(CNN Student News) -- The following profiles feature prominent women in the fields of politics, law, sports, science and business.
Betty Friedan (1921-2006) is best known as a philosopher of modern-day feminism. In 1957, she began to send questionnaires to other women and noted that they were dissatisfied with their lives. Friedan organized this information into a bestselling book, The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963. The book detailed the frustration of women who were expected to rely on their husbands and children for their happiness. In 1966, Friedan became one of the founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which was dedicated to achieving equal opportunities for women. She also co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus, saying it was organized "to make policy, not coffee."
Sally Ride (1951 - ) was the first American woman to orbit the Earth, though at first she considered a career in professional tennis. She was selected for a NASA astronaut training program while working on her doctorate in astrophysics at Stanford University. Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983, as a member of the shuttle Challenger crew. Later, she said of that six-day mission, "The thing that I'll remember most about the flight is that it was fun. In fact, I'm sure it was the most fun I'll ever have in my life." In the years that followed, Ride became the only person to serve on commissions investigating both the Challenger and the Columbia shuttle tragedies. Today, Sally Ride works on programs that promote science and math, especially for girls, and she has authored children's books about space.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
At a time when women were not expected to be athletes, Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956) dominated several sports. Nicknamed Babe for her "Ruth-like" home runs, Didrikson first achieved national attention during the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, where she won gold medals and broke her own world records in both the javelin and the 80-meter hurdles. By 1933, she turned to golf, where she would eventually win more than 50 tournaments, including three U.S. Women's Opens. In 1950, after Zaharias outbragged and outcompeted her rivals for two decades, the Associated Press named her the "Greatest Female Athlete of the First Half of the 20th Century."
Billie Jean King
For two decades, world-renowned tennis player Billie Jean King (1943 - ) dominated the sport with 695 match victories, including six Wimbledon and four U.S. Open titles. One of her best-known titles came in 1973 at the height of the women's liberation movement. In the so-called "Battle of the Sexes," King defeated the self-proclaimed "male chauvinist" Bobby Riggs in a match that the London Sunday Times called "the drop shot and volley heard 'round the world." A pioneer and activist for women's rights, King used her accomplishments on the court to help pave the way for the next generation of female athletes. In 1990, Life magazine named her one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century."
American racecar driver Danica Patrick (1982 - ) first started racing at age 10, following her sister's interest in go-karts. Patrick quickly showed her penchant for speed, zooming to top-10 finishes and titles throughout her young career. In 2005, she made history by leading an open-wheel championship series, and Patrick was named the IndyCar Series' Rookie of the Year. She also started and finished in fourth place at the 2005 Indianapolis 500.
Polish-born Marie Curie (1867-1934) was always an exceptional student. When she and her husband were recognized in 1903 for their groundbreaking physics research, she became the first female winner of a Nobel Prize. Another such award followed in 1911, when Curie received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry after she discovered the elements radium and polonium. This honor made her the first individual to receive multiple Nobel Prizes.
Known as the "Iron Lady" for her strong leadership, Margaret Thatcher (1925 - ) made history in 1979 by becoming Europe's first elected female head of state. She served as British prime minister for 11 years, emerging as the only 20th century British leader to win three consecutive elections. Thatcher also led her country to victory over Argentina in the 1982 Falklands War. After she stepped down in 1990, Thatcher started a foundation to promote democracy and international cooperation. She later received Britain's highest civil and military honor, the Order of the Garter.
Author of a book entitled "Changing History," Geraldine Ferraro (1935 - ) made history herself when she became the first American woman to run for vice president on a major party ticket. Ferraro was the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale in 1984. Though the pair did not win, Ferraro remained politically active and served as a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1993 to 1996. Her resume also includes work as a teacher, attorney and U.S. representative.
Madeleine Albright (1937 - ) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. As the Nazis invaded that country before World War II, Albright and her family fled and eventually settled in the U.S. She graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and she later received master's and doctorate degrees from Columbia University in New York. By the late 1970s, she was working in the White House for President Jimmy Carter's national security team. In 1993, she became the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. In 1997, the Senate approved Albright as the 64th U.S. secretary of state; she was the first woman ever to hold the position.
As a teenager in a small Oklahoma town, Donna Shirley dreamed of exploring Mars and took an intense interest in flying airplanes. Before she was out of her teens, she was flying solo and earning her pilot's licenses. Shirley entered college in the 1950s to study aerospace engineering at a time when engineering schools were still a male stronghold. She was successful, earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma and a master's degree from the University of Southern California. Shirley spent 32 years at NASA's jet propulsion lab, the lead U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, where Shirley managed the Mars exploration program. In 1997, the world watched as two of her projects - the Mars Pathfinder and the Sojourner Microrover - landed on Mars. Two months later, the Mars Global Surveyor went into orbit around the red planet. The projects that Shirley worked on became some of NASA's greatest successes.
As chairman and CEO of Xerox, Anne Mulcahy (1952 - ) knows about far more than making copies. Born in Rockville Centre, New York, Mulcahy earned a bachelor's degree in English and journalism from Marymount College. She has spent most of her 30-year career at Xerox, starting off as a field sales representative and gradually moving up the ranks to hold senior management and executive positions. In 2002, Mulcahy helped pull Xerox out of a near-fatal slump, assisting the company to stand out in the printing and copying business despite a slew of competitors. In addition to heading up Xerox, Mulcahy also serves on the boards of directors at Catalyst, Citigroup and Target.
You may not know the name Meg Whitman (1957 - ), but you no doubt know the name of the company she runs: eBay. Whitman grew up in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. In the late 1970's, she earned an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University. Before joining eBay, Whitman held top-level jobs at a number of major companies, including Walt Disney, Stride Rite and FTD. In the late 1990s, she was tapped to become president and CEO of the online auction firm eBay. Under her leadership, the company's revenues for 2000 exceeded $430 million, an increase of 92 percent over 1999. EBay continues to thrive. In 2007, it generated revenues of more than $7.5 billion. A possible key to Whitman's success: She has been described as "relentlessly optimistic." Whitman plans to step down from eBay on March 31, 2008, but she will remain on the board.
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor (1930 - ) was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Born in El Paso, Texas, O'Connor grew up on a large family ranch in Arizona. She earned undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford University. After holding various jobs in the legal field and starting to raise a family, O'Connor became an assistant attorney general for the state of Arizona. Afterward, she worked as a Republican lawmaker in the state senate, where she served as majority leader; O'Connor was the first woman in the United States to hold such a position. She also served as a judge at a county superior court and a state court of appeals in 1981. Also in 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated O'Connor to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was confirmed unanimously by the Senate and was sworn in as the first female Supreme Court justice in history. During her 24 years on the high court, O'Connor was considered a decisive swing vote in many key decisions. She retired from the bench in 2006.
Condoleezza Rice (1954 - ) is the first African-American woman to hold the position of U.S. secretary of state. From 2000 to 2005, Rice was the first woman to serve as national security adviser to the president. Rice spent her youth in Birmingham, Alabama and later in Denver, Colorado. She enrolled at the University of Denver at the age of 15, and she studied under Madeleine Albright's father. Rice went on to obtain master's and doctorate degrees and then taught political science at Stanford University. During George H.W. Bush's presidency, Rice held posts in the National Security Council. Bush once said to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Rice "tells me everything I know about the Soviet Union." Rice later held the post of provost of Stanford University; she was the first woman, the first African-American, and the youngest person to hold that office. In addition to English, she speaks Russian, French and Spanish, and she is an accomplished pianist.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi (1945 - ) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Suu Kyi's father was commander of the Burma Independence Army; her mother was Burma's ambassador to India. Educated at Oxford, Suu Kyi held various diplomatic posts throughout the world from 1969 to 1988. She assumed the role of opposition leader after Burmese military forces killed more than 1,000 demonstrators in 1988. After Suu Kyi's party won parliamentary elections in 1990, the ruling military junta refused to hand over power. From 1989 to 1995, and again from 2000 to 2002, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. In 2003, federal officials imprisoned her, and, as of February 2008, she remains under house arrest in Myanmar. Suu Kyi continues to press for democracy in her home country through non-violent means; she has received numerous awards and recognition throughout the globe for her efforts.
Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) was the first female leader of any Islamic Republic. Her father had also served as Pakistan's prime minister before he was ousted in a military coup and executed in 1979. After spending several years under house arrest, Benazir Bhutto led the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to victory in 1988, becoming the first female prime minister of Pakistan. The country's president dismissed Bhutto's government in 1990, but she won the prime minister post again in 1993. After President Farooq Leghari dismissed Bhutto's second administration in 1996, she exiled herself to London and Dubai. In October 2007, she returned to Pakistan in the hopes of sharing power with President Pervez Musharraf's government. Bhutto was assassinated on December 27, 2007. After her death, the PPP won parliamentary elections, continuing Bhutto's legacy of promoting democracy in Pakistan.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (1938- ) is president of Liberia and the first elected female president of any African nation. After Johnson-Sirleaf obtained her master's degree in public administration from Harvard University, she worked in financial management for the Liberian government, eventually ascending to the post of finance minister in the Liberian Cabinet in the 1970s. She also held prominent positions at the U.N., World Bank, Citicorp, and the Liberian government throughout her 30-year career. In 1985, Liberian officials placed Johnson-Sirleaf under house arrest for speaking out against the government. She fled to the U.S. and became vice president for Equator Bank. From 1992 to 1997, she was assistant secretary-general of the United Nations. Johnson-Sirleaf came in second place in the 1997 Liberian presidential elections, and that same year, she helped investigate the Rwandan genocide. When Liberia erupted into civil war, Johnson-Sirleaf was exiled again. She served in the transitional government after President Charles Taylor's resignation in 2003, and Johnson-Sirleaf became president herself after elections in 2005. With aid from the international community, she has been able to maintain peace and has begun to rebuild her nation's economy. E-mail to a friend
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