If a story about the most influential women of the 20th century were written 100 years ago, the choices would have been limited. Outside of female stars in the emerging movie industry or altruistic women in the moneyed classes, women had little influence on society.
That began to change on Aug. 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. In November of that year, more than 8 million American women voted for the first time. That put women on a path to greater political influence, enabling them to exercise their clout in, among other areas, the workplace, health care, public forums, and public schools. New Zealand and Australia had already passed suffrage laws, and the United Kingdom granted women the right to vote on a limited basis. Saudi Arabia allowed women to vote in 2011.
In the United States, it was only a start. It would take the work opportunities from World War II and then the feminist movement to further broaden the possibilities for women. For African American women, the road was steeper still, even with the passage of Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in the 1960s.
The year 1919 seems like more than a lifetime ago. Today, women’s influence can be found in every sphere of human activity. 24/7 Wall St. is taking this opportunity to acknowledge the most influential women of the 21st century in such fields as politics, business, education, technology, entertainment, and sports.
24/7 Wall St. compiled a list of the 31 most influential women of the 21st century based on the number of Wikipedia page views they received, their achievements, and their notoriety.