movie starring “Edith” from the Archie Bunker series. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

14. Julia Childs - she is known as the author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her popular books, television cooking shows and videos kept her in the public eye. Less well known: her brief spy career. If you have read her cook book, or any of her biographies and can remember her TV series you know this woman has spunk. I love her as a model for lust for life. She was an excellent chef, and a pioneer of the TV cooking show. She shows us that you don’t have to have your life all figured out the second you leave high school. Julia didn’t meet her husband until she was 35. She was always a hard worker and did some amazing work during World War II. She kept working on her book, believing in its importance for so many years and yet she was not recognized for her accomplishment until she was in her 50’s. She succeeded in a male dominated industry, and is definitely one of my heroes.

15. Pearl S. Buck - “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” Read all her books.

16. Rachel Carson - Pioneer environmentalist wrote the book, “Silent Spring” that helped create the environmentalist movement in the late 20th century.

17. Margaret Sanger - After seeing the suffering caused by unwanted and unplanned pregnancies among the poor women she served as a nurse, Margaret Sanger took up a lifetime cause: the availability of birth control information and devices.

18. Jane Addams - a pioneer in social work founded Hull-House in the 19th century and led it well into the 20th. She was also active in peace and feminist work.

19. Elizabeth Blackwell - was the first woman in the world to graduate from medical school. Blackwell was also a pioneer in the education of women in medicine.

20. Maria Montessori - was the first woman to earn a medical degree from the University of Rome; she applied learning methods she developed for mentally retarded children to children with intelligence in the normal range. The Montessori Method, still popular today, is child-centered and experience-centered

21. Ida Tarbell - muckraking journalist Ida Tarbell was one of the few women to succeed in that circle. She exposed the predatory pricing practices of John D. Rockefeller and her articles about his company helped bring the downfall of Standard Oil of New Jersey.

22. Barbara Walters - first female evening news caster

23. Ellen DeGeneres - comedian, actress, talk show host. “You have to have funny faces and words, you can’t just have words. It is a powerful thing, and I think that’s why it’s hard for people to imagine that women can do that, be that powerful.”

24. Betty Friedan - “When she stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity she finally began to enjoy being a woman”

25. Martha Graham - “There is vitality, a life-force, energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

26. Gertrude Stein - was a writer and associate of many of the 20th century's writers and artists. Her salon in Paris was a center of modern culture. She's known for her stream-of-consciousness style.

27. Audrey Hepburn - “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

28. Nina Simone -an extraordinary singer with a unique vocal quality. Buy her music and be blown away. “I had spent many years pursuing excellence, because that is what classical music is all about… Now it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important.”

29. Katharine Hepburn - “As for me, prizes are nothing. My prize is my work.” a twentieth century film actress, often played strong women at a time when conventional wisdom said that traditional roles were all that would sell movie tickets.

30. Margaret Thatcher - “I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.”

31. Annie Leibowitz - “I didn’t want to let women down. One of the stereotypes I see breaking is the idea of aging and older women not being beautiful.”

32. Ayn Rand - “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”

33. Alice Waters - “Every change ultimately is one for the better. You don’t know how it is going to be. It is just shuffling the cards, and people who haven’t revealed themselves might reveal themselves.”

34. Emily Dickinson - “Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”

35. Anne Sexton - “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

36. Gilda Radner - “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

37. Tina Fey - “I like to crack the jokes now and again, but it’s only because I struggle with math.”

38. Elizabeth Cady Stanton – American abolitionist and women’s rights pioneer

39. Mary Shelley - author of "Frankenstein" - feminist.

40. Emelia Earhardt - pioneering aviator.

41. Jane Goodall - she observed and documented the life of chimps in the wild from 1970 into the 1990s, and has tirelessly worked for the better treatment of chimpanzees.

42. Maya Angelou - autobiographical author and poet

43. Simone de Beauvoir - Philosopher and feminist. “I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth – and truth rewarded me.”

44. Anne Frank - autobiographer a young Jewish girl in the Netherlands, kept a diary during the time she and her family were hiding from the Nazis. She did not survive her time in a concentration camp, but her diary still speaks of hope in the midst of war and persecution.

45. Ursula K. LeGuin - science fiction author.

46. Susan B. Anthony - women’s rights pioneer.

47. J.K. Rowling - author.

48. Candice Bergen - Years ago I spent a year reading biographies of famous women. Candice Bergen was the only woman who was very aware in her life. She dated Doris Day’s son and stayed with him through some hellish times in his life. She has had healthy relationships with friends. And she has married kind and in many other ways remarkable men. If you look at Bergen's early life, she was an unlikely candidate for this list. Homecoming Queen, Beauty Queen, Model. She also chose groundbreaking roles when she was younger. I personally love that she is an accomplished dramatic actress who also has brilliant comedic timing. I also love women who were “firsts” Bergan was the first woman to host Saturday Night Live, and also the first host to be invited back again.

49. Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey - a pharmacologist who had just been hired by the FDA as a drug reviewer. (1960), The drug Thalidomide was marketed to pregnant women in several countries. It was never approved in the United States thanks to her efforts. This was her very first file. The drug company put enormous pressure on her, but she was extremely concerned about side effects on the unborn babies. Many babies were later born severely deformed because of Thalidomide, though none in the US, thanks to the work of Dr. Kelsey. The full story can be found here: article:

50. Arundhati Roy - (born November 24, 1961) is an Indian novelist, activist and a world citizen. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, "The God of Small Things" and has since devoted her life to helping the people of India. Really an amazing woman. Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother and a Bengali Hindu father, a tea planter by profession. She spent her childhood in Aymanam, in Kerala, schooling in Corpus Christi. She left Kerala for Delhi at age 16, and embarked on a homeless lifestyle, staying in a small hut with a tin roof within the walls of Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla and making a living selling empty bottles. She then proceeded to study architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture, where she met her first husband, the architect Gerard Da Cunha. "The God of Small Things" is the only novel written by Roy. Since winning the Booker Prize, she has concentrated her writing on political issues. These include the Narmada Dam project, India’s Nuclear Weapons, corrupt power company Enron’s activities in India. She is a figure-head of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism. In response to India’s testing of nuclear weapons in Pokhran, Rajasthan, Roy wrote,"The End of Imagination" a critique of the Indian government’s nuclear policies. It was published in her collection, "The Cost of Living" in which she also crusaded against India’s massive hydroelectric dam projects in the central and western states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. She has since devoted herself solely to nonfiction and politics, publishing two more collections of essays as well as working for social causes. Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004 for her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence. In June 2005 she took part in the World Tribunal on Iraq. In January 2006 she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for her collection of essays, ‘The Algebra of Infinite Justice’, but declined to accept it. To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get use to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget. (Arundhati Roy)