Rigoberta Menchú

(b. Jan. 9, 1959, Guatemala) The Guatemalan Indian-rights activist Rigoberta Menchú was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in Menchú, of the Quiché Maya group, spent her childhood helping with her family’s agricultural work; she also likely worked on coffee plantations. As a young woman, she became an activist in…

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Hillary Rodham Clinton

(b. Oct. 26, 1947, Chicago, Ill., U.S.) The American lawyer and politician Hillary Rodham Clinton served as a U.S. senator (2001–09) and secretary of state (2009) in the administration of Pres. Barack Obama. She also served as first lady (1993–2001) during the administration of her husband, Bill Clinton, 42nd president…

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Gro Harlem Brundtland

(b. April 20, 1939, Oslo, Nor.) Having served three terms as prime minister of Norway in the 1980s and ’90s, Gro Harlem Brundtland later was director general of the World Health Organization (WHO; 1998–2003). Trained as a physician, she became identified with public health and environmental issues 1and with the…

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Sandra Day O’Connor

(b. March 26, 1930, El Paso, Texas, U.S.) Sandra Day O’Connor was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1981 to She was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. A moderate conservative, she was known for her dispassionate and meticulously researched opinions….

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Elizabeth Stern

(b. Sept. 19, 1915, Cobalt, Ont., Can.-d. Aug. 18, 1980, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.) The Canadian-born American pathologist Elizabeth Stern is noted for her work on the stages of a cell’s progression from a normal to a cancerous state. Stern received a medical degree from the University of Toronto in…

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Rosa Parks

(b. Feb. 4, 1913, Tuskegee, Ala., U.S.-d. Oct. 24, 2005, Detroit, Mich.) The African American civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a public bus to a white man, precipitating the 1955–56 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama. Her act is recognized as the spark that ignited…

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Mother Teresa

(baptized Aug. 27, 1910, Skopje, Macedonia, Ottoman Empire [now in Republic of Macedonia]-d. Sept. 5, 1997, Calcutta [Kolkata], India; beatified Oct. 19, 2003) Mother Teresa of Calcutta was the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to the poor, particularly to…

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Martha Graham

(b. May 11, 1894, Allegheny county, Pa., U.S.-d. April 1, 1991, New York, N.Y.) Martha Graham was an influential American dancer, teacher, and choreographer of modern dance, whose ballets and other works were intended to “reveal the inner man.” Over 50-plus years she created more than 180 works, from solos…

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Irène Joliot-Curie

(b. Sept. 12, 1897, Paris, France-d. March 17, 1956, Paris) The French physical chemist Irène Joliot-Curie was awarded, with her husband, the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of new radioactive isotopes prepared artificially. She was the daughter of Nobel Prize winners Pierre and Marie Curie. Irène Curie…

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Oprah Winfrey

(b. Jan. 29, 1954, Kosciusko, Miss., U.S.) One of the richest and most influential women in the United States is the American television personality, actress, and entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey. Her syndicated daily talk show was among the most popular of the genre. Winfrey moved to Milwaukee, Wis., at age six…

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