Any woman who has made it to the top knows that being boastful about your accomplishments can cost you — and not just in terms of dollars. Research finds again and again that women are discouraged from exhibiting pride in their empires including their sizable accomplishments and bank accounts. Women vocalizing their success is incongruent with “the feminine gender stereotype of supportiveness, submissiveness and interpersonal sensitivity,” to quote one study, meaning that we oftentimes get deemed “not a team player,” which is actually sexist code for “not ladylike.”
While women may be culturally discouraged from articulating that they want to be filthy rich (or that they are!), that hasn’t stopped some throughout history from discussing wealth: its strengths, its weaknesses and its role in their successes. But, most importantly, for many of these iconic women, wealth and money is defined beyond the dollar amount: money is ambitions, independence, time and sheer opportunity.
Rita Rudner is an American actress, comedian and writer. She received a Gracie Allen Award from the American Women in Television and Radio for her comedy show, “Ask Rita.” She has performed alongside Sheryl Crow and Bette Midler and has appeared on the show “Melissa & Joey.”
Katharine Meyer was publisher and CEO of her family’s newspaper, The Washington Post, for over 20 years, including during the Watergate coverage that lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. In 1972, she became the first female Fortune 500 CEO. Meyer won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1998 memoir, “Personal History.”
Marilyn Monroe is considered one of the most famous American actresses to have ever lived, enduring as an international sex symbol for over four decades. She starred in such iconic American films as “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “The Seven Year Itch” and “Some Like It Hot.” During her lifetime, her films grossed more than $200 million.
Marian Wright Edelman is an activist, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit child advocacy organization that protects children from poverty, abuse and neglect. She was the first African-American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar and began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, representing activists during the Civil Rights Movement.
Joan Rivers was the first woman to host a late night network television talk show, “The Late Show with Joan Rivers,” in 1986. She authored 12 best-selling books and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1984 for her comedy album, “What Becomes A Semi-Legend Most?” She later went on to become famous for her red carpet interviews with E!. In 1968, A New York Times television critic notably described her as, “quite possibly the most intuitively funny woman alive.”
Coco Chanel, born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, is a French fashion designer and founder of the luxury brand Chanel. She is notably the sole fashion designer listed on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Chanel is credited with liberating women of the early 20th century from the confines of the corset, introducing simpler fashion, lines and fabrics that endure today: the classic Chanel suit, the little black dress and the 2.55 Chanel purse. Her iconic perfume, Chanel No. 5, has also outlived her.
Helen Gurley Brown
Helen Gurley Brown was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years, beginning her tenure in 1965. In the early 1960s, while working as a secretary for Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency, her writing capabilities advanced her to the copywriting department where she reportedly rose quickly in the ranks. She eventually became one of the highest paid copywriters in the United States for her time.
In 1962, at the age of 40, she published her best-selling nonfiction advice book for women, “Sex and the Single Girl,” which advocated financial independence from men (as well as experiencing sex before marriage). (“Sex and the Single Girl” inspired the 1964 film of the same title with Natalie Wood and Henry Fonda). The book, which sold two million copies in the first three weeks, was a triple bestseller, making the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Time bestseller lists. “Sex and the Single Girl” was published in 28 countries.
Suzanne Necker (also known as Suzanne Curchod) was a French-Swiss writer and literary salon hostess of the 18th century. Her Parisian literary salon was frequented by great thinkers of the 1700s, including the editors of the “Encyclopédie” a French encyclopedia published between 1751 and 1772. In 1778, Necker founded The Hôpital Necker — Enfants Malades, the first pediatric hospital in the Western world.
Stevie Nicks is the lead singer and a songwriter of Fleetwood Mac. In conjunction with her solo work, she has sold over 140 million albums and reportedly produced over 40 “Top 50” hits. With Fleetwood Mac, she garnered five Grammy Award nominations along with an additional eight for her solo projects. In 1998, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Margaret Bonnano wrote six Star Trek novels as well as other science fiction novels. In 1997, her novel, “Preternatural” was a New York Times Notable Book and the sequel, “Preternatural 3” a New York Times Notable Book in 2002.
Queen Latifah is considered a feminist rapper and songwriter, as well as an actress, model, television producer, comedienne, talk show host and record producer. For her many entertainment and media projects, she has garnered a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Grammy, six additional Grammy nominations, an Emmy Award nomination and an Academy Award nomination.
Padma Lakshmi is mostly popularly known as the host of the Bravo reality TV series “Top Chef” (a role she has held since 2006). She published a cookbook, entitled “Easy Exotic,” which earned the “Best First Book” award at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
On her modeling career, which included wearing the work of Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Ralph Lauren, among others, Lakshmi has said, “I was the first Indian model to have a career in Paris, Milan and New York. I’m the first one to admit that I was a novelty.”
Rhonda Byrne is best known for her 2006 self-help book, “The Secret,” based on the how the power of positive thinking can create wealth and happiness. By 2007, “The Secret” had sold more than 19 million copies in over 40 languages (more than two million DVDs were also sold), grossing over $300 million dollars including profits from the film by the same name. Her other New Thought books include “The Power” and “The Magic.”
Elizabeth Warren is a United States Senator from Massachusetts. An early advocate of consumer protection, her work founded the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency dedicated to enforcing regulations on financial institutions and tracking consumer complaints. After the 2008 financial crisis, Warren was named Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Warren is also the author and co-author of 10 books, most of which are focused on personal finance. “All Your Worth: A Lifetime Money Plan,” “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Parents are Going Broke” and “Fathers Are Going Broke” were co-written with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of three novels, “Purple Hibiscus,” “Half of a Yellow Sun” and, most recently, “Americanah.” She has also authored a short story collection, “The Thing around Your Neck.” She won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007 and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2008.
Her 2012 TEDx talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” about her experiences of being a feminist in her home of Nigeria, was sampled by Beyonce for 2013 song “***Flawless.” Her TEDx talk was also adapted into an ebook short by the same title in 2014.
Hillary Clinton is the former United States Secretary of State (the third woman to hold said role), a United States Senator and First Lady of the United States. She is the first First Lady in American history to also assume a position in the President’s Cabinet.
In the 2008 presidential primary, Clinton ran against President Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. She is widely speculated to be running for president in 2016.
Ivy Baker Priest
Ivy Baker Priest was Treasurer of the United States from 1953 to 1961 (the second woman to ever hold the position), during which time her signature appeared on United States currency. During President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s campaign for president, Priest managed the women’s division of the Republican National Committee, encouraging women to vote. Her efforts, and that of her team, paid off: 52 percent of Eisenhower’s victory margin were reportedly female voters.
Gertrude Stein was an American author of plays, poetry and novels. She moved to Paris in 1903 and notably never returned to the United States. Considered a literary pioneer of Modernist literature, her book, “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas” (named after her partner, Alice Toklas) garnered her mainstream, literary attention.
Her Paris literary salons, hosted in her home along with Toklas, were attended by Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Ezra Pound any many other modernist artists and writers.
Oprah Winfrey is an actress, producer, philanthropist and former talk show host. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was the highest-rated talk show in American history. She was named the richest African-American of the 20th century by Forbes in 2009 and is one of only two black female billionaires in the world.
Princess Diana was the pronounced the Princess of Wales after marrying Prince Charles in 1981. Her wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral in London was watched internationally by over 750 million people. She participated in over 100 charities around issues from terminal illness to animal protection to AIDS awareness and to advocating against the use of inhumane weapons. In the last year of her life, Diana participated in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a campaign which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 just a few months after her death.
Gloria Steinem is an activist, journalist and famously co-founded Ms. magazine in 1971. She also helped to found New York magazine, the Women’s Action Alliance and the National Women’s Political Caucus. One of the most prominent feminists of the 20th century, she is considered the national face of second-wave feminism.
Bette Davis is considered one of the greatest American actress of all time, having appeared in over 100 films, television roles and theatre performances in her lifetime, including “All About Eve” and “Jezebel.” The first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice and was also the first person to earn 10 Academy Award nominations for acting. Additionally, she was the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. As the only woman to have ever held that position, she is simultaneously the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century. Thatcher was also a research chemist before becoming a barrister.
Clare Boothe Luce
Clare Boothe Luce was the first American woman to hold a major ambassadorial post abroad. As an author, she penned the successful 1936 play “The Women” featuring an entirely female cast. Luce wrote drama, fiction as well as journalism.
Candace Bushnell is a novelist and television producer.