101 Amazing Women Who Changed the World

Damon Amato
Damon Amato

History is not always what is seems—regardless of what even the most robust textbooks might say. Take, for example, the work of Rosalind Franklin: The British scientist whose 1952 research was integral to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, but who had her research swiped by male colleagues who announced their "discovery" to the world—and won a Nobel Prize for it—without giving Franklin one bit of the credit.

While gender parity continues to be an ongoing problem (yes, even in 2020), the world is fortunately full of examples of brave women who have stood up to the most daunting challenges to make their voices heard and accept full recognition for their achievements. From singers to scientists and athletes to activists, here are 101 women who have changed the world.

1. Maya Angelou

Scott Eells, Getty Images

Maya Angelou was a writer, poet, civil rights activist, dancer, and director best known for titles such as her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928, Angelou fought back against a society filled with racism and prejudice to write more than 30 books, direct 1998's Down in the Delta starring Alfre Woodard and Wesley Snipes, recite one of her poems at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2010. —Kristen Richard

2. Susan B. Anthony

Scewing, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

This year marks the 100th anniversary of (many) women gaining the right to vote in the United States—and the 200th birthday of one of the women who made it possible: Susan B. Anthony. Born in Massachusetts in 1820, Anthony was a lifelong activist on behalf of women’s rights. With fellow suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anthony founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 and traveled the country advocating for voting rights. She and Stanton also edited the organization’s newspaper to further disseminate feminist ideas. Though their opposition to the 15th Amendment—which gave suffrage to men of all races (in theory), but not women—caused a split in the women’s movement, Anthony continued to muster support and lobby Congress for suffrage. In one of her most defiant acts, she was arrested simply for casting a ballot in the 1872 presidential election and given a fine of $100—which she refused to pay. —Kat Long

3. Virginia Apgar

March of Dimes/Library of Congress via Wikimedia // Public Domain

Virginia Apgar’s career was full of firsts: In 1937, she became the first female board-certified anesthesiologist and the first woman to achieve the rank of professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she was the first professor of anesthesiology. In 1952, she presented a five-step system for assessing the condition of newborn babies within a minute of birth and periodically after that. Prior to the development of the test—in which nurses or other delivery room staff assess a baby’s skin color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing—babies weren’t typically given much attention after birth, which could lead to problems being missed until it was too late.

The test eventually became a backronym for appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, and respiration. The APGAR test soon spread through the U.S. and around the world, and today, according to the National Library of Medicine, “[E]very baby born in a modern hospital anywhere in the world is looked at first through the eyes of Dr. Virginia Apgar.” —Erin McCarthy

4. Jane Austen

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Jane Austen completed just six novels before she died at the age of 41 in 1817, yet she managed to change the course of literature. Her books, including Pride and Prejudice, were groundbreaking in their use of literary realism and free indirect narrative style—modes that would become so commonplace in fiction that it's easy to miss how experimental Austen's books were in their time. Even two centuries after her death, her stories have retained their appeal to both critics and everyday readers alike, both through her books and the numerous, numerous spin-offs, reimaginings, and adaptations that have been created for film, television, and the stage. —Shaunacy Ferro

5. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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There’s not a lot to say about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that hasn’t already been stated: The Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has been the subject of countless articles and books (including several children’s books), as well as an Oscar-nominated documentary (RBG) and a Felicity Jones-starring biopic (On the Basis of the Sex) that were both released in 2018. That same year, her photo made a fleeting appearance in Deadpool 2, with the foul-mouthed superhero considering the then-85-year-old for a part in his own superhero team, the X-Force. Many individuals (of the non-superhero kind) agree, as Ginsburg has spent the better part of her career breaking down barriers and fighting for women’s rights and gender parity. All of which is to say that Ginsburg’s “Notorious RBG” moniker is well-earned, and 100 percent accurate. —Jennifer M. Wood

6. Josephine Baker

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On the surface, Josephine Baker is best known as an enchanting singer who wowed crowds pretty much anywhere she performed—but she was much more than that. A dedicated civil rights and social activist, Baker actually worked as a spy for the French Resistance across North Africa and Europe during WWII. She was known to sneak photos of German military installations across borders by pinning them to her underwear while going through customs and moved top-secret messages across Europe while writing them in invisible ink on her sheet music. The more you learn about Baker, the more unbelievable it all sounds. But make no mistake about it, this multifaceted entertainer was the real deal. —Jay Serafino

7. Jeanne Baret

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The French crewmembers of the Étoile voyage in the 1760s fully intended to circumnavigate the globe—they just didn’t think a woman would be doing it with them. Dr. Philibert Commerçon had been hired as the ship’s botanist on the expedition, and he hatched a plan to bring along his lover, fellow botanist Jeanne Baret. Since women weren’t allowed, Baret had to dress as a man, go by “Jean,” and work as Commerçon’s assistant. The ruse worked for a while, but the crew eventually discovered Baret’s true identity and kicked the couple off the ship as soon as they got to the French colony of Mauritius. Years later, after Commerçon died, Baret married and returned to France—completing the circumnavigation. —Ellen Gutoskey

8. Clara Barton

Mathew Brady, National Archives and Records Administration // Public Domain

Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton started tending to wounded soldiers just a week after the Civil War began, using supplies from her own home. She proved herself to be a relentless, reliable, fearless nurse throughout the war, eventually earning the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield” and even narrowly avoiding death herself when a bullet tore through her dress at the Battle of Antietam. Several years after the war had ended, Barton traveled to Switzerland, where she first heard about the International Red Cross and left with an idea to establish a similar organization in the United States. Barton launched the American Red Crosst with the help of philanthropist Adolphus Solomons in May 1881, and she served as its president for the next 23 years. —EG

9. Melitta Bentz

Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

If you can’t face the morning without a cup of coffee, you should raise your mug to Melitta Bentz, a German housewife who patented the paper coffee filter in Berlin in 1908. Bentz had grown frustrated with loose grounds winding up in her joe and decided to use a piece of blotting paper from her son’s school notebook to filter them. The trick soon spread across the globe, with Bentz and her husband, Hugo, running a successful manufacturing business that also helped popularize five-day workweeks and holiday bonuses. —Jake Rossen

10. Simone Biles

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Simone Biles became a household name after helping the United States women’s gymnastics team win gold at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she also took home a whopping four individual medals: gold for all-around, vault, and floor, and bronze on the beam. Since then, Biles has become the most decorated female gymnast in history, setting so many records along the way that it would probably be excessive to list them here. Her powerhouse performances have raised the standard for women’s gymnastics around the world, and her unfalteringly sunny attitude and laser focus have taught us all something about how to be better, more successful people. As Biles sets her sights on taking home more medals at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she’s also hoping to flatten a different kind of adversary: toxic beauty standards. She and five other Olympic athletes are teaming up with skincare brand SK-II on a video series that promotes acceptance, self-love, and positive body image.—EG

11. Mary Blair

Portrait of Disney artist and animator Mary Blair, from Michael Netzer's Portraits of the Creators Sketchbook.
Michael Netzer // CC BY-SA 3.0, WIkimedia Commons

The look of Disney’s animated films and theme parks in the '40s, '50s, and '60s evolved in many ways thanks to artist and designer Mary Blair. Her earliest work at the company involved a Disney-backed goodwill tour of South America to research the continent and capture its unique look in her art. She returned with watercolor paintings that were so impressive that she was named an art supervisor on the Latin American-themed movies The Three Caballeros and Saludos Amigos.

Her career continued from there, lending her visual style to Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland, as well as helping to design the original “It’s a Small World” exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Her art has also graced Disney resorts, parks, and entries in the company’s Little Golden Books line. —JS

12. Nellie Bly

H.J. Meyers via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, known by her pen name Nellie Bly, was hellbent on telling stories that mattered. After ditching the Pittsburgh-based Dispatch because the paper insisted she stick to writing frilly tales, Bly set her sights on New York City. For her first assignment at the New York World, the investigative journalist went undercover at the asylum on Blackwell’s Island to report on the horrors occurring there. Bly spent much of her career embedded among her subjects, bringing issues that plagued the city’s darker corners to light—when she wasn’t shattering records by voyaging around the world in 72 days, that is. —Kerry Wolfe

13. Sarah Breedlove (a.k.a. Madam C. J. Walker)

Scurlock Studio // Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History // Wikimedia Commons

In 1888, a 20-year-old widow named Sarah McWilliams (née Breedlove) moved from Mississippi to St. Louis, Missouri, and got a job as a washerwoman, earning about $1.50 a day to support herself and her daughter. By the early 1900s, she had developed her own line of hair care products for African American women and was selling them door-to-door. With a high demand and a wide open market, McWilliams—who had married Charles Joseph Walker and was now going by Madam C.J. Walker—soon expanded her business to the Caribbean and Central America, opened a beauty school, and had more than 25,000 salespeople in her employ. Though profit estimates vary, Walker is generally regarded as the first self-made female millionaire, and she remains one of America’s greatest examples of entrepreneurship to this day. —EG

14. Ruby Bridges

Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Ruby Bridges was only 6 years old when, in 1960, she integrated at a public school in the South. Segregation in public schools had officially ended in 1954, the year the Supreme Court made its ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka—and the year Bridges was born—but southern schools resisted. A federal court ordered Louisiana to desegregate, and in 1960 Bridges began to attend William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. She was the only African American in the school. In 2014, she told National Geographic of her first day, which was immortalized in a painting by Norman Rockwell four years later. “I remember driving up to the school, seeing all these people screaming," she said. "But in New Orleans that’s what we do at Mardi Gras. I thought we’d stumbled upon a parade. And so I really wasn’t afraid at all.”

Each day, Bridges was escorted into school by four federal marshals and her mother. Crowds screamed at her; parents withdrew their white children; only one teacher would allow Bridges into her classroom; the little girl ate lunch by herself. Bridges’s family suffered, too, but Bridges persisted: She didn’t miss a day of school the entire year. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bridges became an activist for racial equality, and in 1999, she founded the Ruby Bridges Foundation, whose mission is to "empower children to advance social justice and racial harmony." —EMC

15. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë

Branwell Brontë, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Isolated in an English village in the mid-19th century, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë entertained themselves by creating imaginary worlds and making up stories about their inhabitants. These Gothic dramas set the stage for their later novels, particularly Jane Eyre, Shirley, and Villette by Charlotte; Wuthering Heights by Emily; and Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne. Each story confronted the shortcomings of Victorian society, particularly the lack of economic opportunities for women, in wildly Romantic narratives set amid the melancholy moors of Yorkshire. To increase their chance of publication, they authored their work under their gender-neutral pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. It was a smart move for the time—most of their books were bestsellers, because critics and readers assumed they were written by men. But after Emily and Anne died in 1848 and 1849, respectively, Charlotte pushed back against critics who had dismissed her sisters’ talents and revealed, in a heartbreaking memorial, all of their true identities. —KL

16. Rachel Carson

Smithsonian Institution // Wikimedia Commons

Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, kicked off the modern environmental movement and has been called “one of the most influential books in the history of modern publishing” by The New York Times. By the time the book was published in 1962, Carson was a veteran nature writer, capable of explaining science so everyone could understand, and in Silent Spring, she set her sights on showing the horrific effects pesticides like DDT were having on wildlife and humans alike. She backed up her claims with page after page of evidence. For The Guardian, Margaret Atwood wrote that Carson “polished all her rhetorical weapons, and synthesized a wide range of research. She was able to combine a simple and dramatic presentation with a formidable array of backup statistics, and to forge a call to specific action. The impact was enormous—many groups, pieces of legislation, and government agencies were inspired by it.” The pesticide industry smeared Carson, but she fought back defiantly until her death from breast cancer in 1964—and Silent Spring remains relevant more than 50 years after it was published. —EMC

17. Joyce Chen

Stephen Chen, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA

It's easy to find Chinese food in America today, but when Joyce Chen moved to the United States from China in 1949, the traditional cuisine of her home was still regarded as a novelty. Over the next few decades, Chen shared her passion for Chinese food with her new country by opening restaurants, writing cookbooks, and starring in her own cooking show. Chinese buffets, the name Peking raviolis for potstickers, and the stir-fry pan are just a few of the innovations she brought to Chinese-American cuisine. —Michele Debczak

18. Julia Child

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before the Barefoot Contessa, Rachael Ray, and Guy Fieri, there was Julia Child. Her cooking show, The French Chef, was the perfect showcase for her endearing personality and unpretentious approach to cooking, and it made her into one of the first celebrity chefs on television. Before her screen debut, Child had changed the world with her 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her book is credited with bringing gourmet cooking into many typical American kitchens for the first time. —MD

19. Shirley Chisholm

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Born in Brooklyn, Shirley Chisholm started her career as a teacher. In 1964, she became the second African-American woman to serve in New York state legislature, and when political redistricting created a new Brooklyn congressional district in 1968, Chisholm defeated civil rights activist James Farmer to become the first African-American woman elected to U.S. Congress. She served seven terms in the House of Representatives, helping found the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus along the way. As a politician, she fought for equality for women and minorities, to eradicate poverty, and to end the draft and the Vietnam War. “I want history to remember me ... not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself,” she declared in an interview just before her death. “I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.” —SF

20. Eugenie Clark

Bsteinitz, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA

Eugenie Clark was a pioneer of the field of ichthyology, performing dozens of submersible dives and discovering several new species of fish during her lifetime. One of few women and even fewer women of Japanese-American descent working in marine biology in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, Clark was known to push boundaries. Unlike many of her colleagues, she wasn't afraid to study fish up close in the water. She was also one of the first ichthyologists to explore the Red Sea. Outside of the ocean, Clark taught the public about marine life and fought to improve sharks' reputation, earning her the nickname "The Shark Lady." —MD

21. Cleopatra

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While history often remembers the queen of Egypt for her supposed beauty, Cleopatra was a highly intelligent politician who spoke at least nine languages including Egyptian—making her the first person in her family to do so as her dynasty was Macedonian Greek. Despite being a female ruler in a male-dominated society, Cleopatra had a major impact on the Roman empire and held Egypt together during a time of turmoil. —KR

22. Alice Coachman

Earning Olympic Gold is a rare feat in any era: Alice Coachman was facing more of an uphill struggle than most. Unable to train at segregated facilities that refused entry to athletes of color, Coachman devised impromptu routines on her own before landing an athletic scholarship at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. She won gold in the high jump at the 1948 London Games by launching herself 5 feet, 6 and 1/8 inches in the air, becoming the first black woman to earn a gold medal in track and field. She made even more history in 1952, scoring an endorsement deal with Coca-Cola—the first black female athlete to do so. Her achievements have been enough to fill at least nine separate Halls of Fame. —JR

23. Bessie Coleman

Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

When Bessie Coleman realized that no one in America would teach a non-white woman to be a pilot, she was undeterred. In 1920, the 28-year-old traveled to France to enroll in flight school and, less than a year later, returned home as both the first African American woman and the first Native American woman in the world with a pilot’s license. Coleman used her new skills to perform in airshows around the country. In 1926, she died in an aviation accident, and though her career as an aviatrix was brief, she broke barriers for generations of pilots to come. —MD

24. Caresse Crosby

Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Many a bra-wearer will tell you that bras are far from the most comfortable clothing item to wear on a daily basis, but they’re still a heck of a lot better than the full-torso, whalebone corsets that women customarily wore in the early 20th century. That’s what inspired 19-year-old Caresse Crosby—born Mary Phelps Jacobs—to fashion a brand-new kind of booby trap from two silk handkerchiefs and some ribbon when she was dressing for a debutante ball. She called it a brassiere, patented it in 1914, and sold that patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company before turning her attention to publishing and writing. —EG

25. Marie Curie

Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Curie: Hulton Archive, Getty Images. Background: iStock

Polish scientist Maria Salomea Skłodowska, better known as Marie Curie, discovered a couple of elements, won a couple of Nobel Prizes, broke a couple of records, and paved the way for female scientists who came after her (including her daughter, Irène, who also won a Nobel Prize with her husband). Curie’s 1903 Nobel Prize in physics for her work in radioactivity made her the first woman to ever win one, and her 1911 Nobel Prize in chemistry (for discovering and studying the elements radium and polonium) made her the first and only person—not woman, but person—to ever win Nobel prizes in two different sciences. In 1934, Curie died at age 66 from aplastic anemia, likely due to her prolonged exposure to radiation; to this day, some of her notebooks are still radioactive. —EG

26. Sandra Day O'Connor

Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was often a swing vote during her two decades on the court, including on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the landmark 1992 case that reaffirmed Roe v. Wade’s stance on the constitutional right to abortion. O’Connor retired from the bench in 2006. She has since founded the nonprofit educational website iCivics, which provides lessons and free resources designed to get more kids involved in civic life. —SF

27. Ann E. Dunwoody

United States Army, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Though Ann E. Dunwoody was born into a military family in Fort Belvoir, Virginia on January 14, 1953, fatigues were never something she saw in her future. The daughter of a career army officer, Dunwoody attended the State University of New York College at Cortland with an eye toward a career in physical education, but before then, she’d explain, “I had hoped to add my own small footnote to our family tradition. While I joined the Army right out of college, I planned to only stay in the Army to complete my two-year commitment,” Dunwoody said in an interview. “But it wasn’t too long before I realized that there are no other shoes I would rather fill than the ones I am wearing right now … It is a calling to be a soldier and there is a great sense of pride and camaraderie in serving the greatest Army in the world." While Dunwoody is proud that members of her family have been defending America for more than 150 years— “my great grandfather, my grandfather, my father, my brother, my sister, my niece, and my husband are all veterans of this country's wars”—it’s hard to believe that any of them have come close to matching Dunwoody’s achievements. At Fort Bragg, one of the world’s largest military installations, she became the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division in 1992. On November 14, 2008, Dunwoody made history yet again when she became the first American woman promoted to four-star general. Though she retired in 2012, after nearly 40 years of service, Dunwoody later published a book, A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America's First Female Four-Star General, in which she shared many insights on being an effective leader. —JMW

28. Amelia Earhart

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Even before she became known as the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart was already going against gender norms at a young age in the early 1900s by playing basketball and attending college. But Earhart's life would change forever on December 28, 1920, when Frank Hawks, a WWI pilot, gave her a ride in a plane. From that day on, she knew she had to fly. Earhart went on to set many aviation records, becoming the first woman to fly alone at 14,000 feet, the first woman to complete a solo nonstop transcontinental flight, and the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross. While her career was cut short when she tragically disappeared over the Pacific in 1937, Earhart was an inspiration and advocate for female pilots. —KR

29. Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Cixi with ladies of the court, circa 1904.Print Collector, Getty Images

Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi began her adult life as a concubine, but she ended it as China’s most powerful woman. Though she technically served as the regent for the emperor—her young son, and after his death, her nephew—while he was still a minor, in reality, she effectively controlled the empire behind the scenes for 47 years, killing off her enemies when necessary. Scholars are still sorting through her effect on Chinese history, debating whether she was a murderous, greedy reactionary who clung to power at the expense of much-needed reforms, or a shrewd ruler who kept a doomed dynasty afloat for nearly half a century, modernizing China while maintaining political order. There is no doubt, however, that she changed the country forever, abolishing some forms of torture, encouraging freedom of the press, and moving China toward a constitutional monarchy. —SF

30. Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald with her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald and daughter.Keystone, Getty Images

Zelda Fitzgerald was a fashion icon, a living emblem of the Jazz Age who became known as the first American flapper. Fitzgerald, who struggled with mental illness for most of her life, was a writer and artist in her own right, but she’s most often remembered for being her husband’s muse. Without Zelda’s influence, it’s likely that The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan and other renowned characters would have been quite different. Not only did F. Scott pen dialogue that came directly from the mouth of Zelda herself, but he also perused her diaries for material. Daisy’s assertion that she hopes her daughter will be a “beautiful little fool,” for example, is exactly what Zelda said after the birth of her daughter. —EG

31. D.C. Fontana

Albert L. Ortega, Getty Images

When D.C. Fontana boarded Star Trek as a script writer in 1966, she was one of the only women working in sci-fi TV at the time. But she quickly became a vital guiding hand for the characters of the Enterprise for decades to come. Notably, her script for the episode “Journey to Babel” helped flesh out Spock’s backstory by introducing viewers to his parents and their Vulcan customs. When Star Trek: The Next Generation launched in 1987, Fontana was hired to write the pilot script with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, titled “Encounter at Farpoint,” which was nominated for a Hugo Award. —JS

32. Anne Frank

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In July 1942, 13-year-old Anne Frank went into hiding with her parents and sister in the secret annex of an Amsterdam building that her father, Otto, had rented for his company. While there, Anne bared her soul within the pages of a diary that would live on long after she herself was gone. The family was discovered and imprisoned in concentration camps in 1944, and Otto was the only one who survived. He published the diary, which arguably made Anne the most well-known Holocaust victim of all time. To this day, her unflagging optimism and faith in the good of others stand as symbols of hope in the face of unspeakable evil, and she represents the millions of other victims whose stories were never told. —EG

33. Rosalind Franklin

MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, CC BY-SA 4.0 // Wikimedia Commons

The work of British scientist Rosalind Franklin was integral to the discovery of the structure of DNA. In 1952, while working at Kings College in London, she got the X-ray diffraction image that confirmed the double-helix theory. Today she's just as famous for this breakthrough as she is for what happened next: After seeing Franklin's photo and her unpublished notes, scientists Francis Harry Compton Crick and James Dewey Watson announced their discovery to their world without sharing the credit with her. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Franklin died from ovarian cancer in 1958, possibly a result of her work with radiation, but her work on viruses and DNA continued to changed the fields of science after her death. —MD

34. Elizebeth Friedman

William F. Friedman and Elizebeth Friedman.Daderot, Wikimedia Commons // CC0

Elizebeth Friedman has been called America's first female cryptanalyst. In her spare time, she cracked codes with her husband, geneticist-turned-cryptographer William, a.k.a., the guy who cracked Japan’s Code Purple during World War II; together, they worked on the Voynich Manuscript and weighed in on whether Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s works (their verdict: He wasn't). At work, Elizebeth cracked codes for the Coast Guard during Prohibition and, during WWII, worked for a predecessor to the CIA, helping the FBI track down Nazi spies and busting Axis spy rings with British intelligence agencies. Her contributions only came to light recently; after the war, J. Edgar Hoover classified her work top secret and took all the credit for himself. —EMC

35. Indira Gandhi

Express Newspapers/Getty Images

As India’s first—and so far, only—female prime minister, Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, and led the nation for almost 16 years nonconsecutively, before her assassination in October 1984. During her tenure, which is still the second-longest in India’s history, her accomplishments proved to have lasting consequences for her country, its allies, and even its enemies. She famously guided India through a war with Pakistan, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh, and controversially enacted a 21-month state of emergency, restricting many constitutional rights of her citizens. For some, she’s a revered nationalist—to others, her legacy is far more complicated. But there’s no doubt that she changed the world. —JS

36. Joan Ganz Cooney

Joan Ganz Cooney and the Sesame Street Muppets.Dustin Harris, Getty Images

After years of television being decried as a vast wasteland of empty entertainment, Joan Ganz Cooney arrived to the medium in 1969 with an idea for real change. A journalist and producer, Cooney pursued an educational program vetted by child experts that could impart practical skills while keeping kids interested. With the help of visionaries in several fields, she created Sesame Street, a pivotal step in TV’s evolution. A half-century later, Cooney’s ambition is still welcoming viewers to the neighborhood. —JR

37. Martha Gellhorn

Journalist and U.S. war correspondent Martha Gellhorn speaks with Indian soldiers of the British Army on the 5th Army's Cassino front in Italy in 1944.
Keystone/Getty Images

Where there was war, there was Martha Gellhorn. The intrepid journalist covered various 20th-century conflicts, from the Spanish Civil War to the United States’s invasion of Panama. During World War II, Gellhorn was the only woman to land at Normandy on D-Day—a feat she accomplished by hiding in the bathroom of a hospital ship because she didn’t have the proper press credentials. While Ernest Hemingway, her then-husband, watched the action from a safe distance with other journalists, Gellhorn worked as a stretcher bearer, weaving around the bloodied beach to whisk injured soldiers to safety. —KW

38. Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall, English primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, with a chimpanzee in her arms in 1995.Apic/Getty Images

Jane Goodall was only 26 years old when she started studying chimpanzees in the wild. She had no formal scientific training, and the fresh perspective she brought with her into the field enabled her to make groundbreaking observations. Her discoveries, such as the fact that chimps make and use tools, shaped the way we think about primate intelligence. Today she continues to give talks around the world championing the rights of apes and other animals. —MD

39. Juliette Gordon Low

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, with a dog, circa 1915.Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images

When Savannah-raised Juliette Gordon Low met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, in 1911, she immediately began wondering why there wasn’t any equivalent organization for American girls. Within a year, she had founded the Girl Scouts, opening its doors to young women. Millions of girls learned to be leaders by following in Low’s footsteps. —JR

40. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin attends the premiere of Temple Grandin in 2010.Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Dr. Temple Grandin’s work to improve animal welfare in the livestock industry is certainly enough to land her on this list—among other contributions, the livestock handling facilities she designed are used around the world, and she also developed more humane methods of slaughter that are now the industry standard. But Grandin, who is on the autism spectrum, hasn’t just made things better for livestock: Her candor and commitment to helping others see the world through her eyes have deepened our understanding of what autism is. Grandin has not only been an invaluable case study for scientists, but a spokesperson and advocate for others like her. —EG

41. Ruth Graves Wakefield

There are nearly as many variations on the story of the invention of the chocolate chip cookie as there are variations on the chocolate chip cookie itself, but they all have one very important thing in common: Ruth Graves Wakefield. In the 1930s, Wakefield was experimenting with cookie recipes at the Toll House Inn, which she ran with her husband in Massachusetts, when she decided to modify her Butter Drop Do pecan cookies by adding baker’s chocolate. According to the most popular version of the story, Wakefield didn’t have any baker’s chocolate available, so she hacked up a semi-sweet Nestlé chocolate bar instead. Much to her surprise, the bits of chocolate didn’t melt, and Wakefield ended up with the world’s first chocolate chip cookie. (Though in reality she was probably deliberately experimenting with cookie recipes.) Her recipe was printed in a Boston newspaper, and by 1939 Nestlé had started selling the semi-sweet morsels in bags and printing the “Toll House cookie” recipe on each wrapper—which it still does today. —EG

42. Sarah Josepha Hale

A portrait of Sarah Josepha Hale from around 1831.James Reid Lambdin, Richard's Free Library, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In addition to penning poems (one of which is believed to have been turned into the ever-popular earworm “Mary Had a Little Lamb," though some people give the credit for that to John Roulstone), Sarah Josepha Hale helmed the magazine Godey’s Ladies’ Book, using her platform to champion women’s education while simultaneously cautioning against the women’s suffrage movement. The influential editor is also referred to as the “mother of Thanksgiving” because she spent decades lobbying for the creation of an official holiday and shaping much of the mythology behind the celebratory feast. —KW

43. Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler celebrates the 40th anniversary of Barbie in 1999.Jeff Christensen/Getty Images

Ruth Handler’s company, Mattel, was a success early on. The toy manufacturer made millions marketing toy pianos and music boxes. But it was the introduction of Barbie in 1959 that secured Handler's legacy. Named after her daughter—she also had a son named Ken—Barbie made Handler and her husband, Elliot, rich and prompted generations of girls typically underserved by the toy industry to create worlds in Dream Houses and Corvettes. Barbie would later take on more responsibility as a career woman, which was more in line with Handler’s trajectory as someone whose success in business was not to be toyed with. —JR

44. Beulah Louise Henry

Beulah Louise Henry with her bathe-able air baby doll invention in 1927.Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Beulah Louise Henry was born in 1887, a few years after Thomas Edison patented his light bulb. By the 1930s, she had enough inventions to her name that she had earned the title "Lady Edison." The products she created included an ice cream freezer, a soap-filled sponge, and the first bobbinless sewing machine. She obtained 49 patents in her lifetime and devised even more inventions that were never patented. —MD

45. Caroline Herschel

Caroline Herschel in 1829.M. F. Tielemanm, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After Caroline Herschel escaped a future as her family’s housekeeper and moved to England, her life began looking up—literally. When her brother William abandoned his musical endeavors to pursue his passion for astronomy—a career switch that paid off, as he discovered the planet Uranus—Herschel worked as his assistant. The 4-foot, 3-inches tall woman had a big impact on astronomy. In 1786, she discovered her first comet. Herschel wound up discovering several comets, was the first woman to receive a Gold Medal from London’s Royal Astronomical Society, and was the first female astronomer to be paid for her work. —KW

46. Clare Hollingworth

Clare Hollingworth with Life Magazine photographer Tim Page in Saigon, June 1968.Tommy Japan 79, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

British war reporter Clare Hollingworth caught her first big scoop just a week after she started a new job as a correspondent for The Telegraph in Poland in 1939: She was the first journalist to break the news that Germany had invaded Poland, kicking off World War II. She went on to a 40-plus-year career covering conflicts in Eastern Europe, Greece, India, and Vietnam, and elsewhere across the world, outsmarting censors, evading injury and arrest behind enemy lines, and circumventing restrictions imposed on female reporters in the process. She remained known for her incredible scoops and impressive sourcing. She was the first journalist to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1941 after he became shah of Iran, and opened the Beijing Bureau of The Telegraph in 1973, becoming one of the first Western reporters to file regular stories from China. She died in Hong Kong at the age of 105, reportedly still sleeping with her passport and shoes within arm's reach, just in case she was called up to go cover another war. —SF

47. Grace Hopper

Commodore Grace M. Hopper photographed in 1984.James S. Davis, United States Navy, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Software engineers who tackle computer bugs have Grace Hopper to thank for their job description. The Harvard University computer scientist and rear admiral of the U.S. Navy, who was one of the first programmers of a Mark I computer, was the first to coin the term bug in reference to a flaw that causes errors in a computer system. Though the term bug had been used since the late 19th century, in Hopper’s case the bug was literal: In 1947, her coworkers opened up the hardware of Harvard’s Mark II computer to diagnose the source of a consistent error, only to find a moth inside. Hopper recorded the incident in the computer’s log book—under the taped body of the moth itself—as the “first actual case of bug being found." Her contributions to computer science weren’t just lexical, though. Among other things, she helped develop the world’s first successful commercial computer, the UNIVAC I, and was critical to the development and proliferation of the programming language COBOL, at one point the most widely used programming language in the world. —SF

48. Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta with a union flag in the 1970s.Cathy Murphy/Getty Images

For decades, César Chávez has been celebrated as the face of the farm workers’ rights movement of the 20th century, but his collaborator, Dolores Huerta, deserves just as much of the credit. Huerta grew up in Stockton, California, in the heart of California’s agricultural community, and got her start as activist in the Stockton Community Service Organization, which fought for Latino civil rights. It was through the CSO that Huerta met Chávez, another activist interested in organizing farm workers, and in 1962, they founded the National Farm Workers Association (which later became the United Farm Workers of America) together. While Chávez’s charisma helped spread the message, Huerta's formidable lobbying and negotiating skills—including the nationwide grape boycotts she helped organize—were key in securing some of the first rights for farm workers in California, including disability insurance for injured workers and the right to organize unions and bargain for better wages. And it was the slogan she came up with—Sí, se puede, which is generally translated to "Yes, we can" or "It can be done"—that became the movement’s rallying cry. Now almost in her nineties, Huerta still works as an activist for equality and civil rights and works to elect more women and people of color to political office. —SF

49. Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs at a press conference in 1961.Phil Stanziola, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Lower Manhattan would look radically different today if not for the efforts of Jane Jacobs, an urban activist who took on New York City’s powerful “master builder” Robert Moses in the mid-20th century. Her ideas about urban design, enumerated in her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, were in stark opposition to the car-centric “urban renewal” policies that were remaking cities in the 1950s and 1960s. Jacobs advocated for dense, walkable neighborhoods where a bustling “sidewalk ballet” of people of all ages, races, and incomes going about their daily business at all hours would provide a natural sense of order and safety, thanks to the numerous “eyes on the street” deterring crime. Jacobs’s theories and grassroots activism were instrumental in turning public opinion against Moses’s plans to build highways through Lower Manhattan in the 1950s and 1960s, including both his plan to install a four-lane road through the West Village’s famous Washington Square Park and his larger idea for the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a proposed 10-lane highway that would have obliterated parts of Little Italy and other neighborhoods. In the process, Jacobs changed the way urban designers and planners thought about cities forever. —SF

50. Lois Jenson

Charlize Theron playing a character based on Lois Jenson in 2005's North Country.Warner Bros.

With Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co., Minnesota miner Lois Jenson became the first person to ever file a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit in U.S. federal court. Jenson and several other women filed the 1988 suit after spending years working in hostile conditions at the EVTAC mine in Eveleth, Minnesota, where women were regularly groped, harassed, threatened, verbally abused, and more by their male coworkers. She spent the subsequent decade in court fighting the company that managed the mine, before settling in 1998. The lawsuit was the first to treat sexual harassment as a systemic problem, rather than an individual issue, and established that corporations are responsible for maintaining non-hostile work environments. Jenson’s hard-fought lawsuit—which served as the influence for the 2005 film North Country—helped lay the groundwork for today’s #MeToo movement. —SF

51. Katherine Johnson

President Barack Obama awards Katherine Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.Alex Wong/Getty Images

While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were preparing to be the first men to land on the moon, a team of "human computers" were working tirelessly to get them there. One of these mathematicians was a NASA employee named Katherine Johnson. Johnson's calculations were vital to pulling off the Apollo 11 mission, but because she was a black woman, her work went unrecognized for decades. The 101-year-old, who passed away on February 24, 2020, has since been lauded with awards and in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures (2016). —MD

52. Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera in the 1940s.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Frida Kahlo’s signature self-portraits adorn everything from museum walls to phone cases. Though she didn’t exclusively paint herself, the 20th-century Mexican painter repeatedly used her own likeness—unibrow and mustache proudly included—to explore themes of disability, motherhood and miscarriage, sexuality, politics and more. In both her lifetime and now, she was instantly recognizable by her embrace of traditional Tehuana dress from her mother’s native Oaxaca—huipil blouses and colorful skirts that, in addition to being an eye-catching affirmation of her national identity, also served to hide casts and back braces she wore to deal with the devastating effects of a streetcar accident and childhood polio on her spine and lower body. Along with her husband, fellow artist Diego Rivera, Kahlo was also a dedicated Communist who helped bring Leon Trotsky to Mexico a few years after the Russian revolutionary was exiled from the Soviet Union. (Kahlo and Trotksy would go on to have a brief affair, and she would dedicate one of her famous self portraits to him.) Though she was a well-known figure in artistic circles by her death in 1954, the provocative, eccentric artist has since become an international artistic and feminist icon. —SF

53. Susan Kare

A portrait of Susan Kare. Lucie Ecuyer, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Computers are cold, calculating machines by their very nature, so when they began appearing in homes worldwide in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they needed to have a consumer-friendly face that made users comfortable at the keyboard. And that’s exactly what graphic artist Susan Kare provided when she began her work at Apple in the early 1980s. She was responsible for fonts like Cairo and Chicago, the command key symbol (⌘), and plenty of everyday desktop icons, like the floppy disk picture that indicates “Save.” These may seem simple on the surface, but they helped establish a universal visual language for the new computer age that allowed both serious tech-heads and newcomers alike to communicate with each other and their desktop machines with ease. —JS

54. Helen Keller

Helen Keller on the day of her graduation from Radcliffe College in 1904. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

After an unknown illness caused Helen Keller to lose both sight and hearing at just 19 months old, things looked bleak for the young girl. Resources and opportunities for disabled individuals were scarce in the late 19th century, and Keller’s parents struggled to help their daughter, who seemed to be growing increasingly frustrated. However, with the guidance of teacher Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to read Braille and communicate through signing, and graduated from Radcliffe College (the all-female counterpart to the then-all-male Harvard) in 1904. She helped found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 and continued to be an indefatigable human rights advocate until her death in 1968—making her a role model for many to this day. —EG

55. Margaret E. Knight

A patent drawing for Margaret E. Knight's paper bag machine, 1871. National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Sack lunches would look radically different if it weren’t for Margaret E. Knight, the 19th-century inventor who gave us the paper bag. The self-taught engineer came up with numerous technological advances during her lifetime, inventing a game-changing safety mechanism for the accident-prone looms of cotton mills when she was just 12 and eventually patenting more than 20 ideas throughout her career. Her most influential work came about as a result of a job Knight took folding bags at the Columbia Paper Bag company in Massachusetts. In an effort to improve the laborious process, Knight built a machine that could cut and fold paper into bags automatically, transforming flat-bottomed paper bags into a cheap, efficient product for daily use. (Previously, grocers packed customers' produce into paper cones.) She patented the machine—a version of which is now housed in the Smithsonian—in 1871, changing lunches and grocery runs forever. —SF

56. Katia Krafft

Katia and Maurice Krafft. United States Geological Survey, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Katia Krafft and her husband Maurice spent more than two decades traveling the globe, visiting hundreds of the world’s volcanoes and toying with fate to inch as close to the action as possible. To fund their work, the “Volcano Devils” sold photos and footage of the eruptions they witnessed. But Katia and Maurice didn’t just do it for the thrills—the duo was determined to educate the public about the risks of volcanoes and advocate for better evacuation procedures. Tragically, Katia and Maurice were caught in a pyroclastic flow on Japan’s Mount Unzen in 1991 and perished along with 41 other people. —KW

57. Stephanie Kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek. Chemical Heritage Foundation, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Superman may have been bulletproof, but it was a woman who figured out how to stop bullets in the real world. In 1965, Stephanie Kwolek was working as a chemist for DuPont when she struck upon a formula for synthetic fiber made of polyamides that looked peculiar in liquid crystalline form but could be spun into an ultra-strong material. The discovery led to Kevlar, which is five times stronger than steel and able to stop a bullet. The armor has saved the lives of countless law enforcement and military officials. —JR

58. Susan LaFlesche Picotte

Doctor Susan La Flesche. Nebraska State Historical Society Photograph Collections, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When she was 8 years old, Susan LaFlesche Picotte sat at the bedside of a dying old woman. She soon realized that a doctor never came—despite having been summoned four times—because the woman was a Native American. The incident made Picotte, a member of the Omaha tribe, determined to help heal her people. In 1889, she graduated valedictorian from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, becoming the first Native American to earn a medical degree. Picotte then returned home, where she spent the rest of her life tending to the ill and working to improve healthcare on the reservation. —KW

59. Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1951, 31-year-old mother of five Henrietta Lacks visited The Johns Hopkins Hospital to get some irregular bleeding checked out. Doctors found a malignant tumor on her cervix and, without the knowledge of Lacks or her family (as there were no established practices for consent at that time), took a sample of her cancer cells and sent them to the tissue lab of cancer and virus researcher Dr. George Gey. Gey took samples from every cervical cancer patient visiting Johns Hopkins, but Lacks's cells were different from all the rest: Those other cells died. Lacks’s cells, on the other hand, doubled roughly every 24 hours.

Lacks herself passed away on October 4, 1951, but her cells—known as HeLa, for the first two initials of her first and last names—lived on. They were the first cells that could be easily reproduced in a lab setting, and, for a time, according to Johns Hopkins Medical website, “the only human cell line able to reproduce indefinitely.” Johns Hopkins shared the cells freely, and today, it’s difficult to find an area of medicine that HeLa hasn’t touched: They’ve played a part in everything from studying the effects of zero gravity on cells to the development of things like the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, and in vitro fertilization. As journalist Rebecca Sloot wrote in her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, “[One] scientist calculated that if you could lay all HeLa cells ever grown end-to-end, they'd wrap around the Earth at least three times, spanning more than 350 million feet." —EMC

60. Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr circa 1940.Apic/Getty Images

A star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Hedy Lamarr is also the co-holder of United States Patent number 2,292,387, a system for frequency-hopping in telecommunications that’s often cited as a predecessor to today’s wireless networks. Lamarr held the patent with film composer George Antheil: The two formulated a way for radio signals to “hop” at random, making sense only if the sender and receiver were tuned in to the same frequency. Lamarr, who passed away on January 19, 2000, lived long enough to see the interconnected world that she and Antheil helped usher in. —JR

61. Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange (L) in 1936 and her photo (R), titled Migrant Mother.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain (L), Dorothea Lange, Getty Images (R)

To think that an event as harrowing and complex as the Great Depression could be summed up in one picture just doesn’t seem possible. But photographer Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (1936) manages to perfectly capture the dread and anxiety of the times, without coming across as exploitive. During the 1930s, Lange was working as a photographer for the government’s Resettlement Administration in California, which tasked her with taking pictures of struggling farmers and the conditions they lived in to raise public awareness of their issues and help get aid. The iconic photo, featuring a world-weary mother identified as Florence Owens Thompson, a member of the Cherokee nation, staring off into the distance. It soon found its way into a San Francisco newspaper, along with a damning editorial titled “What Does the ‘New Deal’ Mean To This Mother and Her Children?”

The image struck a nerve, and much-needed food and supplies were soon sent to the farmers of Nipomo, California, where the picture was taken. The photo would eventually find its way into other papers, like The New York Times, on its way to becoming one of the most memorable images of the 20th century. In later interviews, though, Thompson would reveal her dismay in becoming an unintentional part of history, telling the Los Angeles Times, "I didn’t get anything out of it. I wished she hadn’t of taken my picture." Lange felt regret over causing Thompson any grief—but according to the LA Review of Books, "Once Lange’s relationship to the photograph was clarified, Thompson and her family withdrew their complaint, and today Thompson’s daughter speaks positively about the making of the photograph." —JS

62. Edmonia Lewis

Edmonia Lewis. Walters Art Museum, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The orphaned child of a black father and a Native-American mother, Edmonia Lewis beat the odds to become a prolific 19th-century sculptor. The New York native studied art at Oberlin College, and though she wasn't able to take the anatomy classes that were exclusive to white men at the time, her sculptures were impressive enough to earn her international acclaim. Lewis's subjects included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Horace Greeley, and President Ulysses S. Grant was one of her patrons. Her work challenged the norms of the overwhelmingly white and male art world decades before the scene started to open up to different types of artists. —MD

63. Ada Lovelace

An 1840 painting of Ada Lovelace.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Ada Lovelace’s mother separated from her husband, Lord Byron, soon after their daughter Ada was born. She was determined to educate Ada in math and science as opposed to poetry and art, the domains of her profligate and unfaithful ex. Fortunately, Ada had a knack for numbers. She corresponded with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, who had devised (but not built) an “Analytical Engine” that could perform arithmetic functions—in other words, a computer. In 1843 Lovelace translated a French paper about the engine and included her own extensive annotations describing how it could execute calculations, constituting what many scholars consider the first computer program. Though she died at just 36 years old, her legacy is remembered each year on the second Tuesday in October: Ada Lovelace Day celebrates women in science. —KL

64. Sybil Ludington

Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel, New York.Anthony22, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Two years after Paul Revere’s midnight ride, Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old daughter of a member of the New York militia, reportedly rode twice as far—in a storm, no less—to warn 400 patriots about a British attack on Danbury, Connecticut. Though the militia arrived too late to save the town, they were able to drive back the troops. For her rain-soaked ride, Sybil was supposedly thanked by George Washington himself. —EMC

65. Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai receiving a trophy awarded to her by a human rights commission.Demosh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

More than 51 million trees have been planted across Kenya, thanks to Wangari Maathai. After becoming the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a Ph.D., Maathai recognized the need to address the link between environmental degradation, poverty, and women's well-being. In 1977, she started the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization that combats poverty and ecological destruction by working with rural women to plant trees. She endured harassment from corrupt politicians, jail time, and even a stint in Kenya’s Parliament while pursuing her environmental and humanitarian mission. In 2004, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. —KW

66. Elizabeth Magie

Lizzie Magie.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Today's version of Monopoly is basically "Capitalism: The Game," but it was originally invented by Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie to teach the perils of land-grabbing. Magie was a devotee of Georgism, the economic theory that states that economic value generated by land should be equally distributed to everyone. When Magie designed The Landlord's Game in 1904, she felt it clearly demonstrated the unfairness of the landlord-ruled housing system. A few decades later, Parker Brothers purchased her patent of the game for a flat fee of $500, and its original message as well as its inventor were quickly forgotten. Monopoly has since grown into the most successful board game of all time. —MD

67. Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Today, we think it’s a given that your family and community shape the person you become. That once-revolutionary concept was defined and popularized by the world-famous anthropologist Margaret Mead. Before graduating from Columbia University, Mead traveled to Samoa in 1925 to investigate a question of human nature: Was adolescence a struggle due to biology, or because of cultural influences? She spent nine months observing Indigenous society and concluded in Coming of Age in Samoa, her bestselling 1928 book, that culture largely determined one’s adolescent experience. The book was a sensation thanks to its frank descriptions of sexuality, and launched Mead into a long career. Just as important as her scientific work, Mead was an outspoken advocate for women’s equality, racial equality, sexual freedom, and the environment. —KL

68. Maria Mitchell

Herminia B. Dassel portrait of Maria Mitchell, ca. 1851.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On the roof of the Pacific Bank building in her native Nantucket, on October 1, 1847, Maria Mitchell became the first American scientist to discover a comet. It was nicknamed “Miss Mitchell’s Comet” (actual name: C/1847 T1) after the 29-year-old astronomer, librarian, and teacher, and launched her to international fame as a pioneering science educator. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Philosophical Society, Mitchell was probably one of the first women to work for the U.S. government in a scientific job (she calculated navigational data for the U.S. Coast Survey). She was involved in the anti-slavery and feminist movements while she served as a professor of astronomy at Vassar College—importantly, she recognized the value of women’s talent and perspective in the sciences and campaigned tirelessly for women’s education. —KL

69. Audrey Munson

Audrey Munson with Arnold Genthe's cat, Buzzer.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Audrey Munson is no longer a household name, but plenty of people have seen her likeness. Munson, often called the world’s first supermodel, served as an artist’s model for dozens of statues, sculptures, and other public works in New York City and across the country. You can still find her likeness in some 30 artworks currently housed in the Museum of Metropolitan Art, on the Manhattan Bridge, on top of Manhattan’s Municipal Building, at the New York Public Library, and elsewhere. She was the model for more than a dozen statues that appeared at a world’s fair in San Francisco in 1915, posed for artists like Daniel Chester French, and starred in silent films. At the height of her fame she was known as an “American Venus” and “Miss Manhattan.” However, changing aesthetic styles, public scandals, and mental health challenges eventually pushed Munson out of the spotlight, and she spent the last 64 years of her life institutionalized in upstate New York. —SF

70. Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, American author.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Best known as an author associated with the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston explored and celebrated the roots of African-American culture in her nonfiction and fiction, short stories, essays, and plays. Her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God broke literary tradition by featuring a black female protagonist in the South who becomes a self-aware, self-reliant woman. That book, and all of her literary work, was influenced by her early career as an anthropologist: Hurston studied at Barnard College with Franz Boas and observed the folkways among African American communities in the South as well as the African Diaspora in Jamaica and Haiti. But her efforts were ahead of their time, and Hurston died relatively unknown in 1960. In 1975, the novelist Alice Walker wrote a moving article in Ms. about locating Hurston’s grave, which led to a reappraisal of Hurston’s writing that continues today. Most recently, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”—Hurston's interview with one of the last survivors of the final slave ship to reach America—was published posthumously in 2018. —KL

71. Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale.Photos.com/Getty Images

Florence Nightingale, the “founder of modern nursing,” surprised her well-off family by choosing to enter the field, which was then considered a profession for lower-class women. Her decision to buck convention saved countless lives. Nightingale’s medical prowess gained prominence during the Crimean War, where she drastically improved sanitation conditions at the once-filthy medic center where she worked. After the conflict, she went on to further revolutionize nursing and hospital hygiene back home in the United Kingdom and abroad. —KW

72. Flannery O'Connor

Flannery O'Connor with Robie Macauley and Arthur Koestler.Cmacauley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Widely considered one of the great masters of the American short story, Georgia-born writer Flannery O'Connor managed to write two novels and dozens of now-classic short stories despite a debilitating battle with lupus that eventually killed her when she was just 39. Her tales of violence and mystery in the American South are the foundational texts of the Southern Gothic tradition, exploring racism, religion, poverty, hypocrisy, and more in darkly comic prose. But her cultural impact stretches beyond the literary: U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Sufjan Stevens have all cited her as a major influence on their work, as have filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and numerous modern writers. —SF

73. Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after the Montgomery bus boycott.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Rosa Parks became a part of American history when she refused to give up her bus seat for a white passenger in 1955, but her legacy doesn't end there. The Alabama native was active in politics her whole life: She worked for the NAACP, participated in protests during the Civil Rights Movement, and served as the assistant to U.S. Representative John Conyers. Though many suspected her most famous act of civil disobedience was premeditated, she always insisted it wasn't planned. —MD

74. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton in 1977.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The music business can be ruthless, as evidenced by Taylor Swift’s recent struggles to maintain ownership of her back catalog can attest. But Dolly Parton, a country music sensation since the 1960s, has long been the steward of her own ship, retaining control of much of her music and using the proceeds for everything from unlikely business success stories (the Dollywood theme park) to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which has distributed more than 132 million books to instill a love of reading in young people. In music, Parton explored genres and wrote and performed lyrics that were seen as progressive in their era, speaking directly to working-class women who felt like they weren’t being given a voice. They had at least one—Parton’s. —JR

75. Frances Perkins

Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins at a press conference.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

You may not know her name, but you’ve definitely felt the impact of Frances Perkins’s work in your own life. As President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor, she was the first woman to ever be appointed to a presidential cabinet and was instrumental in blueprinting FDR’s New Deal, including his Social Security plan. She also helped establish a minimum wage with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and was part of the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a jobs program that provided work to many of the country’s unemployed. —JS

76. Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter and her favorite collie, Kep.Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Best known for her books in the early 1900s about anthropomorphic animals like Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter created a franchise and merchandising frenzy roughly 100 years prior to J.K. Rowling. Not only a bestselling author, Potter had the foresight to recognize her children’s characters could have a second life in dolls, toys, and other items, making her a pioneer in the multimedia tie-in strategy prized by entertainment companies today. —JR

77. Aly Raisman

Agência Brasil Fotografias, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Yes, 25-year-old Aly Raisman is a two-time Olympian and winner of six medals, including three gold, in gymnastics. And yes, she’s the athlete behind one of the most difficult tumbling sequences in the sport. But her power on the mat is nothing compared to the power of her voice. Raisman is also the survivor of sexual assault, which she—and hundreds of other female athletes—experienced at the hands of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. For Raisman, the abuse began when she was 16 and continued for years. When Raisman faced her abuser in court, she told Nassar, “Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force and you are nothing … We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.”

Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for his crimes, in addition to hundreds of years of charges at the state level. But in a 2017 piece penned for The Players’ Tribune, Raisman made it clear that punishing Nassar wasn’t enough. “We need to change the systems that embolden sexual abusers,” she wrote. “We must look at the organizations that protected Nassar for years and years: USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Michigan State University. Until we understand the flaws in their systems, we can’t be sure something like this won’t happen again.” Raisman made it her mission to enact change: In March 2018, she filed suit against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee. “Thousands of young athletes continue to train and compete every day in this same broken system,” Raisman said in a statement. “I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing. It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed.”

As Raisman defiantly declared in The Players’ Tribune, “I am not a victim. I am a survivor." —EMC

78. Sally Ride

NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After beating out 1000 other applicants, Sally Ride earned a spot in NASA’s astronaut program. And eventually on June 18, 1983, Ride was on the Challenger mission, making her the first American woman to journey to outer space. After NASA, Ride went on to start her own educational nonprofit organization called Sally Ride Science, which works to get young students interested in science as well as math. Ride passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, following a long (and very private) battle with pancreatic cancer. It wasn't until her death that Ride's longtime relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy—a childhood friend and science writer—was made public. Which meant that even in death, Ride was still changing the world, as she became the world's first (known) LGBTQ astronaut. —KR

79. Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera (left) with fellow activist Jim Fouratt.Jim Fouratt, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sylvia Rivera became a key figure in LGBTQ history when she took part in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, but her crusade for gay and transgender rights extended well beyond a single night. Rivera, who self-identified as a drag queen (later saying “I’m tired of being labeled ... I just want to be who I am”), fought to include trans people in the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York and co-founded a group to help gay and trans young people without homes. In 2021, she will be commemorated with fellow trans activist Marsha P. Johnson with a monument near the Stonewall Inn. —MD

80. Emily Roebling

Carolus-Duran, Portrait of Emily Warren Roebling (1896)Brooklyn Museum, Wikimedia Commons // No Known Copyright Restrictions

The Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most recognizable landmarks in New York City, would never have been finished if not for the efforts of Emily Roebling, who took over the task of overseeing the immense building project after Washington Roebling, her husband and the bridge’s chief engineer, was incapacitated by “the bends” during construction. She not only became his secretary, ferrying his instructions to workers and answering his correspondence, but she also negotiated contracts and supply purchases, represented him at political and social functions, and became a liaison to the board of trustees. She began to study technical issues on her own, essentially becoming a self-taught civil engineer. Roebling mastered topics like stress analysis, catenary curves, and cable strength. In recognition of her contributions, Roebling was the first person to cross the bridge when it opened in 1883. She went on to graduate from New York University's then-new Woman's Law Class in 1899, and traveled the country speaking on women's rights. —SF

81. Eleanor Roosevelt

FDR Presidential Library & Museum, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Independent-minded and forward-thinking, Eleanor Roosevelt’s tenure as First Lady broke the mold of what was previously expected from the position. Not content with just hosting parties and posing for photo ops, Eleanor held the first-ever press conferences solely for women reporters at the White House, was a regular presence on the radio, and wrote a syndicated newspaper column on politics and social issues six days a week. These progressive accomplishments were natural for a woman who spent her pre-White House years as a member of the League of Women Voters and as an advocate for women’s rights and employment opportunities.

Even after FDR’s death, Eleanor continued her humanitarian efforts. She was named a United Nations delegate by President Harry Truman in 1945, and in 1948, she helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the U.N. —JS

82. Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin with John GlennJeremy Keith via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Astronomer Vera Rubin was studying spiral galaxies at the Carnegie Institution in the 1960s and 1970s when she and colleague Kent Ford began seeing anomalies in their data: The galaxies they observed were spinning much faster than they should have been, according to gravitational theory. With this observation, Rubin became the first to discover compelling evidence for the phenomenon Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky had called "dark matter." Zwicky's theory that there was an unseeable type of mass in the universe had met plenty of skepticism when he introduced it in 1933, but decades later, Rubin's work (both the data and the clarity of the analysis) provided such unambiguous confirmation that the scientific world had to get on board with the idea. She was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 "for significant contributions to the realization that the universe is more complex and more mysterious than had been imagined.” —SF

83. Sacagawea

Sacagawea Monument in City Park, Portland, Oregon, circa 1912; statue by Alice CooperLibrary of Congress // Public Domain

Not much is known about Sacagawea, the only woman on Lewis and Clark’s groundbreaking Corps of Discovery across the continent. Here’s what we do know: She was born in the late 1780s to a Shoshone chief in present-day Idaho. When she was around 12, she was taken prisoner by the Hidatsa, an enemy tribe, who brought her back to the Hidatsa-Mandan settlement in present day North Dakota. A few years later, she was sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trapper who was at least 20 years older than her. She became his wife—one of two—and was soon pregnant.

Sacagawea was about six months along when Lewis and Clark reached the settlement, and they decided that they wanted to bring Charbonneau and Sacagawea on the rest of the journey for their language skills: He spoke French and Hidatsa, she spoke Hidatsa and Shoshone—which would be key for getting the Corps horses, necessary for getting over the Rockies and to the Pacific. (She would listen to the Shoshone, and translate into Hidatsa; her husband would translate the Hidatsa into French; and another member of the Corps would translate the French into English for Lewis and Clark.) Sacagawea gave birth to a son named Jean-Baptiste in February, and in April, the Corps departed.

Sacagawea quickly proved to be good under pressure; when a boat she was riding in nearly capsized, she saved important papers, instruments, and provisions. She served as translator for the Shoshone so the expedition could purchase horses, identified plants for food and medicine, and helped the Corps navigate what is today known as Bozeman Pass. Her mere presence was helpful; as Clark wrote, “The Wife of Shabono our interpreter We find reconsiles all the Indians, as to our friendly intentions. A woman with a party of men is a token of peace." With her help, the Corps made it to the Pacific and back to the Hidatsa-Mandan settlement. Her husband received land and money for his services; Sacagawea received nothing. Clark would later write to Charbonneau that “Your woman who accompanied you that long dangerous and fatigueing rout to the Pacific Ocian and back diserved a greater reward for her attention and services on that rout than we had in our power to give her at the Mandans.” Sacagawea almost certainly died in present-day South Dakota in 1812 after giving birth to a daughter. Though she wasn’t a guide, as some have claimed, one thing is for certain: Lewis and Clark’s journey would have been much more difficult if not for her help. —EMC

84. Margaret Sanger

Bain News Service, Library of Congress // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Margaret Sanger devoted her career to making sure women could make choices about their reproductive lives. She fought to provide women with birth control options in an age when federal law classified contraceptives as obscene, banning anyone from sending information about them—much less contraceptives themselves—across state lines or in the mail. Over the course of decades of activism, Sanger was responsible for popularizing the term birth control, founding what would later become Planned Parenthood, and supporting the development of the very first oral contraceptive, all in an effort to end the mental, physical, and economic toll that numerous pregnancies (not to mention dangerous illegal abortions) took on women. Unfortunately, not all of Sanger’s historical contributions were for the greater good. She was also a vocal supporter of eugenics, arguing that birth control was vital to limit “the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.” —SF

85. Sophie Scholl

Hans Scholl, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As a schoolgirl, Sophie Scholl joined the League of German Girls along with her peers, but later grew skeptical. While at the University of Munich, she joined the Weiße Rose (White Rose), a protest group her brother Hans had started. The rebel students wrote and distributed leaflets urging the public to resist the Nazi regime. The two Scholl siblings and one other White Rose member were caught on February 18 and arrested for treason. The three were beheaded by guillotine just four days later. But Scholl's belief in her mission never wavered: Years later, Scholl's cellmate recalled that before her death, Scholl said, "Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go ... What does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?" —KW

86. Marie Severin

MichaelNetzer, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In the comic book industry of the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was hard enough to find books starring women—to think that a woman would be working behind the scenes was even more rare. But a talent like Marie Severin couldn’t be denied. For years, Severin was a Swiss Army knife for publishers like EC Comics and Marvel, providing pencils, inks, and colors (even becoming Head Colorist at one point) on books like The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Sorceror Supreme, Conan the Barbarian, and plenty more. Her most enduring contribution to the company, though, came in 1976 when she designed the original costume design for the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman. —JS

87. Mary Shelley

Richard Rothwell, Portrait of Mary Shelley (1840)Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Frankenstein—the novel often credited with launching the science fiction genre—was conceived by an 18-year-old girl as part of a ghost story competition between Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and her boyfriend Percy Shelley. Mary Shelley anonymously published Frankenstein two years later. Even after the book was reprinted under her name, Percy Shelley—who edited the book and wrote the preface—was assumed by many to be the real author. Eventually the name Mary Shelley became synonymous with Frankenstein and today the writer's impact on the science fiction and horror genres in literature and film are undeniable. —MD

88. Junko Tabei

Junko Tabei gives a climbing demonstration, circa 1975.Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Instead of resigning herself to a life of housewife chores, Junko Tabei chased her love of the mountains. After college, she founded Japan’s first women’s climbing club, but this was just the tip of her boundary-pushing adventures. In 1975, Tabei became the first woman to summit Mount Everest—and as if standing atop the world’s tallest peak wasn’t enough, she did so after surviving an avalanche during the ascent. Tabei was also the first woman to climb the “Seven Summits,” the highest mountains on each continent. When she died of peritoneal cancer in October 2016, she had climbed more than 150 mountains and anchored her place in history as a symbol for women’s equality in Japan. —KW

89. Shirley Temple

A photo of Shirley Temple. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For Americans struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression, Shirley Temple was a beacon of happiness and a temporary escape from their everyday woes. The tiny tap-dancing phenomenon was arguably Hollywood’s biggest star of the 1930s, outshining much older, taller peers like Greta Garbo and Clark Gable—she was even presented with an honorary Academy Award at just 6 years old. Not only did Temple give us timeless hits like “On the Good Ship Lollipop” and “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” we also have her to thank for the popular non-alcoholic cocktail responsible for keeping kids happy at restaurants and formal events everywhere (though she’d say that she had nothing to do with it and found the drink too sweet). As an adult, Temple retired from acting and pursued a career in diplomacy, and also helped normalize openly discussing breast cancer: After undergoing a mastectomy in the early 1970s, she held a press conference from her hospital bed and shared her experience with the public. —EG

90. Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova receiving the Galabert International Astronauts Prize in Paris in 1965.Keystone/Getty Images

In 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go into space, two decades before NASA sent Sally Ride on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Inspired by Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering 1961 space flight, Tereshkova—who was an enthusiastic parachutist and skydiver—wrote to the Soviet space program to volunteer herself for any future program for female cosmonauts. She was eventually chosen from a pool of five women to make the trip, and spent three days in orbit on the Vostok 6 in June 1963. Tereshkova, who was only 26 at the time of her flight, still holds the record for being the youngest woman in space and the only woman to ever fly solo in space. After her safe return, she joined the Air Force and attended the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. She went on to be a politician and has held several different public offices in the Soviet Union and Russia. —SF

91. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is one of the most high-profile environmental activists at just 17 years old. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Like many adolescents, Greta Thunberg decided to skip school. But she wasn’t cutting class to cause trouble—the teen was leading a student strike against climate change outside the Swedish Parliament. Since August 2018, Thunberg’s “Fridays For Future” campaign has made waves around the globe. Her environmental activism inspired the world’s largest climate strike, which saw millions of people from around the world take to the streets in September 2019. Thunberg has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize—all before she's even old enough to have celebrate a win with a glass of champagne. —KW

92. Sojourner Truth

A rare portrait of abolitionist Sojourner Truth.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and temperance crusader Sojourner Truth began life as a slave in Ulster County, New York, in 1797. She escaped in 1827, buying her freedom with the help of abolitionists who lived nearby. She went on to become a traveling preacher, and in the course of her work met abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, who encouraged her to speak publicly about the horrors of slavery. Though she could not read or write, she dictated her autobiography, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, which garnered her national acclaim upon its publication. She met and worked with activists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, becoming an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and temperance. Her 1851 speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” is now considered one of the most famous women’s rights and abolitionist speeches in American history. —SF

93. Harriet Tubman

A portrait of Harriet Tubman.Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

As “the Moses of her people,” Harriet Tubman escaped a lifetime of slavery in Maryland using the network of abolitionist safehouses known as the Underground Railroad, making her way to Philadelphia in 1849. Once there, she became an activist, returning to the South numerous times to guide other slaves to freedom under the cover of darkness. She freed dozens of slaves on some 19 trips, and famously “never lost a passenger.” During the Civil War, she served as a scout and a spy for the Union army, and was the first woman to lead a U.S. military expedition—helping more than 700 slaves escape during the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina. In her later years, Tubman became an activist in the women's suffrage movement. She was recently selected to appear on a new design of the $20 bill, though the release has been delayed until 2028. —SF

94. Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown patented the first home security system. EdwardSamuelCornwall/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Home security systems are ubiquitous in pretty much any neighborhood you travel around today, and much of the thanks goes to Marie Van Brittan Brown, a nurse from Queens, New York, who, along with her husband, patented what would become the standard system for years to come. The invention included a camera that would look out peepholes in her front door and send images to a nearby TV monitor. Once Brown and her husband could identify whoever was at the door, the system was equipped with a microphone to speak through and an emergency button that would immediately contact the police from the safety of another room if there was any danger. Her invention was a response to the increasingly dangerous neighborhood that Brown and her husband lived in, and it would go on to influence similar systems around the world. —JS

95. Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II was officially coronated on June 2, 1953.Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Much like Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II was not born the heir presumptive. But all that changed in December 1936 with the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, and her father's ascension to the throne. With no brothers to jump her place in the line of succession, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II upon the death of her father, George VI, in 1952. Though she was only 25 years old at the time, and largely surrounded by men who had years of political experience on her, Elizabeth managed to find her voice and hold her own against legendary leaders like Winston Churchill, who became one of her closest allies. Elizabeth’s natural leadership and ability to remain calm in the face of chaos have made her an admired figure all over the world. And even at the age of 93, she shows no signs of slowing down—nor a desire to. Among Elizabeth's many achievements, she is both the longest living and longest reigning British monarch; the oldest living monarch; the longest-serving female head of state; and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state (regardless of gender). Prince Charles has got some serious shoes to fill. —JMW

96. Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria was coronated in June 1838.Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images Plus

There’s a reason it’s called the “Victorian” Age. Queen Victoria had an incredible impact on the world, both within the borders of the British Empire and beyond, during her 63 years in power (the longest reign of any queen regent in the world until Queen Elizabeth II). Victoria was the premier influencer of her time, and where she went, trends followed—her 1868 Swiss vacation, for instance, turned Switzerland into a British tourist destination for decades to come, while her white wedding dress changed bridal color palettes forever. She defined the role of the modern constitutional monarch, and presided over an age of scientific advancement and industrialization. She often (though not always) used her power to keep the peace, persuading British ministers not to intervene in conflicts like the German-Danish war of 1864. She also reigned during a time of intense colonial expansion and did little to aid her Irish subjects during the Great Famine. For better or for worse, the effects of her leadership would be felt across Europe long after her death: She used her role as royal matchmaker for her 42 grandchildren—seven of whom went on to become reigning monarchs—as a way to exert power even beyond her empire’s borders. —SF

97. Kate Warne

When Kate Warne walked into the Pinkerton National Detective Agency offices in Chicago in 1856, Allan Pinkerton assumed she was there for a secretarial job. Warne explained that her ambition was to become a private detective. That’s exactly what she did, rising in the ranks of the agency to become one of its most celebrated private eyes. Her career culminated in 1861, when Warne and other agents helped move Abraham Lincoln safely from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. amid death threats. Warne later trained other female detectives, proving that law enforcement needed more than just a few good men. —JR

98. Karen Wetterhahn

Karen Wetterhahn was Dartmouth College’s first female chemistry professor, and also co-founded the school’s Women in Science Project. While working in her lab, Wetterhahn accidentally spilled a small amount of dimethylmercury, an organic mercury compound, onto her latex gloves. Though she immediately followed proper safety protocols, the lab mishap left her doomed. After enduring months of deteriorating health, Wetterhahn died of dimethylmercury poisoning. Before her death in 1997, no one really understood the dangers of the substance, now known to be among the strongest known neurotoxins. Her fate led to increased safety regulations for those who handle the lethal liquid. —KW

98. Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft is the mother of Mary Shelley, writer of Frankenstein.Culture Club/Getty Images

British philosopher and writer Mary Wollstonecraft’s belief that women deserved social and economic equality was as unconventional as her biography. Born in 1759 near London, Wollstonecraft’s experiences as a governess informed her groundbreaking work of feminist thought, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Published in 1792, it offered a counterpoint to French male philosophers’ arguments that women were incapable of rational thought and independence; Wollstonecraft proposed that if women were educated as men were, they would be more than able to take care of themselves. Wollstonecraft walked the walk, too: In her brief life, she published several more works, had affairs before marrying the radical philosopher William Godwin, and had two daughters, though only one with Godwin: Mary Shelley, who went on to write Frankenstein. Though Wollstonecraft died shortly after her daughter Mary’s birth, her work had a strong influence on women’s rights leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. —KL

100. Victoria Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for U.S. president.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton might have gotten closest to the Oval Office, but Victoria Claflin Woodhull tried to make it there almost a century and a half earlier. Before she became the first woman to run for president in 1872, Woodhull divorced her cheating, alcoholic husband and had a successful, eclectic career alongside her sister, Tennessee. Together, they served as Cornelius Vanderbilt’s personal clairvoyants, became the first women to found and run a Wall Street brokerage firm, and established a leftist newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, which was the first to publish an American English translation of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s Communist Manifesto. She then became the third-party presidential candidate for the Equal Rights Party, running on a liberal platform that supported women’s suffrage, an eight-hour workday, welfare programs, and more. Needless to say, she didn’t win—at 34 years old, she wasn’t really even old enough to run—but her campaign helped clear the path for dozens of female presidential hopefuls who have fought the noble fight since then. —EG

101. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai's impact on the world is immeasurable. James D. Morgan/Getty Images for The Growth Faculty

As a teacher’s daughter, Malala Yousafzai spent a lot of time in classrooms. After the Taliban seized control of her town in Pakistan and banned girls from going to school, she became an outspoken proponent of girls’ education—a passion that nearly cost her her life. In 2012, when Yousafzai was 15, a Taliban gunman shot her in the head. She survived, and after recovering from her injuries, returned to school. Yousafzai’s dedication to education made her an international icon. In 2013, she founded the Malala Fund (a charity that empowers girls around the world to seek education) and became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. —KW

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

50 Famous Company Acronyms All Spelled Out

There’s more to creating a successful company than simply coming up with a catchy name. While brand names can be incredibly effective at enhancing a company’s public image and building customer recognition, they don’t always describe exactly what the company does or its history.

Instead of choosing descriptive names, many organizations choose to be known by simple acronyms or abbreviations so that they are easy to remember in the minds of consumers. While you might know all of the brands and companies on this list, do you know what all those letters actually stand for?

1. BMW

The white and blue BMW logo
Jacques Demarthon, AFP/Getty Images

You may know a BMW better as a Bimmer (yes, that is the official way you spell it). But if you’ve ever wondered what the luxury German car’s name stands for, it’s Bayerische Motoren Werke in German, which translates to "Bavarian Motor Works" in English.

The company was originally founded in Munich, Germany in 1916—when its main business was manufacturing airplane engines. Though the brand is booming today, that wasn’t always the case. In the late 1950s, it was on the brink of bankruptcy and almost sold out to Daimler-Benz—the parent company of Mercedes, their biggest competitor.

2. L.L. Bean

A man surrounded by LL Bean boxes.
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Founded in 1912, L.L. Bean is one of the oldest retail store chains in the United States. This company is named for its founder, Leon Leonwood Bean. While Bean founded the company in his home state of Maine, it has since grown into a sprawling retail empire, with locations across the United States as well as Canada.

Until the present day, L.L. Bean has retained its reputation for providing high quality outdoor gear. What’s more, its original location in Freeport, Maine, remains open to this day—complete with an indoor trout pond and freshwater aquarium.

3. CVS

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

When it was founded in 1963, CVS originally stood for Consumer Value Stores. While it may now be widely known for being one of America’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS did not originally provide pharmaceutical services in its stores. This is because the company was originally established for the purpose of selling health and beauty products. Only in 1967 did CVS take the leap of faith and begin setting up locations with pharmacy departments. In 1969, CVS was sold to Melville Corporation, and in 1996, it officially became known as CVS Corporation.

4. YKK

As the world’s largest zipper manufacturer, you've probably had many items of clothing that feature zippers with the YKK branding throughout your life. But have you ever stopped to think about what YKK stands for? In Japanese, that would be Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha, which translates to Yoshida Manufacturing Corporation in English. The first word is the last name of the founder, Tadao Yoshida, who established YKK in Tokyo, Japan all the way back in 1934.

5. A&W

Scott Olson, Getty Images

If you’ve ever spent any time in the state of Kentucky, you’ve no doubt heard of this all-American restaurant franchise—and more than likely eaten there. Founded in Lodi, California, in 1919, the A and W of A&W represent the last names of this fast-food franchise’s founders, Roy Allen and Frank Wright. With its headquarters currently located in Lexington, Kentucky, A&W is beloved for its scrumptious burgers, draft root beer, and root beer floats. Today, there are more than 1200 A&W locations spread out across the United States and Canada.

6. M&M'S

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Whether you prefer the classic milk chocolate or peanut versions or newer flavors such as pretzel or hazelnut, you’ve probably indulged in your fair share of M&M’s from your local convenience store. M&M’s stands for Mars and Murrie, the last name of company founders Forrest Mars, Sr. and Bruce Murrie. Having been founded approximately 80 years ago, these colorful candies filled with semi-sweet chocolate have enjoyed a long and respected reputation, becoming popular in more than 100 countries across the globe.

7. 3M

Koen van Weel, AFP/Getty Images

While 3M may be a multinational conglomerate corporation today, it started out as a humble mining venture back in 1902. Established in the city of Two Harbors, Minnesota, 3M was the brainchild of business partners John Dwan, Hermon Cable, Henry Bryan, and William A. McGonagle. Originally called the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, the company’s legal name was changed to 3M Company in 2002. Simply put, this updated name is an abbreviation of its former moniker—which proved more suitable given the company’s expansion into other industries such as electronics, energy, and health care.

8. HSBC

Miguel Medina, AFP/Getty Images

With its total assets exceeding a whopping $2.7 trillion, HSBC is one of the largest banks in the world today. But just where does this investment bank’s name come from? While this multinational corporation’s headquarters may be in London today, HSBC actually stands for Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

Having first opened branches in Shanghai in 1965, HSBC decided to become a group holding company in 1991, when it also decided to establish its headquarters in London. Today, this banking giant has more than 3900 offices in 65 countries around the world.

9. TCBY

TCBY
iStock

Opened by Frank D. Hickingbotham in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1981, TCBY grew to become one of America’s most beloved chains of soft-serve frozen yogurt stores. With more than 470 locations across the United States, TCBY stands for The Country's Best Yogurt. While this name might seem to have been conceived in order to reflect the company’s vision, it actually came about due to a dispute over the company’s original name. Previously named This Can't Be Yogurt, TCBY was sued by a rival frozen yogurt chain, I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!, which was founded four years before TCBY. Hence the name change.

10. KMART

Kmart
Scott Olson, Getty Images

One of the largest store chains in the United States, Kmart was founded in 1899 by budding Pennsylvania-born entrepreneur Sebastian Spering Kresge. Originally known as the S. S. Kresge Corporation, the company changed its name to Kmart in 1977. As you probably guessed, Kmart is not, in fact, a place to shop for Ks; the K is for Kresge. Today, you can pop into any Kmart for a wide variety of toys, furniture, bedding, technology, sports gear, and more.

11. DSW

DSW
Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

As a product of Designer Brands Inc., this American fashion retailer has gone through several changes in ownership. Founded in 1969, the company was originally called Shonac Corporation. Fast forward to 2004 and the company was acquired by Retail Ventures. While it already had several brick-and-mortar stores, the company launched its e-commerce website in 2008, called DSW. This name simply stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse. In addition to name-brand shoes and fashion accessories, some of DSW’s stores have in-store nail salons. Today, the company’s corporate name is simply Designer Brands.

12. JCPENNEY

JCPenney
Drew Angerer, Getty Images

JCPenney was founded by James Cash Penney. With a name like that, he was destined to go into the world of business. While Penney originally operated multiple dry goods stores in Colorado and Wyoming, he decided to purchase all of these stores and unite them under the JCPenney banner.

From his headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, Penney set out to create a department store empire. Today, with more than 840 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, JCPenney is best known for its home decor, bedding, clothing, and jewelry collections.

13. FIAT

FIAT logo
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Established in 1899 in the famed city of Turin in Northern Italy, the FIAT automotive company is one of the most esteemed vehicle manufacturers worldwide. FIAT originally stood for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which translates, appropriately, to "Italian automobile factory of Turin." Since its birth, FIAT has taken the motor world by storm, releasing classic models such as the 1932 Balilla Spider, the 1952 Fiat 8V, and the 1972 Dino 2400 Coupé. Today, the FIAT holding company—Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—includes automotive brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Maserati, and Ram Trucks in its lineup.

14. TASER

TASER
Fred Dufour, AFP/Getty Images

While you’ll probably be familiar with the widely used self-defence device, you might not have realized that the device is actually named after its manufacturer. Founded in 1991, TASER International was established with one goal in mind: To provide everyday people with the tools they need to protect themselves from harm. The name TASER comes from Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, a 1911 science fiction novel by Victor Appleton that imagined an electric gun. Naturally, this name was used because the device from the book served as the inspiration for the real-life TASER.

15. SMART CAR

Smart car
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Designed with great handling and fuel efficiency in mind, you might be surprised to learn that the Smart in this case is not actually a synonym for intelligent. Instead, the smart in Smart Cars is short for Swatch Mercedes Art. This name came about because this line of compact vehicles is the product of a collaboration between Swatch and Mercedes-Benz, or more accurately Mercedes’s holding company Daimler AG. Today, vehicles belonging to this German automotive brand are available across Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America.

16. ZIP CODE

packages
iStock

While it might be a plain-looking five-digit number, the establishment of the ZIP Code was actually instrumental in revolutionizing the United States Postal Service (USPS). The "ZIP" in this name stands for Zone Improvement Plan.

Conceived in 1963, the ZIP Code was introduced in order to provide towns, cities, and other districts across the country with distinct identification numbers. This was done in order to improve the efficiency and reliability of the USPS. Nearly 50 years later, the ZIP Code system continues to be successfully used for package deliveries today.

17. USA PATRIOT ACT

American flag
iStock

Considering that this act was written into law in order to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, one might think that the “Patriot Act” is a fitting name for this statute. You might be surprised to learn, however, that the entire name is an acronym. This acronym stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." While its full name might not be easy to remember, the consequences of the Act—such as the tapping of phone lines—have been far-reaching across the nation.

18. EOS

Sebastian Reuter, Getty Images for OuterInsight

Established in 2006, this diverse beauty and skincare company rose to prominence thanks to its delightful spherical lip balms. Since becoming a popular brand, eos—which is short for Evolution of Smooth—expanded its product offerings to include lotions, shaving creams, and other beauty and skincare products. Celebrated for designing colorful, minimalist packaging targeted at women, several celebrities have been known to endorse this brand, including Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.

19. MAC

MAC Cosmetics store
Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

Established in 1984, Canadian makeup brand MAC (stylized as M·A·C) stands for Make-up Art Cosmetics (saying MAC Cosmetics is technically redundant). This is largely due to the fact that it was founded by makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and salon owner Frank Angelo with the goal of creating cosmetics that photographed well. Today, M·A·C is a subsidiary of the Estée Lauder Companies.

20. P.C. RICHARD & SON

Refrigerators in a P.C. Richard & Son
Mario Tama, Getty Images

This is the largest chain of private, family-owned appliance, electronics and mattress stores across the United States. P.C. Richard & Son has a rich and extensive history, having been founded in Brooklyn, New York in 1909. Quite plainly, this store was named after its founder Peter Christian Richard. Coincidentally, Richard’s son A.J. was born that very same year. With A.J. spending his childhood helping out at the store before deciding to join the business full time, his father decided to add “& Son” to the store’s name in honor of A.J.

21. REI

an REI store
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

REI is an acronym for Recreational Equipment, Inc. Founded in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Anderson in Seattle, Washington, the store was named for the couple’s goal of providing outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality climbing gear at reasonable prices. While this franchise has grown to include more than 165 locations today, its success is not just limited to the retail sector. In 2006, REI launched the Outdoor School, a series of one-day outings as well as in-store classes.

22. H&M

Sean Gallup, Getty Images

As one of the largest fashion retailers in the United States, you might be surprised to learn that H&M is not in fact an American retail giant, but Swedish. The company started in 1947 as women's fashion retailer Hennes, Swedish for "Hers." In 1968, they acquired hunting apparel and fishing equipment retailer Mauritz Widforss and the name became Hennes & Mauritz. In 1974, it was simplified to just H&M. Since its latest branding evolution, the H&M Group has grown to include more than 5000 stores spanning 74 countries.

23. IBM

Alexander Koerner, Getty Images

Founded in Endicott, New York, in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, IBM has constantly evolved in order to remain competitive in an ever-changing market. While this company originally focused on manufacturing commercial scales and tabulators, it shifted its focus to more advanced tabulating tools, thus calling for a name change.

The technology company formally changed its name to IBM, which stands for International Business Machines, in 1924. Since then, it has been at the forefront of producing printers, keyboards, personal computers, and nowadays, innovation through the IBM Cloud and AI technology.

24. D.A.R.E.

Lance Cpl. Samantha Foster, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Established in 1983, D.A.R.E. is an educational program dedicated to teaching students how to resist drugs, avoid gang membership, and prevent themselves from becoming involved in violent behavior. Its name is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It also works as part of the motto "D.A.R.E. to resist drugs and violence," which was emblazoned on T-shirts that became a fad in the '90s.

25. GEICO

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

No matter where in the United States you travel to, you’re bound to come across the GEICO Gecko at some point, whether or billboards, posters, or television ad campaigns. This charming gecko is the mascot of GEICO, an auto insurance company headquartered in Maryland. While it may seem odd, GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. Why? Well, when GEICO first started, it was targeted to U.S. government employees and military personnel. Today, GEICO is one of the largest auto insurers in America, catering to more than 15 million policyholders.

26. NECCO

Established in 1901, NECCO was one of the longest-operating candy manufacturers in the United States. While it may now be defunct, NECCO was one of the most influential confectionary companies of the 20th century. Its name stands for the New England Confectionery Company, which refers to the company’s proud roots in Revere, Massachusetts. Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, the Clark Bar, Haviland Thin Mints, and, of course, NECCO Wafers are just some of NECCO’s flagship products that took America by storm.

27. FAO SCHWARZ

FAO Schwarz
Jewel Samad, AFP/Getty Images

Founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1862, few toy stores in the United States have a more esteemed reputation than FAO Schwarz. The German-born American entrepreneur Frederick August Otto Schwarz founded the legendary toy store, naming it after himself in the process. While America’s oldest toy store closed its doors in 2015, it announced its revival in 2017 to the delight of its many adoring fans. FAO Schwarz has made a grand return to New York City where you can visit it at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

28. DHL

DHL truck
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

Experts in courier services and express mail, DHL delivers more than 1.3 billion parcels each year. While it may now be a division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL, this shipping and transportation company has American roots, having been founded in San Francisco in 1969. DHL is named for its founders: Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn. Today, DHL owns five subsidiaries, including several cargo airlines, that make their courier services even more efficient.

29. JBL

JBL iPod speaker
William B. Plowman, Getty Images

If you’ve ever been in the market for high-quality audio equipment such as loudspeakers, radios, or even headsets, chances are you’ve come across your fair share of JBL merchandise. The speaker company was founded in 1946 by James B. Lansing, during which time its full name was James B. Lansing Sound, Incorporated. After a legal dispute about their name, the company decided to go by "JBL." This move proved to be a great marketing choice, as JBL is still cherished for the role it played as the sound provider for iconic music festivals such as Woodstock in 1969.

30. ALF

Amazon

Having spawned plenty of toys, clothing, and other fan merchandise, this popular character from the ‘80s came from the 1986 sitcom ALF. This series follows Gordon Shumway, an extraterrestrial being whose nickname is an acronym for Alien Life Form. Upon crash-landing his spaceship into the garage of the Tanner family home, Gordon is offered the chance to live as a guest among this hospitable family. During his time on earth, ALF makes many observations about the bizarre behavior of human beings.

31. UPS

Scott Olson, Getty Images

Right up there with the likes of FedEx and DHL is UPS, a global shipping and logistics services company. Founded in 1907 as the American Messenger Company, this business was the creation of James Casey and Claude Ryan. Specializing in package delivery to retail stores, this business’s largest client was none other than the United States Postal Service. After merging with another company, the business’s name was changed to Merchants Parcel Delivery, before ultimately becoming UPS in 1919. UPS stands for United Parcel Service. (The company's full name is United Parcel Service of America.)

32. E.L.F.

Shantel Jang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Founded by Joseph Shamah and Scott Vincent Borba in 2004, e.l.f. Cosmetics is known for its cruelty-free products as well as its support of PETA’s no fur campaign. This makeup brand's name isn't referring to the mythical creature—e.l.f. is an acronym for eyes, lips, face. While this name might seem fairly basic, it certainly is descriptive, given e.l.f.’s wide range of products, including bath and skin-care products, mineral-based makeup, glosses, blushes, mascaras, and so much more. Since its inception, e.l.f. has developed a stellar reputation for its stylish yet affordable beauty products.

33. PAM

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If you consider yourself to be a fairly decent chef in your spare time, then you’ve probably coated your frying pans with this well-known cooking spray. Introduced in 1961, this canola oil-based spray is one of the most popular cooking and baking products in American households, as well as in many other countries. But the cooking spray isn't named after a person. Rather, PAM serves as an acronym for Product of Arthur Meyerhoff, the founder of PAM Products, Inc.

34. BJ'S

Jeff Fusco, Getty Images

BJ’s Wholesale Club is one of America’s favorite membership-only warehouse clubs, with 200 locations across the country. This company was started in 1984, by the now-defunct discount department store chain Zayre in Massachusetts. The new company’s first president, Mervyn Weich, decided to name BJ’s Wholesale Club in honor of his daughter, Beverly Jean Weich. This wholesale warehouse chain is loved for its wide variety of products, ranging from electronics to furniture, toys, clothing, and sporting goods, as well as its many special benefits offered to its members.

35. CAPTCHA

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When signing into an online account or registering for a new service, you’ve probably encountered those challenges that require you to type in words that appear in an image or click on specific images. The reason for these seemingly time-wasting exercises is to distinguish human computer users from bots. So, the next time that you are required to type in a code for security purposes, remember that its name stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

36. AFLAC

Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images

When it comes to the supplemental insurance game, few brands are more recognizable than AFLAC. This is primarily due to the talking duck that features so prominently in both its advertising campaigns as well as its logo. This marketing effort clearly paid off, as AFLAC is currently America’s largest provider of supplemental insurance. The American Family Life Insurance Company of Columbus was founded in 1955, later altering the name to the American Family Life Assurance Company, and the acronym Aflac was adopted in 1989.

37. O.P.I.

Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images for ELLE Magazine

Founded in Calabasas, California in 1981, this nail polish giant started out as a small dental supply company, called Odontorium Products Inc. After operating the company on his own, George Schaeffer partnered up with entrepreneur Suzi Weiss-Fischmann (who then became OPI’s artistic director) and biochemist R. Eric Montgomery to create a nail acrylic system that proved to be a hit with local nail salons. This saw the company evolve into a highly-respected nail polish brand, which they then rebranded as OPI Products (stylized as O·P·I)—thus keeping the original name’s initials while creating a suitable name for this budding new retail operation.

38. L.E.I.

l.e.i. jeans
Walmart

Girls who grew up in the '90s and '00s will remember the denim label l.e.i. (which still exists). Founded in 1989, l.e.i., which was marketed exclusively to teens and young adults, stands for Life Energy Intelligence. This brand continues to live by its sworn statement—namely, to provide teenage girls with stylish clothes and a "hint of attitude". The brand's clothing is sold at Walmart along with an array of online stores. Since its inception, its product range has been rapidly expanded to include jewelry, sunglasses, handbags, and lingerie.

39. HTC

HTC Vive VR headset
Tomohiro Ohsumi, Getty Images

This consumer electronics giant was founded in Taiwan in 1997. HTC began as an original design manufacturer of laptop computers, mobile phones, and some of the world’s first touchscreen and wireless handheld devices. As a pioneer in its field, HTC was the first company to release a smartphone running on the Android operating system—the HTC Dream. While HTC is frequently cited as standing for High Tech Computer Company (yes, there's only one "C" in the initialism), many people can point out the coincidence of the co-founder’s name being HT Cho.

40. WWE

John Cena with WWE background
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Plenty of people have fond memories of watching the many bone-crunching WWE wrestling matches on TV, along with indulging in merchandise such as the WWE video games and action figures. WWE is a pretty straightforward initialism of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., however this was not always the name of the world’s most popular entertainment-based wrestling franchise.

At its inception, the WWE was actually established as the WWF—the World Wrestling Federation. The name was changed in 2002, when the wrestling corporation lost a lawsuit with the World Wildlife Fund over the WWF trademark. The lawsuit aside, the WWE was also glad to change its name so that its new branding could focus on the “entertainment” aspect of its programming.

41. WWF

paper lantern with WWF logo
Filippo Monteforte, AFP/Getty Images

We now come to the WWE’s former namesake—the world’s leading organization in wildlife conservation and the protection of endangered species. Founded in 1961, the WWF, with its iconic giant panda logo, stands for World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. and Canada. In other markets, it stands for World Wide Fund for Nature. The WWF, which is Involved in more than 3000 conservation and environmental projects in 100-plus countries, is currently the world’s largest conservation organization. Some of its groundbreaking campaigns include Earth Hour and the Debt-for-Nature Swap.

42. ESPN

People arrive at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016
Chris Jackson, Getty Images for Invictus Games

Established in 1979, ESPN was founded by sports director Bill Rasmussen and his son Scott, along with Ed Egan. Broadcasting from its studios in Bristol, Connecticut, ESPN broadcasts live sporting events from across the United States and the world. The company’s full name is Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. In addition to live sports, ESPN has achieved widespread popularity over the years thanks to its groundbreaking journalism and behind-the-scenes footage, along with talk shows such as its flagship show, SportsCenter. Today, you can enjoy ESPN on a variety of platforms, including their website, streaming services such as Hulu, and the video streaming subscription service ESPN+.

43. LG

LG logo
Pau Barrena, AFP/Getty Images

Founded in 1985, the LG Corporation is a South Korean electronics manufacturer that has grown to become one of the largest multinational conglomerate corporations worldwide. Back in its early days, LG used to stand for Lucky-Goldstar, seeing as this corporation was formed as a merger between two pre-existing companies—Lak Hui and GoldStar Co. Ltd. Today, the company’s name seems to stand for "Life's Good"—the brand’s world-famous slogan. In addition to manufacturing premium quality electronics and appliances, LG has become a sponsor for a multitude of major sporting events, ranging from Formula One to the Copa America soccer tournament.

44. UNICEF

Unicef banner
iStock

An initiative of the United Nations, the UNICEF nonprofit agency was established with the goal of providing humanitarian aid to children across the world. UNICEF is an acronym for United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. As its mandate changed, this agency became the United Nations Children's Fund. Today, UNICEF’s operations range from providing treatment to children and mothers with HIV, improving sanitation, providing emergency relief in times of natural disasters, and promoting education in underdeveloped areas across the globe.

45. NBC

NBC logo
Michael Nagle, Getty Images

Founded in 1926, NBC is recognized globally by its colorful peacock-inspired logo. Aside from its distinctive branding and famous headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, NBC also happens to be the oldest existing television network in the United States. The NBC name is short for National Broadcasting Company. NBC continues to be revered for its world-class programming, ranging from comedy classics such as Saturday Night Live, Friends, and Seinfeld to modern hits such as America's Got Talent and The Blacklist.

46. ABC

ABC logo
Mario Tama, Getty Images

While it might sound like the start of the alphabet song, ABC’s name has a far different meaning. This multinational broadcasting company, which happens to be a property of Walt Disney Television, has been in business since 1927—one year after the establishment of its programming rival, NBC. ABC is an abbreviation of American Broadcasting Company. As one of America’s leading broadcasting companies, ABC has gained traction with its wide variety of daytime talk shows such as The View along with long-running primetime series such as Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family.

47. CBS

CBS headquarters
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

Founded in 1927 as a radio network, CBS entered the realm of television broadcasting in 1947, which amazingly makes it one of America’s younger broadcasting networks. CBS is an abbreviation of the company's former full name: Columbia Broadcasting System. In 1974, it became known as simply "CBS."

Headquartered in the CBS Building (also known as Black Rock) in New York City, this broadcasting giant offers an unbeatable assortment of programming, ranging from primetime television to popular talk shows, holiday programming, and of course, CBS News.

48. CNN

CNN building
David McNew, Newsmakers

Founded in 1980, this groundbreaking news network aired the first ever 24-hour news channel in television history, as well as becoming the first all-news TV channel in the United States. CNN, which stands for Cable News Network, took cable television by storm, eventually expanding its new coverage to other platforms such as its wildly popular website and its YouTube channel. Beyond breaking news, CNN also has its own film division, called CNN Films, which is focused on producing informative documentaries.

49. H&R BLOCK

H&R Block
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Established in 1955, this American tax preparation company was the product of two brothers hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to being a tax preparation giant in the domestic market, H&R Block also operates in several other countries, such as Australia and Canada. This company has expanded dramatically in recent years, following its strategic alliance with accounting software company Xero and its partnership with Walmart. Having been founded by brothers Henry W. Bloch and Richard Bloch, the origins of this company name is fairly obvious.

50. YMCA

 gym scene showing gymastics, climbing, and Indian club swinging being practiced. Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) gymnasium, Longacre, London, wood engraving, c. 1888. Opened by the Prince of Wales on June 16, 1888.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Often referred to as simply the Y, the YMCA was founded as the Young Men's Christian Association in London in 1844 with the goal of creating a space where Christian men could better develop their "body, mind, and spirit" with Christian values in mind. The idea gained popularity rather quickly, and YMCAs began popping up all around the world. Today, more than 64 million people take advantage of the organization's many services. While the YMCA organization itself is now headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, it operates facilities in 120 countries around the world.