22 of the Most Famous Badass Women in History

There’s an old saying that behind every man is a great woman. Well, these badass women are not standing behind anyone. Indeed, these trailblazers have led the way and cemented their place in history. It’s common for their male counterparts to get most of the attention. However, these fearless, independent, and strong women are equally important to history.

In some cases, they’re more important. Many helped shape history and played an important role in sciences, politics, and sports. For instance, a few of them helped make significant advances for women’s rights. At the same time, they played an essential role in the civil rights movement. They laid the groundwork for women to become media moguls and sports heroes. These women are genuinely extraordinary icons, fearless legends, and badass women.  

22 of the Most Famous Badass Women in History

1. Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Grunge/YouTube

Harriet Tubman is an icon, hero, and original badass. In 1849, Tubman escaped slavery using the Underground Railroad. She would soon use the Underground Railroad on several daring missions to rescue her family and other enslaved people. She became an activist for women’s rights and an abolitionist while struggling with a severe head injury that caused headaches and dizziness.

But she didn’t let that stop her from being a revolutionary hero. During the civil war, she acted as a scout, spy, and soldier for the Union Army. After the war, she continued to fight for the freedom of African Americans, gender equality, and women’s rights.

2. Amelia Earhart

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Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Amelia Earhart is an iconic figure in American history and played a crucial role in the evolution of aviation. Earhart made history as the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. She made several more groundbreaking solo flights and wrote about them in numerous best-selling books.

During the 1930s, Earhart was a proud member of the National Women’s Party and supported the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1937, Earhart mysteriously disappeared while attempting to fly solo across the globe. Earhart’s achievements, popularity, and disappearance turned her into an inspirational badass that transcends time. 

3. Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

United States Courts/YouTube

Rosa Parks is proof that not every superhero wears a cape. Indeed, Parks was a critical figure in the civil rights movement and helped make significant societal changes. It all started on December 1, 1955, when a bus driver ordered Parks to give up her seat for a white passenger.

The police arrested Parks for violating an Alabama segregation law after she refused to move. Parks then played a pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott for over a year. Finally, in 1956, Parks won her court case, and the court deemed the segregation laws unconstitutional. Parks was a badass woman for the rest of her life as she fought for equality and civil rights. 

4. The Night Witches

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Sabaton History/YouTube

During World War II, the German army feared the 588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Union so much they gave them the name “The Night Witches.” Indeed, The Night Witches were a groundbreaking all-female fighter pilot regiment that terrorized the German army.

It wasn’t easy though, with the Night Witches having to overcome discrimination and other obstacles. They played a pivotal role in the war and became heroes of the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly, they’re courageous heroes and badass women that put their lives on the line for their country. 

5. Hedy Lamarr

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Hedy Lamarr is the definition of a badass woman. Indeed, Lamarr’s a groundbreaking inventor and world-famous movie star. Lamarr’s incredible story began in Austria when she left her husband, who was an arms dealer.

As she fled across Europe, she caught the eye of MGM head Louis B. Mayer. Lamarr’s extraordinary beauty and skills helped her become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars during the 1930s.

However, her most noteworthy achievements were as an inventor. During World War II, Lamarr invented a radio guidance system for missiles with composer George Antheil. The technology she developed is the basis for GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. 

6. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

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There isn’t a person in the world that doesn’t know the iconic Oprah Winfrey. She’s a world-famous media mogul, talk show host, and badass billionaire. Winfrey overcame a difficult childhood, sexual assault, and several obstacles to become an iconic TV personality.

She first gained fame as the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show. She parlayed that into a major media company and launched her own network, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Eventually, Winfrey became one of the wealthiest people on earth. She’s heavily involved with several charities as well.

7. Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

Biography/YouTube

Sojourner Truth fought for the rights of enslaved people and women. Her accomplishments had a considerable impact that still influences the world today. In the 1820s, Truth escaped slavery with her infant daughter and regained her son in a groundbreaking 1828 court case. As a matter of fact, she became the first black woman to win such a court case.

Truth became an influential advocate for women’s rights and abolishment. In 1851, she gave an impromptu and groundbreaking speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. Truth continued to fight for African-American and women’s rights for the rest of her life. She’s genuinely a legendary badass woman. 

8. Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Serena Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She’s an iconic sports star that continues to dominate the singles competition. Serena’s a former number one in the world, has won several Grand Slam titles, and even won an Olympic Gold medal. Plus, she’s been the highest-paid athlete several times in her career.

Serena and her sister Venus Williams dominated the doubles competition as well. The Williams sisters introduced a new generation of tennis featuring power, speed, and unparalleled skill. 

9. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Rob Crandall/Shutterstock

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one badass lady. In the 1960s, she climbed her way up from being one of the only women in her law class to being a fearless lawyer fighting for equal rights. Indeed, Ginsburg was an advocate for women’s rights and civil rights.

During her time in the supreme court, Ginsburg played a crucial role in gender rights, employment discrimination, abortion rights, and more. This is the reason everyone called her the Notorious R.B.G. In 1993, Ginsburg became the second woman in history to be appointed to the Supreme Court. 

10. Venus Williams

Venus Williams

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Venus Williams is one of history’s most outstanding badass women. She’s an icon and tennis legend that helped change the sport. In 2002, Venus became the first African-American woman in the Open era to land the number one spot in the rankings.

She won several Grand Slam titles and a gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games. Venus battled her younger sister Serena in numerous championship matches. Together the Williams sisters won many doubles titles as well. 

11. The Mirabal Sisters

The Mirabal Sisters

Watch and Share Mira y Comparte/YouTube

The inspirational Mirabal Sisters were incredible women that changed the course of the Dominican Republic’s history. Dictator Rafael Trujijllo’s fiercest and most formidable challenge came from the three sisters.

The sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, were involved in covert missions against Trujillo’s regime. Tragically, Trujillo had the sisters murdered in 1960. However, Trujillo’s assassination took place six months later. Undoubtedly, the badass Mirabal sisters became a symbol of feminism. For instance, the UN General Assembly designated November 25th International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in their honor.

12. Ching Shih

Ching Shih

Beith Koad/YouTube

Zheng Yi Sao, aka Ching Shih, was a pirate and leader of one of the most feared crews of all time, the Red Flag Fleet. In 1801, she married pirate Zheng Yi but made specific demands unheard of at the time. For instance, she insisted on getting half of his treasure and booty. They formed an unstoppable team until her husband’s death.

She was clearly the brains of the operation and took over her husband’s fleet. She also took his name and built the fleet into a great army. They had many battles with the Chinese, British, and Portuguese governments. In 1810, she negotiated a historical surrender, which allowed her and the crew to be free. They could also keep all of their treasure while dismantling the fleet. 

13. Althea Gibson

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HISTORY/YouTube

In the 1950s, an inspiring woman, Althea Gibson, changed the world of sports forever. At the time, racism ran rampant in society, especially in sports. Tennis icon Althea Gibson broke down barriers and paved the way for women and black women in sports.

She became the first black woman to win the predecessor to the US Nationals, The French Championship, and Wimbledon. The associated press even voted Gibson as the female athlete of the year in 1957 and 1958. She’s an inspirational legend and iconic badass woman. 

14. Policarpa Salavarrieta

Policarpa Salavarrieta

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In the 1800s, Policarpa Salavarrieta appeared to be a simple and quiet seamstress in South America. She spent her days quietly sewing in the corner of many Spanish military leaders’ homes. However, looks can be deceiving. Of course, Policarpa, aka La Pola, was a spy for the Revolutionary movement and passed along all the information she overheard. Later, she was caught and executed in the public square.

La Pola refused to betray her people and loudly defied the Spanish Empire moments before her execution. She was a hero and a badass to the very end. La Pola played a crucial role in Columbia finally gaining its Independence. 

15. Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell

ZuchTooMuch/YouTube

In the early 1900s, archaeologist Gertrude Bell traveled the world on daring adventures. Indeed, she went places that even few men would travel. Bell broke down barriers and became a highly influential woman. Of course, it helped that she was born into a wealthy family and had deep connections.

Bell loved exploring the Middle East and spent the majority of her life mapping it out. Bell’s knowledge and mapping of the area led to her playing a pivotal role in politics. She often wrote about her adventures and introduced the world to the Middle East. 

16. Ronda Rousey 

Ronda Rousey

Tinseltown/Shutterstock

It’s impossible to talk about badass women without mentioning MMA legend Ronda Rousey. In 2008, she became the first American woman to win a medal in judo at the Summer Olympic Games. Rousey then dominated the world of MMA and was the first ever UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

At UFC 157, Rousey defeated Liz Carmouche in the first-ever UFC women’s fight. In 2018, she became the first woman inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. She’s currently a top star in the WWE and was part of the first woman’s match to main event a WrestleMania.

17. Ona Judge

Ona Judge

The Raconteuse/YouTube

It’s no secret that the first President of the United States, George Washington, and his family had many enslaved servants. However, one of his slaves, Ona Judge, was a true badass.

In 1796, Martha Washington planned to give Judge to her ill-tempered granddaughter Elizabeth Law as a wedding gift. Instead, Judge escaped the Washington household as they ate dinner and headed to New Hampshire. Later, Judge married and started a family. The Washingtons tried to convince her to return, but she had no plans to give up her freedom and new amazing life. 

18. Marie Curie

Marie Curie

World Science Festival/YouTube

Polish scientist Marie Curie was a pioneer in radioactivity research. Indeed, she even invented the word “radioactivity.” During the early 1900s, she made several discoveries and significant scientific advances.

In 1903, she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, which she won with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel in physics. But that’s not the end of Marie’s story. In 1911, she won her second Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discoveries of radium and polonium. Marie became the first and only woman to win two Nobel Prizes.

19. Ida B. Wells

Ida B. Wells

Biography/YouTube

In the late 1890s, Ida B. Wells became a fearless journalist that wasn’t afraid to expose the truth. She was born into slavery but gained freedom after the American Civil War. Wells spent the rest of her life fighting for equality and women’s rights. Eventually, she began writing about segregation and violence against African-Americans.

Indeed, Wells exposed lynching in the United States and brought attention to the violence in the South. Her writings spread all across America and had a significant impact on civil rights. 

20. Billie Jean King

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Billie Jean King is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She has inspired an entire generation of tennis players, athletes, and women globally. King won several major titles and dominated the sport for years. She also helped elevate women’s tennis through sponsorships and media coverage.

In addition to being a tennis icon, King’s also an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. In 1973, King made headlines when she defeated her male counterpart Bobby Riggs in the legendary “Battle of the Sexes” match. King remains a pivotal figure in history and one badass lady. 

21. Greta Thunberg

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Daniele COSSU/Shutterstock

Greta Thunberg is a young woman with a bright future ahead of her. The Swedish teenager has already significantly impacted the world. Greta’s built a reputation on her blunt, tell-it-like-it-is attitude. She’s an environmental activist and often challenges world leaders.

In 2019, Greta made headlines when she addressed the UN Climate Action Summit with her famous speech. She’s one of the most influential young women in the world. Time magazine even named her the 2019 “Person of the Year.” 

22. Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger

Biography/YouTube

The founder of the Birth Control Movement, Margaret Sanger is an important but controversial figure in history. In the early 1900s, she began writing about the benefits of birth control and contraception. In 1916, she went on trial after opening the first birth control clinic in the United States.

In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which evolved into Planned Parenthood. Later, she opened the first all-female Doctor clinic in New York City. Sanger remains an influential leader in reproductive rights. However, Planned Parenthood disavowed Sanger’s controversial views on race. 

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