The 40 women who ‘changed the world’

Marie Curie topped the list. Picture: Getty
Marie Curie topped the list. Picture: Getty
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Marie Curie, the pioneering scientist, and former prime minister Margaret Thatcher are among those topping a newly compiled list of 40 women who “changed the world”.

Polish-born physicist and chemist Curie, who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person and only woman to win twice (for physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911), tops the list of the most influential women in history.

The list, which includes politicians, campaigners, royals and authors, was compiled from the results of a poll of 2,000 Brits.

In second place was Florence Nightingale, whose work during the Crimean War and dedication to providing clean, healthy hospitals saw her hailed as the founder of modern nursing. The “Lady of the Lamp” as she was known died in 1910, aged 90.

Britain’s first and only female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who died in April 2013, aged 87, rounded off the top three places. The “Iron Lady” led the Conservative party for 15 years and was known for her uncompromising approach to politics.

The leader of the Suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst, who campaigned for the right of women to vote came in fourth place.

Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun who for decades worked among the poor of India, came fifth.

Edinburgh-based Harry Potter author JK Rowling came in 16th place with Mary, Queen of Scots in 19th place.

The research was commissioned to mark the return of Sky Arts’ comedy series Psychobitches, the satirical show which playfully delves into the minds of some of history’s most influential and iconic women.

A spokeswoman for Sky Arts said: “There’s no doubt that the women on this list changed the world and continue to inspire people today.

“These characters – and all the women in the series – offer us a light-hearted look at what these incredible women might have confessed on the psychiatrist’s couch, given the chance.”

The study also saw Princess Diana voted sixth in the list of women who changed the world, while Britain’s longest-serving monarch Queen Victoria also featured highly, coming in seventh place.

Anne Frank, whose teenage diary written in hiding in Amsterdam from the Nazis gave an insight into the persecution of the Jews before and during the Second World War, prior to her death in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, was placed eighth on the list.

When asked about the common characteristics of the women chosen, the fact that so many were unafraid to challenge the beliefs of their time was the thing those polled said they admired most.

Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a bus was a watershed moment in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s, features in 11th place, while former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi came 13th.

The adventurer Amelia Earhart, who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic comes in at 14th place, while Marilyn Monroe and Jane Austen were also in the top twenty.

The American media mogul Oprah Winfrey’s influence saw her included on the list, alongside Hillary Clinton and the youngest ever Nobel prize recipient, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for encouraging girls to go to school.

However, only a third of those polled felt there were enough inspirational figures for today’s younger generation.

A resounding eight in ten saying they feel young women idolise modern celebrities far too much.

TOP 40

1 Marie Curie

2 Florence Nightingale

3 Margaret Thatcher

4 Emmeline Pankhurst

5 Mother Teresa

6 Princess Diana

7 Queen Victoria

8 Anne Frank

9 Joan of Arc

10 Queen Elizabeth I

11 Rosa Parks

12 Queen Elizabeth II

13 Indira Gandhi

14 Amelia Earhart

15 Amy Johnson

16 J.K. Rowling

17 Marilyn Monroe

18 Jane Austen

19 Mary, Queen of Scots

20 Queen Mother

21 Coco Chanel

22 Benazir Bhutto

23 Enid Blyton

24 Marie Antoinette

25 Helen Keller

26 Oprah Winfrey

27 Germaine Greer

28 Eva Peron

29 Hillary Clinton

30 Malala Yousafzai

31 Linda McCartney

32 Audrey Hepburn

33 Eleanor Roosevelt

34 Maya Angelou

35 Michelle Obama

36 Duchess of Cambridge

37 Billie Jean King

38 Katharine Hepburn

39 Ingrid Bergman

40 Simone de Beauvoir