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 Titan

Oprah Winfrey

First woman to own and produce her own talk show

Interview

‘No matter where you are in your life, you are not alone.’

My significant personal “first” would be the very first time I actually hosted a talk show. From the time I was 19 until I was 24, I was a news anchorwoman. Everyone thought that being a news anchorwoman was the end-all be-all job. And even I thought that before I got the job, but it was very unsettling to me. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. It never felt authentic to me. I always felt like I had a pretend voice when I went on the air. I would interview people who’d been through tragedies or disasters, and I would feel terrible for them, and I would empathize, and then I would get written up by my bosses. So, I got demoted from the news job. They put me on a talk show called People Are Talking, in Baltimore. My very first interview was with the Carvel ice cream man and Benny, one of the characters from All My Children. It wouldn’t have mattered who the guests were, because when I sat in the seat next to my co-interviewer, Richard Sher, and could ask questions just based upon what I wanted to know about ice cream and All My Children, it felt like coming home. When that first show ended, on Aug. 14, 1978, I said, “I have found my home. This is what I was meant to do.”

I made every single choice of my career based on my gut. I would literally ask myself, “Does this feel right?” So when I got my show in Chicago, I built it around myself and the producers. We were young women in our 30s who were trying to figure it out and find our own way. We’d literally sit around and say, “What’s going on in your life? What happened at the beauty shop this week? What’s your mother talking about? What are your friends saying?”

It wasn’t until the very first national Oprah Winfrey Show that I remember coming up with a sort of vision mission statement for what the show was, mainly because I was trying to explain to the national audience, who hadn’t been watching along with Chicago for almost two years, who I was and what it was. I remember saying one of the reasons I want to do this show was to let you know that you—no matter where you are in your life—you are not alone. Because it’s the thing that I had discovered while doing the show. I learned so much about myself through other guests. I remember feeling for many years that I was the only person who’d ever been sexually abused. I didn’t know that that was the language for it. But when I heard on my show someone else say the same words and describe the same thing that had happened to me, I felt, wow, I’m not the only one. And as time went on, over and over I would hear people share stories, feelings that I had experienced. The platform grew out of my desire to let people know you’re not alone, there’s nothing that has happened to you that hasn’t happened to at least a thousand, perhaps a million other people, and the feeling is the same.

I remember going to my bosses once we were syndicated. Now, I didn’t understand how much money I was going to make in syndication, because I’d been syndicated in Baltimore and nothing had happened with that. So the word syndication didn’t mean that much to me, even though everybody was talking about how much money the show was going to make. But I started to see that that was really true. I was making a lot of money, and my producers were still getting the same salary.

Firsts Women Who Are Changing the World Oprah Winfrey Time Magazine Cover
Photograph by Luisa Dörr for TIME

I went to my then boss and said, “Everybody needs a raise.” He said, “Why?” I said, “Because we’re now a national show, and I’m making money.” And he actually said to me, “They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls. What do they need more money for?”

This was in 1986. I remember going to my first boss in Baltimore in 1979 and saying that my co-anchor was making more money than I. This was on the show People Are Talking. I said, “Richard makes more money than I, and we’re doing the same job. And so I feel that I should get a raise.” And my boss said, “Why?” And I said, “Again, sir, we’re sitting in chairs opposite each other, we’re doing the same job. I ask as many questions as he does. Then I do the news, and he does the news.”

And my boss said, “But he has children. He has three sons. Do you have kids?”

And I said, “No, I don’t have kids.” He said, “And he owns his own home. Do you own your own house?”

“I, uh, well, no. Well, I’m going to be buying a house.”

“But do you own your own house?” he said. “And so, tell me again why you need more money?”

I said, “Thank you very much.” And that is when I vowed that I was going to be leaving Baltimore. I realized, O.K., I’m not going to win. Who am I going to protest to? This is the general manager.

But that was such fuel for me. So when it happened again seven years later in Chicago, I go, “Well, either my producers are going to get raises or I’m going to sit down. I just won’t work. I will not work unless they get paid more money.”

And so they did. And while I was waiting for the bosses to pay them, I paid them myself in the interim.

A lot of things have changed since then. I think there are a lot of us of my generation and other generations who swallowed a lot. There’s an old spiritual that says, “Trouble don’t last always.” I always knew there would come a time when I would be in a position where I wouldn’t have to swallow it.

The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated talk show in TV history, ran for 25 years.

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