The hashtag #MeToo went viral in October 2017 after Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women. But the movement had been brewing all year. That February, Susan Fowler blew the whistle on a culture of harassment at Uber and inspired hundreds of women in Silicon Valley to share their own stories. In August, Taylor Swift testified in court about being groped by a Denver DJ. That same month, seven female employees sued the Plaza Hotel in New York City alleging sexual harassment by co-workers. In October, a woman using the pseudonym Isabel Pascual helped plan a rally for agricultural workers who were being harassed and threatened. A few weeks later, Adama Iwu organized an open letter signed by 150 women about harassment in the California state capitol, leading to an investigation. In a matter of months, the #MeToo movement felled hundreds of men accused of harassment or assault, from Matt Lauer to Kevin Spacey, and spurred the launch of organizations like Time’s Up that aim to create lasting change in workplaces.
Progress has been neither quick nor linear. The Plaza suit is ongoing. Survivors and activists expressed righteous indignation when Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed despite allegations of assault. Still, the ripples of #MeToo have not dissipated. Weinstein was found guilty of rape in February 2020 and ordered to await sentencing from jail, a signal to women that their stories can be believed and that even the most powerful men can face consequences. Using the name coined by TIME in its 2017 Person of the Year issue, a group of Weinstein accusers now call themselves the Silence Breakers. “What I wanted to do was cause a massive cultural reset,” Rose McGowan, one of the accusers, said on the day of the verdict. “We achieved that today.” —Eliana Dockterman
This article is part of 100 Women of the Year, TIME’s list of the most influential women of the past century. Read more about the project, explore the 100 covers and sign up for our Inside TIME newsletter for more.