Visionary Women: Lessons Learned From 20 Female Luminaries
10/15/2015 02:30 pm ETUpdated
Oct 15, 2016
Maya Angelou was an acclaimed author, poet, dancer, actress, singer, producer and activist.
One of the lessons that we can learn from her life is the importance of saying "Yes". She discovered who she was and along the way by saying yes to various opportunities.
"If I'm asked, 'Can you do this?' I think, if I don't do it, it'll be ten years before another black woman is asked to do it. And I say, 'Yes, yes, when do you want it?"
Marina Abramovic pushes past physical and mental boundaries through her art form. In her groundbreaking 2010 performance The Artist is Present at New York's MoMA, she broke attendance records attracting more than 500,000 visitors. She shows that when we push past our limitations we can be a catalyst for others to do the same.
Publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham was the first woman to head a Fortune 500 company. When she took over the Post in 1963 after her husband's death, she had no formal training in business and only modest experience in journalism, yet she found her way to success.
Life lesson: People can lead very rich and fulfilling careers in the second half of life. "Most people go through life without ever discovering the existence of that whole field of endeavor which we describe as second wind."
Marie Curie was a Polish-born French physicist famous for her work on radioactivity and twice a winner of the Nobel Prize. She is the most famous female scientist of all time, and has received numerous posthumous honors. Her success started with a simple intuition about the nature of matter.
Her life shows us that intuition and passion are lifelines to our long term success. Curie once said, "I am among those who think science has a great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: He is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale."
Rosario Perez is the former CEO and President of Pro Mujer (For Women), a non-profit organization dedicated to the economic development of women in Latin America. After a long successful career at JPMorgan Chase, she repositioned herself to help some of the most disadvantaged women in South America. Her work has reached more than 1.6 million women and their 6.4 million children and family members in Latin America.
Lesson from her life: Given opportunities and the right tools, people can lift themselves up.
Muccia Prada is a fashion powerhouse that continues to unveil her vision of what a woman can be. Her farsighted creativity extends to other cultural forums, including architecture, art, cinema and design. Her collaboration with acclaimed architects led to creating a revolutionary store concept, combining retail, an art space, and gallery.
Life lesson: you can merge all your passions into the business that you have.
Carmen Amaya "The Queen of the Gypsies" is known as one of the greatest dancers of all time, and the mother of modern Flamenco dance. Rising from poverty to becoming an international star and performing on the silver screen, her story is truly remarkable.
From her life we learn about the importance of loyalty -- loyalty to one's family and community. It is well known that she took great care of her family and brought them along on her many tours.
Victoria Ocampo was a writer, an editor, a publisher, a feminist and described as "La Mujer mas Argentina" (the Quintessential Argentinian Woman). She pushed beyond on the stereotypes of her wealthy upbringing and made a name for herself in the literary world. Her admiration for her contemporary luminaries motivated her to carve out a series of mentoring relationships that had a huge effect in her path to success.
Life lesson: It's important to be surrounded by like-minded, successful people we admire so that we can draw from their guidance and experience.
Shirin Neshat is a visual artist who has gained global recognition for her work in photography, film, and video. Born in Iran and living in the United States for much of her life due to the political climate of her native homeland, her work reflects the experience of being caught between two worlds. Life lesson: Imagination is one of our greatest resources.
"My imagination is the place that I feel at home. As long as I can go back to my imagination, I am content."
Diana Nyad is a world champion swimmer, an author, journalist and motivational speaker. She is best known for her recent feat in becoming first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Her motto: "Find a way."
Life lesson: Never give up.
Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo from the coast to coast, across the Atlantic, and the first pilot to fly solo across the Pacific. She tragically was lost at sea on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe at the equator. One of the great lessons of her life was that she wasn't afraid to step into the unknown. She had a way of confronting her fears and transforming them into excitement and adventure.
Madam CJ Walker
The daughter of former slaves, she went on to become the first female millionaire in U.S. history. Breaking the cycle of poverty in her own family, she created a thriving national hair care business.
Life lesson: It doesn't matter where we come from. We can take a idea and build a future for ourselves.
Although left deaf and blind through a childhood illness, Helen Keller rose above her circumstances to become a US Goodwill Ambassador, an author, and lecturer, and spoke several languages. She would later become the recipient of the US Presidential Medical of Freedom.
Life lesson: A rich interior life far outweighs physical limitations. Her life continues to inspire millions worldwide.
Born into the oppression of the Indian caste system's lowest group, the Dalit, Asha Kowtal has risen to become it's most recognizable face for change for over 80 million of her people. She has organized the National Dalit Women's Movement (AIDMAM), and a march that has unified and amplified the voices of those fighting social discrimination.
Life lesson: By enlisting the help of others we can become change agents.
Valentina Tereshkova is the world's first female astronaut. She was once an obscure factory worker living in a remote village with a love of parachute jumping. Inspired for greater opportunities, she wrote a letter to her government explaining that she would like to become a cosmonaut, and fate would have it that she reached out at just the right time.
Life lesson: We need to take that first step, and reach out. Who knows what doors may open!
Once homeless, Zhang Xin is now the 7th richest self-made woman in the world. Her real estate company, SOHO China, has literally transformed the landscape of China because of her ability to tap into the zeitgeist of the times.
Life lesson: By tapping into the needs around us, we can transform the world.
A prolific author, Doris Lessing wrote articulately about female experiences and human nature, ranging from race relations to human sexuality. She has received much praise from the feminist movement for her portrayal of women's inner lives in her groundbreaking book: The Golden Notebook.
Life lesson: Curiosity can lead us into greater explorations.
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor is the first woman to become a United States Supreme Court Justice. Over the years, in an often divided court, her vote was often the one that would determine cases in the court's final rulings.
Life lesson: One person's opinion has the power to impact the decisions of others. Standing by our truth is important.
2014 Nobel laureate and human right's activist, Malala Yousafzai is the Pakistani school girl who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education. "I raise my voice -- not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard."
Life lesson: Let's not be afraid of using our voice -- it can be the most powerful weapon.
This abused mother of four children organized the women of her war torn nation, Liberia, to end the civil war and bring lasting peace. In 2011 Leymah Gbowee was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her role. With no political background, she was able to transform her nation by working outside of the system.
Life lesson: We can be "outsiders" and yet create massive change by bringing out of the box ideas to the forum.