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 Playwright

Young Jean Lee

First Asian-American woman to write a play produced on Broadway

The Playwright

June Canedo for TIME

The Skier

Lindsey Vonn

First American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing

The Skier

Kendrick Brinson for TIME

The Trader

Stacey Cunningham

First woman to become president of the New York Stock Exchange

The Trader

Adrienne Grunwald for TIME

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 Actor

Rita Moreno

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

Interview

‘I have a feeling that remarkable women very often have remarkable parents.’

Nobody said I was going to be a star someday. Especially not in this country. I was just a Puerto Rican child. But I knew I was going to be very active in show business. I loved it. I was dancing for my grandpa from the time I was 4 or 5 years old in Puerto Rico.

My mother came to this country before I did. She left me with my father after she divorced him. My mother knew almost no English. She had no education whatsoever. But she had one skill. She could sew like a demon. She got a job in New York in a sweatshop. Within four or five months of coming to this country, she made some money, and she took the ship back (you did not fly in those days, who could afford it?) to Puerto Rico to bring me to the United States. She was a remarkable woman. I have a feeling that remarkable women very often have remarkable parents.

My mother was a delightful, enthusiastic, vivacious woman. She loved to laugh. She was filled with a kind of joy that you sometimes wondered where she got it, because she had such a hard time.

My mom helped me out in any way she could. She made all my clothing, all through my days at MGM. She made all my costumes. She was really good at it. She was unstoppable. And yet she was not a show-business mother. She was a very Latina woman who adored her daughter and did everything she could for me. She maybe did too much for me.

I was a very passive young woman, and I let everybody in the world tell me what to do. And I listened to the next person who said, “Well, you know what you really should do is …”

It did not serve me in good stead to say the very least. If I had had a manager, probably this person would have said to me, “O.K., you’ve played enough of those ‘native’ girls, now let’s say no each time that’s offered to you.” But all I knew was that that was the only kind of employment I could get, so that’s what I did. And so for years and years, I was really very miserable and hurt that I was only seen in one way and having to speak always, always with an accent. I couldn’t even audition for anything that wasn’t a “native” girl.

Managers in those days only handled big stars. You rarely heard of a young starlet who had a manager. So I had no advice from anybody. I had agents, and agents—if you’re unlucky and I was one of the unlucky ones—are job-getters. They’re not career-makers.

That’s when you really feel helpless. You see a script, you see a small role for a young woman, you say, “Oh, I could play the heck out of that.” And your agent says, “They don’t want to see you.” That’s heartbreaking.

It also makes you very angry. So I was a very, very angry and resentful young woman for quite some time. And that’s something that I had to really work on to try to, if not get rid of, at least temper in psychotherapy.

I pat myself on the back a lot for having been in eight years of therapy. It’s very easy to just say, “I don’t need this, I already have enough problems.” But to face them and then to talk about them? It’s very, very difficult to face your own terrible feelings about yourself.

I had no real role model. There was nobody that I could look up to and say that’s somebody like me. There was no such person. Which is probably why I’m now known in my community as La Pionera, “the pioneer.”

I really don’t think of myself as a role model. But it turns out that I am to a lot of the Hispanic community. Not just in show business but in life. But that’s what happens when you’re the first, right?

I can tell you very sincerely that I’m envious of the new generation of Latina actresses because they didn’t quite have to go through what I did. And I sometimes will actually say to myself, to be very honest, “It’s not fair.”

I have done nothing else in my life except perform. Which is unusual because almost everyone I know has been a secretary, an X-ray technician, something, anything in order to make a living. And I actually was able to make a living from almost the beginning, being paid for what I loved most to do.

I call myself the hardware shelf. There’s a lot of awards and honors there. And I have earned that. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t beg for it, I didn’t pay for it. I earned that. People see the accomplishments—but it’s good to remind people that so much strife and labor and tears and heartbreak came before that, that it really is earned. That’s why I talk about this with ease. And I don’t even mind saying that I’m envious, because I’ve earned that too.

I’m trying as hard as I can to keep pushing the boundaries of what a woman is capable of doing. And it turns out there’s a lot we can do. There’s a lot we can speak about. The way we’re perceived is still in the ancient times, but I think we’re on our way. We now feel so strong, and that we’re entitled to feel as we do, whatever it happens to be. No one’s going to tell me how to make my own choices. For too many years, everybody told me what to say and what to do and how to be.

Moreno is one of 12 people to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, known as an EGOT. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

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