7 Powerful Women Making History That You Should Definitely Know About

Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks. It’s no secret that powerful women throughout history have shaped the world as we know it.

Every day, whether we realize it or not, we are watching history being made by women who are pushing boundaries. These are women who stop at nothing — least of all, naysayers — to do what was once unthinkable in their respective fields. From economists to entertainers, servicewomen to scientists, women are leading the way more today than ever before.

In partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps, we celebrate the bold women who are creating their own opportunities and blazing the path for others through tenacious leadership and innovative thinking.

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Carolyn Porco

Named one of the most influential people in space by TIME magazine, planetary scientist Dr. Carolyn Porco has been at the forefront of outer solar system research throughout her career. As team leader for Cassini imaging, Porco heads up the mission currently orbiting around Saturn and has discovered seven new moons since 2004. She was also founder of The Day The Earth Smiled, a 2013 world event that encouraged people to reflect on their place in the universe. This unique moment marked only the third time Earth has been imaged from the outer solar system — and the first time ever people on Earth were made aware in advance of the imaging. The image, taken from the Cassini spacecraft, showed Saturn (and its ring system) eclipsing the Sun, with Earth serving as the backdrop. 

Today, she’s known as a translator for high concepts in planetary space and an advocate for popular science. As TED notes, ”her frequent talks …speak to everyone, scientist and nonscientist alike.” 

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Lynsey Addario

Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario has been through an incredible amount of sacrifice for the love of her craft. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in international relations, she began photographing for the Buenos Aires Herald in Argentina with no formal training. From these humble beginnings, Addario built a career focusing on human rights issues and the role of women in different societies, covering Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the war in Iraq, conflicts in Darfur, and much more. Despite narrowly escaping death more than once, Addario continually returns to the front lines and has made her mark in the male-dominated field of war photography. Her striking work has a tangible goal: to get people to care about humanitarian issues around the world and create real change in the most desperate of scenarios. “I empathize with people, and it pains me that some people are born into privilege and others into sustained misery,” she told American Photo. “But that compels me to stay out there, tell stories, and try to bring changes to terrible situations.” Her memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, was released earlier this year and delivers an intimate telling of her compelling career. 

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Emma Watson

Emma Watson rose to fame at a young age for her portrayal of the brainy Hermione Granger in the widely beloved Harry Potter film series. Quite the overachiever herself, Watson earned her degree in English literature from Brown University in 2014 and later that year, was appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Her dedicated work for women’s rights around the globe includes acting as advocate for the UN’s HeForShe solidarity campaign, which calls upon men and boys as agents of change in the fight for gender equality. Additionally, she has spent time in Zambia and Bangladesh to promote education for girls and served as an ambassador for Camfed International, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating rampant poverty in Africa through the empowerment of women. Just 25 years old today, Watson is sure to have an inspiring and productive career ahead of her.

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Misty Copeland

Star ballerina Misty Copeland was named one of TIME magazine’s Most Influential People this year — and deservedly so. Known for her candid discussion of body image issues and experience with racial discrimination, Copeland is all about promoting diversity in the dance world. Recently, she, along with Brooklyn Mack, became the first African American leads to star in a full-length American production of Swan Lake. She can also add “bestselling author” to her résumé after the 2014 release of her autobiography Life in Motion, which has already been optioned for a screen adaptation. Additionally, a documentary about her life, A Ballerina’s Tale, is debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. 

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Sgt. Kelly Brown

The Pentagon has announced its intention to integrate women into combat roles in special operations units by 2016. Sgt. Kelly Brown is among the first female Marines training alongside men in a yearlong assessment of the role of women in forward combat roles. Brown, who played softball at Virginia Tech, is leading the movement with her natural leadership abilities and sheer determination. “I believe that it’s mental,” she says. “You can train your body to do anything. And with the right frame of mind and the right positive mental attitude and just the determination, you can absolutely accomplish those tasks.” 

Image: U.S. Marines

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Sarah Thomas

American football may traditionally be seen as a man’s sport, but Sarah Thomas is a trailblazer. In 2015, she became the first full-time female official in NFL history. After attending University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship, Thomas started officiating football on the high school level as a way to stay involved in athletics post-graduation. From there, she went on to an impressive career in the NCAA, in which she was the first woman to officiate a major college football game. Career highlights include a 2011 Rice-Northwestern game, where she became the first female official to referee in a Big Ten Stadium. It’s no easy task to become an NFL official, to say the least. The NFL currently employs 119 officials, chosen from a pool of about 2,000, each of whom had been observed and evaluated by an NFL scout and invited to apply to the Officiating Development Program. Thomas was one of just nine stand-outs in her program to go on to a full-time position.  

Image: Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images

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Janet Yellen

Economist Janet Yellen has been a pioneer for women in the financial sector, becoming the first female chief of the Federal Reserve in 2014. That same year, she was named the second most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. Prior to heading up the Fed, Yellen served as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers under the Clinton administration and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Known for her progressive approach, she has devoted much of her attention and research to job growth. Yellen also endorses the use of monetary policy to stabilize economic activity over the business cycle.

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