Throughout history, plenty of successful, noteworthy, and groundbreaking women have opted not to get married — it's a club that includes everyone from writers like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson, to DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin and Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock. Historically, many women chose not to marry not only because they weren't interested in romantic partnership, but because doing so involved giving up many personal rights — coverture laws made any land or goods a woman owned property of her husband the second she said "I do," marital rape was not considered a crime in all 50 states until 1993, and culturally, husbands were generally considered their wife's superior in almost all situations. Though women who didn't marry were often demonized as "spinsters," marriage itself often required a massive sacrifice of a woman's freedom and rights.
Luckily, we're past the era when society asked women to either give up all of their autonomy upon marriage or have it noted that one was a "spinster" on one's death certificate (as happened to scientific ground-breaker Franklin). But despite this progress, we still live in a world that often considers women lacking, less than, or somehow incomplete if they don't marry. Which is obviously ridiculous. But just in case you need a reminder of how ridiculous this is — or some ammo to use the next time someone tries to tell you that women can't really be happy unless they're hitched — check out the 11 women below, who have lived phenomenal lives without marriage. Some of these women have unmarried partners, some have kids, some have neither — but the one thing they all have in common is that their success, ability to innovate, and general badassery were in no way hampered by not having a wedding ring.
1. Oprah Winfrey
If you're making a list of famous women who made their life choices based on what's right for them — not on what life choices please others — then you've got to have Oprah at the top. Though Winfrey has been with partner Stedman Graham since 1986 and was briefly engaged to him in the '90s, after the two ended their engagement, she realized that "I don’t want to be married. Because I could not have the life that I created for myself… I knew that I couldn’t do it.”
2. Shonda Rhimes
TV dynamo Rhimes — who created, produces, and serves as the head writer and showrunner of both Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, overseeing a television empire known as Shondaland — has three daughters, and has been open about her lifelong disinterest in marriage. As she told Oprah on her radio show, Super Soul Sunday, "I have never wanted to get married. I never played bride. I was never interested. I don't know what it is; I never wanted to get married...It's never been a dream of mine."
3. Chelsea Handler
Comedian and bestselling author Handler — who, during her TV show Chelsea Lately's 2007-2014 run, became the only woman with a late night talk show — has never married, and once remarked "I never understood why people would want to get married."
4. Robin Roberts
Though the Good Morning America anchor has been with her partner Amber Laign — whom she referred to in her memoir as "the wind beneath my wings" — for over a decade, Roberts has never married (despite numerous rumors that the two are engaged).
5. Harper Lee
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the American classic To Kill A Mockingbird never married.
6. Marisa Tomei
The Academy Award-winning actor told Manhattan Magazine in a 2009 interview that "I'm not that big a fan of marriage as an institution."
7. Condoleeza Rice
Rice was the first African-American female Secretary of State, and the second African-American Secretary of State (after Colin Powell). Today, Rice is a political science professor at Stanford University, and a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy. When TV interviewer Piers Morgan asked Rice why she had never married, she replied that “the fact is I’ve never found anybody that I want to spend my life with."
8. Janet Napolitano
A former Governor of Arizona and former Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano is currently president of the University of California system, and was named the ninth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2012.
9. Anita Hill
Lawyer Hill — who made history in the '90s by publicly testifying about the sexual harassment she experienced while working with then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas — has gone on to a distinguished career as an academic, and currently serves as a University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies at Brandeis University. Hill has been with her partner for over a decade, but isn't interested in making it legal — as she told Newsweek, "We’re both committed, and we’re happy. We’re together every day of the year, but we each have our own home. I don’t have anything against marriage; I haven’t decided not to do it. I just haven’t decided to do it.”
10. Tyra Banks
The businesswoman, former host of America's Next Top Model and FABLife, former model and pioneer of the "smize" recently welcomed her first child with boyfriend Erik Asla, and has never married.
11. Queen Latifah
An actor as well as a musician, Latifah has won a Grammy, an Emmy, two Screen Actor's Guild Awards, and two NAACP Image Awards. She has also been nominated for an Academy Award, sold more than two million albums over her career, and appeared in several dozen films — all while happily unmarried.