Top 15 Most Famous Women in History
Thousands of women have made their mark on history throughout the centuries. While many of them weren't given the acclaim they deserved, some are too memorable to miss.
According to the MIT Pantheon Project, these 15 women are the most famous women to date. Thanks for the inspiration, ladies.
15. Angela Merkel
Birthplace: Eimsbüttel, Germany
Years living: 1954-present
What Angela Merkel is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: Angela Merkel is a retired German politician and scientist. She made history as the first female chancellor of Germany, serving from 2005 to 2021. In her spare time, she also functioned as the Leader of the Christian Democratic Union for 18 years.
She's among the top 50 most popular politicians, and her Wikipedia bio is available in 159 different languages.
Note: All rankings are from the MIT Pantheon Project, a collaboration with MIT’s Collective Learning group that started in 2013 and uses Wikipedia data to create a Historical Popularity Index (HPI).
14. Maria Theresa
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Years living: 1717-1780
What Maria Theresa is famous for: Religion and politics
Bottom line: Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina, better known as just Maria Theresa, was the ruler of the Habsburg dominions for 40 years, from 1740 until she died in 1780.
She ruled over Austria, Croatia, Bohemia, Hungary, Milan, Galicia, Transylvania, Mantua, Lodomeria, Parma and the Austrian Netherlands. And she was the only woman ever to hold the position alone.
By marriage, she was also the Holy Roman Empress, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany and the Duchess of Lorraine. Her Wikipedia page has approximately 4 million page views.
13. Grace Kelly
Birthplace: Philadelphia, United States
Years living: 1929-1982
What Grace Kelly was famous for: Acting
Bottom line: Grace Kelly was Hollywood royalty in a literal sense. With a strong dance background, she starred in numerous films in the 1950s, earning a reputation as one of the classic Hollywood beauties during the Golden Age of Television.
She became even more popular after she became a real-life princess, marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. Her bio is available in 98 languages and has over 19 million page views.
12. Marilyn Monroe
Birthplace: Los Angeles, United States
Years Living: 1926-1962
What Marilyn Monroe is famous for: Acting
Bottom line: Marilyn Monroe's name is synonymous with glamor and fame. She was born Norma Jean Mortenson, changed her name and became a film star, playing the lead in movies like "Some Like It Hot" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
She was one of the earliest American sex symbols and the top-paid actress for a full decade. Her movies grossed the equivalent of $2 billion, and she remains the most frequently searched actor on Wikipedia in the United States.
11. Marie Antoinette
Birthplace: Hofburg, Austria
Years living: 1755-1793
What Marie Antoinette is famous for: Nobility
Bottom line: Marie Antoinette's story is impossible to forget. The youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I of Austria, she was an Archduchess from birth. When she married the heir to the French throne, Louis-Auguste, she became dauphine of France. She was only 14 at the time, but she eventually became the Queen of France.
She was infamous for her luxurious gowns and extravagant fashion sense, a stark contrast from the typical dress of her impoverished people. The people weren't huge fans of hers, bringing her reign to a close via guillotine in 1793.
Her (rather sad) Wikipedia page currently has 20 million page views.
Birthplace: Thebes, Egypt
Years living: 1370-1330 B.C.
What Nefertiti is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: Neferneferuaten Nefertiti was the queen of Egypt during the 18th dynasty. She was the royal wife of Pharoah Akhenaten, and while she didn't rule herself, she contributed to the nation's religious revolution.
She and Akhenaten believed in a sun disc called Aten, leading to a shift in Egyptian folklore and culture. Her bio has over 6 million page views and is available in 93 different languages.
9. Queen Victoria
Birthplace: Kensington Palace, United Kingdom
Years living: 1819-1901
What Queen Victoria is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: Queen Victoria is best known for her startlingly long reign as the queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
She ruled for 63 years and seven months, longer than any other British monarch before her. The time period came to be known as the Victorian era in her honor.
Her Wikipedia page has been viewed over 66 million times, and she's the third-most popular politician from the U.K. on the site.
8. Hurrem Sultan
Birthplace: Rohatyn, Ukraine
Years living: 1502-1558
What Hurrem Sultan is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: Hurrem Sultan, perhaps one of the lesser-known women on this list, was the wife and chief consort of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Referred to by the pet name Roxelana, she was well-respected by her people, known across the land for her poise and beauty.
7. Frida Kahlo
Birthplace: Coyoacán, Mexico
Years living: 1907-1954
What Friday Kahlo is famous for: Painting
Bottom line: Finally, an artist. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who used her signature style of folk art to explore deep societal issues, like gender, race and class.
Best known for her vivid self-portraits, her unmistakable work mixes realism and fantasy.
Her Wikipedia page has over 22 million page views and is available in 150 different languages.
6. Elizabeth I
Birthplace: Palace of Placentia, United Kingdom
Years living: 1533-1603
What Elizabeth I is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: Queen Elizabeth the First was the queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until she died in 1603. She was sometimes referred to as the Virgin Queen since she never married.
She was born to the infamous King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and her mother was executed when Elizabeth was only 2. She came to power when she was only 20 after the death of her half-sibling, Mary.
Elizabeth's reign marked the end of the Tudor monarchy, but it remains known as the Elizabethan era in her memory. She's the most popular U.K. politician on Wikipedia, with over 28 million page views.
5. Joan of Arc
Birthplace: Domrémy-la-Pucelle, France
Years living: 1412-1431
What Joan of Arc is famous for: Military accomplishments and religion
Bottom line: Joan of Arc is one of the earliest examples of strong women military leaders. She's credited with helping the French army win the Hundred Years War. Tragically, she was captured and delivered to the British shortly after her victory in the siege of Orleans.
She was convicted as a heretic and burned at the stake, earning a place as a patron saint of France for her sacrifice.
Her Wiki bio has over 15 million page views and is the fourth-most popular biography from France.
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt
Years living: 69 B.C.-30 A.D.
What Cleopatra is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: No list of famous women would be complete without Cleopatra. Highly intelligent and well-educated, she was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, descended from a Macedonian Greek general.
Known as the last pharaoh of Egypt, her bio has been read nearly 1 billion times.
3. Elizabeth II
Birthplace: Mayfair, United Kingdom
Years living: 1926-2022
What Elizabeth II is famous for: Nobility
Bottom line: Born in Mayfair, London, Elizabeth II was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York who later became King and Queen of England.
Elizabeth completed her education at home and began serving her country during World War II. She even bought her wedding dress with WWII ration coupons.
She was the longest-ruling British monarch until her death on Sept. 8, 2022.
Fun fact: She owned over 30 corgis in her lifetime, and her first horse was named Peggy.
2. Marie Curie
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Years living: 1867-1934
What Marie Curie is famous for: Physics
Bottom line: Marie Curie is pretty much the coolest. Even today, far more men than women go into STEM. Compared to 100 years ago, however, women have a much easier time breaking into math and science than our predecessors.
Marie Curie did a lot of the heavy lifting there. She studied radioactive elements like no one before her, becoming the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person ever to win two.
She's the third-most popular physicist on Wikipedia with over 20 million page views.
1. Mary, Mother of Jesus
Birthplace: Bethsaida, Israel
Years living: 18 B.C.-33 A.D.
What Mary is famous for: Religion
Bottom line: The most famous woman in all of history, according to Wikipedia stats, is none other than the Virgin Mary.
She was born in Nazareth, and according to the New Testament and the Quran, she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
She's considered one of the greatest and most holy of saints in the Christian faith, and she's the sixth-most popular religious figure on Wikipedia.
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