Click here to read about the process we used to arrive at the list you see below and to see names of the 85 other women considered.
FINAL ROUND CANDIDATES
Harriet Tubman (c.1822 - 1913)
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”
Born a slave, she fled North to freedom, later making 13 trips back to the South as an Underground Railroad conductor, leading some 70 slaves to freedom. A nurse during the Civil War, she served the Union army as a scout and spy. She was active in the women's suffrage movement after the war. Read more.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962)
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Redefined the role of First Lady. Used her newspaper column, radio and speeches to champion civil and women's rights, often in opposition to her husband FDR’s policies. As a UN delegate and “First Lady of the World,” she drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Read more.
Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005)“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
Saluted by Congress as the “first lady of civil rights,” she challenged racial segregation by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Her arrest, and the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott, became symbols in the struggle for racial equality and civil rights in the United States. Read more.
Wilma Mankiller (1945 - 2010)
“Prior to my election, Cherokee girls would have never thought that they might grow up and become chief.”
Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and first elected female Chief of a Native nation in modern times. Her 10-year administration, from 1985-1995, revitalized the Nation through extensive community development, self-help, education and healthcare programs for the Cherokee Nation’s 300,000 citizens. Read more.
Primary Round Candidates
Alice Paul (1885 - 1977)
“There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it.”
Fierce crusader, hunger striker and strategist whose 10-year campaign led to women's right to vote. A lawyer and social worker, for 50 years she headed the National Women's Party, fighting for an equal rights amendment. Read more.
Betty Friedan (1921 - 2006)“The problem that has no name — which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities — is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.”
Her book, The Feminine Mystique, is credited with sparking the second wave of American feminism. Founder and first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), she organized the nationwide "Women's Strike for Equality" on 50th anniversary of women's suffrage. Read more.
Shirley Chisholm (1924 - 2005)“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”
First African-American woman elected to Congress and first majority-party black candidate for U.S. President. Advocated for minorities, women and children. Changed public perception of the capabilities of women and African-Americans. Read more.
Sojourner Truth (c.1797 - 1883)“We do as much, we eat as much, we want as much.”
Born into slavery and escaped into freedom, she sued a white man to recover her son. Illiterate, she traveled widely, speaking for abolition and women's rights. Counseled freed slaves & tried unsuccessfully to get them federal land grants. Read more.
Rachel Carson (1907 - 1964)“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Her work and groundbreaking books in the 1950s & '60s spurred the modern American environmental movement. A trained zoologist, her book Silent Spring exposed the dangers of pesticide use, leading to a DDT ban and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Read more.
Barbara Jordan (1936 - 1996)“Through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in 'We, the people.'”
First African American elected to Texas Senate after reconstruction and first black woman from deep South elected to US House of Representatives. First black woman to deliver keynote at Democratic National Convention. Read more.
Margaret Sanger (1879 - 1966)“No woman can call herself free who cannot own and control her body.”
Popularized term “birth control” and opened the first U.S. birth control clinic. Arrested and tried for disseminating information on contraception. Helped in court cases leading to legalization of contraception in the United States. Pioneered Planned Parenthood. Read more.
Patsy Mink (1927 - 2002)“Women have a tremendous responsibility to help shape the future of America, to help decide policies that will affect the course of our history.”
First woman of color elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and first Asian-American in Congress. Largely responsible for passage of Title IX bill ending sex discrimination in education, including in athletics. Read more.
Clara Barton (1821 - 1912)
“Everybody's business is nobody's business, and nobody's business is my business.”
Pioneering nurse who first brought medical care to the front lines during the Civil War. She earned the nickname "the angel of the battlefield." Coordinated national effort to locate Civil War soldiers missing in action. Founded the American Red Cross. Read more.
Frances Perkins (1880 - 1965)
“The door might not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time, and I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered….”
FDR's four-term labor secretary, she was the first woman cabinet member in US history. Introduced the Social Security Act, Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, minimum wage, 40-hour workweek and laws against child labor. Read more.
Susan B. Anthony (1820 - 1906)
“Organize, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”
A leader in both the abolition & suffrage movements. In a 50-year partnership with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she established organizations, petition drives and publications, while campaigning widely for passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the vote. Read more.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902)
"The best protection any woman can have...is courage."
Called the “founding genius” of the women's rights movement. She convened the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, declaring, "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal," inspiring a generation of suffragists. Read more.