A
Special Project
WOMEN WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD
Presented By

Videos by Spencer Bakalar and Diane Tsai

Photographs by Luisa Dörr

‘She broke the glass ceiling.’

What a jagged image we use for women who achieve greatly, defining accomplishment in terms of the barrier rather than the triumph. There she is up where the air is thin, where men still outnumber women, but where the altitude is awesome. Our goal with Firsts, which we will continue to update as new barriers are broken, is for every woman and girl to find someone whose presence in the highest reaches of success says to her that it is safe to climb, come on up, the view is spectacular.View Full List

The Writer

Lena Waithe

First black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

The Writer

Heather Sten for TIME

The Model

Halima Aden

First hijab-wearing fashion model to walk international runway shows

The Model

Dafy Hagai for TIME

The Lawmaker

Danica Roem

First openly transgender woman to be elected to and seated in a U.S. state legislature

The Lawmaker

Susan Worsham for TIME

The Restaurateur

Dominique Crenn

First woman to receive two Michelin stars in the U.S.

The Restaurateur

Molly Matalon for TIME

The Cadet

Simone Askew

First black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets at West Point

The Cadet

Molly Matalon for TIME

The Cinematographer

Rachel Morrison

First woman to be nominated for an Oscar in Cinematography

The Cinematographer

Joyce Kim for TIME

The Groundbreaker

Damyanti Gupta

First female engineer with an advanced degree at Ford Motor Company

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The Groundbreaker

The Nominee

Hillary Rodham Clinton

First woman to win a major party’s nomination for President

The Nominee

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Titan

Oprah Winfrey

First woman to own and produce her own talk show

The Titan

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Tastemaker

Selena Gomez

First person to reach 100 million followers on Instagram

The Tastemaker

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Pro

Serena Williams

First tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the open era

The Pro

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘There is plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, but there is no room for mediocre women.’

Madeleine Albright

The Diplomat

Madeleine Albright

First woman to become U.S. Secretary of State

The Diplomat

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Setbacks

15 women on sexism and double standards

The Auteur

Issa Rae

First black woman to create and star in a premium cable series

The Auteur

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Leader

Nikki Haley

First Indian-American woman to be elected governor

The Leader

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Actor

Rita Moreno

First Latina to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony

The Actor

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Singer

Aretha Franklin

First woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Singer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Mogul

Sheryl Sandberg

First woman to become a social-media billionaire

The Mogul

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Commander

Lori Robinson

First woman to lead a top-tier U.S. Combat Command

The Commander

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Showrunner

Shonda Rhimes

First woman to create three hit shows with more than 100 episodes each

The Showrunner

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Chef

Alice Waters

First woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef

The Chef

The Driver

Danica Patrick

First woman to lead in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500

The Driver

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Animator

Jennifer Yuh Nelson

First woman to solo-direct a major Hollywood animated feature

The Animator

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘I said to my dad, “This doesn’t look like the America you promised.”’

Ilhan Omar

The Legislator

Ilhan Omar

First Somali-American Muslim person to become a legislator

The Legislator

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Motivations

14 women on how they stay inspired

The Senator

Mazie Hirono

First Asian-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate

The Senator

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Artist

Cindy Sherman

First woman to break $1 million in a photography sale

The Artist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Pitcher

Mo'ne Davis

First girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in a Little League World Series

The Pitcher

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Boss

Mary Barra

First woman to become CEO of a major car company

The Boss

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Journalist

Barbara Walters

First woman to co-anchor a network evening news program

The Journalist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

First woman to become Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

The Speaker

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Astronaut

Mae Jemison

First woman of color in space

The Astronaut

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Lawyer

Loretta Lynch

First black woman to become U.S. Attorney General

The Lawyer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘I’m bolstered by folks who create their own ceilings.’

Ava DuVernay

The Director

Ava DuVernay

First black woman to direct a film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar

The Director

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Families

8 women on the balancing act

‘The women, we were aqua-babes, aqua-chicks, aqua-naughties. But we didn’t care what they called us, as long as we had a chance to go.’

Sylvia Earle

The Oceanographer

Sylvia Earle

First woman to become chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Oceanographer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Executive

Ursula Burns

First black woman to run a Fortune 500 company

The Executive

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Comedian

Ellen DeGeneres

First person to star as an openly gay character on prime-time TV

The Comedian

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Bishop

Katharine Jefferts Schori

First woman to be elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church

The Bishop

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The General

Ann Dunwoody

First woman to rise to four-star general in the U.S. military

The General

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Scientist

Elizabeth Blackburn

First woman to become president of the Salk Institute

The Scientist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Philanthropist

Melinda Gates

First woman to give away more than $40 billion

The Philanthropist

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Inventor

Patricia Bath

First person to invent and demonstrate laserphaco cataract surgery

The Inventor

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Pilot

Eileen Collins

First woman to command a space shuttle

The Pilot

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘Being the first always creates a pressure that you don’t want to be the last.’

Rachel Maddow

The Anchor

Rachel Maddow

First openly gay anchor to host a prime-time news program

The Anchor

Photograph by Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Histories

19 women on the people who shaped them

‘Raising hackles means you’re not being ignored; you’re pushing the conversation forward.’

Rita Dove

The Poet

Rita Dove

First black U.S. poet laureate

The Poet

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Adviser

Kellyanne Conway

First woman to run a winning presidential campaign

The Adviser

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Gymnast

Gabby Douglas

First American gymnast to win solo and team all-around gold medals at one Olympics

The Gymnast

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Chair

Janet Yellen

First woman to chair the Federal Reserve

The Chair

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Sculptor

Maya Lin

First woman to design a memorial on the National Mall

The Sculptor

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Engineer

Geisha Williams

First Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company

The Engineer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Entrepreneur

Michelle Phan

First woman to build a $500 million company from a web series

The Entrepreneur

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Coach

Kathryn Smith

First woman to become a full-time coach in the NFL

The Coach

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Librarian

Carla Hayden

First woman and first African American to be Librarian of Congress

The Librarian

Luisa Dörr for TIME

‘It was like I could breathe for the first time in my life.’

Candis Cayne

The Performer

Candis Cayne

First transgender woman with a major role on prime-time TV

The Performer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

The Ceiling

12 women on shattering the glass

‘The notion that women might menstruate in orbit drove the whole place up the wall.’

Kathryn Sullivan

The Explorer

Kathryn Sullivan

First American woman to walk in space

The Explorer

Luisa Dörr for TIME

Presented By

The Pilot

Eileen Collins

First woman to command a space shuttle

Eileen Collins, a then STS-114 mission commander, at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center, in Nov, 2002.Collins, a then STS-114 mission commander, at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center, in Nov, 2002. NASA
Eileen Collins participating in emergency egress training at Johnson Space Center's Shuttle mockup and integration laboratory, November, 2002.Collins participating in emergency egress training at Johnson Space Center's Shuttle mockup and integration laboratory, November 2002. NASA

‘This isn’t just about me.’

NASACollins, a then STS-114 mission commander, at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center, in Nov, 2002.

I decided I wanted to be an astronaut in fourth grade. I remember reading an article in Junior Scholastic about the Gemini program. I don’t remember consciously feeling like I couldn’t do it because they were all men and I was a young girl. I remember thinking, I’ll just be a woman astronaut.

It wasn’t until high school that I realized it would be impossible for me to be an astronaut as a woman. I remember very distinctly that I didn’t tell anyone I wanted to be an astronaut because I didn’t want anyone to tell me, “You can’t do that.” I didn’t want to hear it. So I kept it inside. Even when I was in college and joined ROTC, I knew the end horizon was the astronaut program, but I never told anyone.

When I joined the Air Force, I was in the first class to have women go through pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, in Enid, Okla. I think there were 450 pilots on that base, and we were the first four women. The Air Force was testing whether women could succeed as military pilots. We obviously were living in a fishbowl—everyone knew who we were, our personal business, our test scores and our flight performance. My philosophy was to be the best pilot I could be—to stay focused, not engage or get involved in social things or anything that wasn’t directly contributing to the mission. It was important for us to excel in training and for the test program to succeed. If the first women did poorly, that could have caused the cancellation of the program.

Eileen Collins participating in emergency egress training at Johnson Space Center's Shuttle mockup and integration laboratory, November, 2002.
NASACollins participating in emergency egress training at Johnson Space Center’s Shuttle mockup and integration laboratory, November 2002.

I must have been on the base for two days when I was checking out the commissary wearing my flight suit. A woman in a flight suit was a strange sight in those days. The woman behind the register said, “Are you one of those new women pilots?” I said yes. She looked at me and said, “The wives don’t want you here.” I was thinking—the guys don’t want us here, the wives don’t want us here. I felt horrible. So I asked her why. She said, “They don’t want you going cross-country with their husbands!” This frank interaction helped me see our situation through other people’s eyes. I wanted the women pilots to integrate successfully, so I made it a point to get to know the wives.

While at Vance, in 1978, the first class of space-shuttle astronauts visited for three days of parachute training. I never met any of them, but everybody was talking about them. That’s when I decided to apply to the space-shuttle program as soon as I was eligible. I knew that all the women in the program were mission specialists, not pilots. I also knew that to be a shuttle pilot you had to be a test pilot. So I applied to test-pilot school. That’s when I knew I could be the first woman shuttle pilot, because there were very few women ahead of me in the pipeline in the Air Force or the Navy.

In 1990 I learned that I was going to pilot the space shuttle when Duane Ross at NASA called me. He handed me off to [commander of the Apollo 16 mission] John Young. I asked, “Am I going to be a pilot or a mission specialist?” He said, “You’re going to be a pilot. You will be the first woman pilot of the space shuttle.” John Young is one of my heroes; he not only walked on the moon but was the first person to land the space shuttle. I hung up the phone. I didn’t feel like jumping up and down or partying. I felt a sense of relief, a huge sense of calmness.

After my first mission, I was visiting a group of women at Kennedy Space Center. One woman said, “Thank you for doing what you are doing, because it makes guys respect us more.” That hit me between the eyes. I thought, Why didn’t I think of that before? This isn’t just about me. This is really a big, big deal.

I advise others to take on challenges, even if you think they are too hard, even if you think you might fail. When you become an old person and look back on your life you may say, “I wish I had tried that”—you don’t want to be in that position. Give yourself challenges that are exciting, and be available to help others. There is no better feeling than helping someone else.

Collins became an astronaut in 1991 and served as a pilot or commander on four spaceflights before retiring from NASA in 2006.

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