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 Lawyer

Loretta Lynch

First black woman to become U.S. Attorney General

Interview

‘It struck me most forcefully that the law must be for everyone.’

One of the most significant moments for me was the first time I opened a trial on my own. I stood in court, in front of a jury, and said my name, and then I said, “and I represent the United States of America.” It resonated within me to such a degree that I knew it would color whatever else I did going forward.

I was a very adventurous child. I am the only daughter and the middle child. I always wanted to do everything my older brother did. We’re very close in age—he’s only 18 months older—but I was always the one who got us into trouble. There was a brick wall right outside the carport at my parents’ home in Greensboro. My favorite thing to do was climb to the top and jump off. I loved that flying sensation. I loved being able to see from up high. My parents had no idea, until one day I fell. I ran into the house to get a washcloth—thereby hastening my doom—just so that I could immediately climb to the top of the carport and jump off again. My mother was horrified. She put a stop to it for a while, but over time vigilance wanes. Pretty soon I was climbing that wall again.

My mother was an English teacher, and then a librarian. Our house was full of books. She taught me to read before I started school and that became my favorite thing to do—aside from jumping off the carport roof. I was one of those kids who asked for books for Christmas presents. For my mother, education was key.

One summer my mother went back to school to finish her master’s degree in library science. She left us in the care of my father and spent that summer on campus so she could focus on her work. As a child, you’re always stunned that your mother has any focus other than you. How is that even possible? But she did. And she did it in a way that never made us feel that we were not also part of that focus, and she made it very clear that one day we were going to be going away to school.

My mother was also a woman of principle. She followed my dad as he was a young preacher driving across the state of North Carolina, preaching revivals. She told me early on how, when she was a young wife and mother, she just decided she was done with the restrooms that were marked “Colored.” They’d had to stop the car one night, and she went right into the restroom that was denoted for white women. The attendant, some young guy, was stunned, and said to her, “No, you’re supposed to go over here.” She said, “I don’t feel like fighting flies,” and just sailed on into the other restroom. She never used segregated facilities again.

My mother felt that if she was going to show her children that you can do anything, then she could not accept discrimination that has no basis in reality—no basis in anything. It had to start with her. She’s always led by example.

My father was much more out front. He was a great influence because he supported me in everything I did. Even though I was the only girl, he never gave me the impression that I was limited in any way. The aspirations and dreams he had for my brothers were the same ones he had for me. The church can be a very traditional place, particularly for a Baptist minister in the South in the ’60s and ’70s. But I saw my father letting women preach from his pulpit. I saw my father advocate for women to serve in leadership positions in his church. For him, talent could not go unrewarded. So from him I got the view that there were no limitations just because I was a girl.

My father was always fighting a fight for someone. Maybe someone had been denied tenure, or there was a civil rights issue in our town. When I was a toddler, he opened up the basement of his church in Greensboro to the student protesters from North Carolina A&T State University who were planning sit-ins and marches and protests over the fight for desegregation. He thought I should see what was happening, so he would ride me on his shoulders when he went to those meetings. From him I learned that just because a cause seems difficult, if enough people are determined to do the right thing, you can change a great many things.

My dad told me that one of his earliest, most vivid memories was of my grandfather working with people who had gotten in trouble with the law. You’re talking 1930s North Carolina—there were no Miranda rights in that day. You were at the mercy of whatever law enforcement stopped you on that dark road in the middle of the night. When people got in trouble, there was no due process, there was no assumed right to a fair trial or even a trial at all. It was a very, very different time. So people came to my grandfather for help. He’d hide them underneath the floorboards of the house where my father grew up.

The sheriff would come by—he knew my grandfather, because everyone knew my grandfather. His name was Augustus Claude Lynch. The sheriff would say, “Gus, have you seen so-and-so?” And my grandfather would say, “I haven’t seen them lately.” And the sheriff would leave.

As I got older, I would ask my dad, “Do you think the sheriff knew?” And he would say, “I think sometimes he did know, but he also knew that there really wasn’t any justice in that area at that time.”

A lot of people in the South were in that situation: when they were confronted with a problem, they had to leave their community, change their name, move farther north. It struck me most forcefully that the law must be for everyone. Obviously, we have to have accountability when something happens, but we have to have a system where you can have faith that you’re going to be treated the same as anyone else.

In my father’s community, people did not have that feeling, particularly people of color. That should not be the case. Not in America. That has stuck with me throughout my legal training and throughout my career.

Lynch served as U.S. Attorney General from 2015 to 2017.

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