Many Americans thought the change was radical, but on August 18, 1920, American women were constitutionally guaranteed the right to vote. It took decades of letter writing, civil disobedience, and sheer will to get there — and still more decades for women of color to be fully enfranchised — but it marked the promise of women’s true participation in public life. Little did the early suffragettes know how that promise would be fulfilled.
The 19 women we’re highlighting in this first of an annual list, curated by OnChain Magazine editors, have not only risen to the top of the world’s consciousness, but also led the conversation. From young activists to high-powered executives at some of the most powerful global organizations, they ensure half of the world’s population is not ignored. Like the early women’s activists, who suffered scorn and ridicule in the fight for human rights, none had an easy path. By living their lives authentically, they are charting a course for a more equitable future.
Patricia Arquette by Kathy Hutchins, SCARLETT JOHANSSON BY SILVI PHOTO, LISA LING BY D. FREE, Rita Moreno by S. Bukley, Naomi Osaka by Lev Radin, Dolly Parton by Paul Smith, Malala Yousafzai by Kamran Kami | Shutterstock.com
After earning her law degree at the University of Chicago, Adams worked for notable names, including Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Stephen Breyer. Her career led her to corporate law, first at Honeywell and now at Apple as the general counsel and senior vice president of legal and global security. As a business leader, she has been trenchant in uplifting women in the workplace. She credits colleague support in helping her thrive in the workplace after the birth of her first son and pays it forward by helping other women rise to senior ranks.
From a star-making turn in Tony Scott’s True Romance to her outstanding performance in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Arquette has worked with some of the most visionary directors in contemporary cinema and memorable performances in television, all resulting in an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Arquette has increasingly devoted herself to activism in recent years, co-founding Haitian relief organization Give Love in 2010 and becoming one of the most strident voices against sexism and ageism in Tinsel Town. Her Twitter bio really says it all: ‘Actress • Activist • Troublemaker Fighting for fair pay and passage of The Equal Rights Amendment!’
Emily Adams Bode
In an increasingly accelerating fashion world, Bode’s thoughtful, often elegiac menswear offers a chance to slow down. The Atlanta native sources vintage and antique fabrics — quilts, sports pennants, denim — to craft heirloom garments for her eponymous brand of menswear called Bode. In the process, she is redefining the conversation about sustainability in fashion. While textile mills race to invent ecological alternatives to traditional fabrics, Bode argues it is greener to stop the cycle entirely..
During her time as CEO of TaskRabbit, Detroit-born Philpot was widely credited with helping the company rise from a fledgling startup to a mobile marketplace giant. Now she serves on the board of directors of three household names: HP, Nordstrom, and Noom. As one of few Black women in the tech industry, Philpot uses her influence to uplift Black, Native American, and Latin talent in business. In June 2020, she became a founding member of the SB Opportunity Fund, a $100-million venture fund dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs of color who are using tech to revolutionize conventional business models.
Currently the only woman chef with three Michelin stars, awarded to her San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, chef Crenn refers to her dishes as “poetic culinaria.” Her edible presentations not only play with the concept of lyricism through texture, color, and taste, but also reimagine the experience of eating by including literal lines of poetry with each course. Still, her visionary perspective does not stop at what comes out of the kitchen; Crenn is making just as much impact on changing what happens inside of it by championing a more human restaurant culture. Instead of accepting the toxicity of the hospitality industry, she has created a new paradigm that promotes fair wages, healthcare access, and inclusion.
Secretary Deb Haaland
A member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, Haaland made history in March 2021 when she was confirmed as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Becoming the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary was just one of a long line of firsts for the lifelong activist. After running a salsa company to make ends meet as a single mother, she broke ground as the first indigenous woman to lead a U.S. state political party. Then, she became one of the first two Native American women to serve in Congress. Throughout her career, Haaland has been a fierce advocate for environmental justice and the dignity of murdered and missing indigenous women.
A giant in civil rights, Huerta worked alongside César Chávez to co-found the National Farmworkers Association and organize one of the most internationally recognized labor actions, the Delano grape boycott. At 91, she shows no signs of slowing down. She still serves the community as the head of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders. Her early call to action, “Sí, se puede,” still serves as a rallying cry to contemporary organizers of all creeds.
Johansson’s career mixes roles in blockbusters like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’sBlack Widow (for which she stood her ground and ultimately settled with Disney regarding a contract dispute) with gigs in indies such as Marriage Story and Lost in Translation. But she has had just as notable a career behind the scenes and in 2018, she was one of the more prominent names attached to the Times Up initiative. Recently named the highest-paid actress in the world, this real-life badass superhero takes time from a punishing filming schedule to dig in the trenches of the causes she believes in. In 2020, she was instrumental in getting three members of the civil rights organization Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released from prison.
Ling became a household name during her turn as a co-host on ABCs The View, but she began her journalism career much earlier. At 18, she joined Channel One News as a reporter and anchor and at 21, she bravely made her mark as a correspondent covering the Afghan civil war. Later, she devoted her journalism efforts to capturing the American experience. In eight seasons, her CNN show, This Is Life With Lisa Ling, has explored subjects ranging from the incarceration epidemic to shifting conceptions of gender. Already busy hosting one of the highest-rated documentary shows on television, Ling signed a production deal with HBO Max and developed the six-part series Take Out, documenting the lives of people running Asian takeout restaurants.
After a stint as a staff editor for People magazine, Mock publicly came out as a transgender woman in a 2011 Marie Claire magazine article. Since then, she has become one of the most recognizable LGBTQ+ advocates in the world. As a journalist, she has written about various subjects for Elle, The Advocate, and xojane. More recently, she has been a multimedia force with a three-year deal at Netflix and directorial credits that include Pose, FX’s revolutionary series documenting the New York ballroom scene. What’s more, Mock is the first transgender woman of color to direct a television show on any network.
A singing, acting, and dancing powerhouse, Moreno already had small roles in two classic Hollywood musicals (Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I), before breaking out in the 1961 film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story. Her Oscar-winning portrayal of Anita won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and a self-imposed seven-year hiatus followed the win. Moreno simply refused to take on stereotypical Latina roles. Eventually, more nuanced gigs came and she won an Emmy, a Tony, a Grammy, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Now in her seventh decade of acting, 90-year-old Moreno is experiencing a career renaissance with a critically lauded turn in the One Day at a Time reboot and a scene-stealing role as Valentina in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story adaptation where she also served as a producer.
At 19, Murad was kidnapped and forced into slavery by the Islamic State in Iraq, during which she was repeatedly tourtured by her captors. A year later, her daring testimony brought new light to human rights abuses and genocide in the Middle East. Since then, she has become one of the world’s leading voices bringing light to human trafficking and the struggles of refugees, especially the religious persecution of the Yazidi people. Though still in her twenties, Murad’s story has been heard by global leaders and religious figures, published as a memoir, and documented on film.
Dr. Maria Nadakka
Before earning her degrees in chemistry from Bar-Ilan University, Nadakka served as a commander in the Israel Defense Forces Communications team. Now with multiple post-doctorates, Russia-born Nadakka is leading the global fight against COVID-19. As a senior scientist at Israeli company Sonovia, she has helped create a reusable mask that protects against 99% of airborne pathogens. Through her leadership, the company had distributed more than a million masks worldwide to help mitigate the pandemic. It has also revolutionized a new category of antimicrobial, sustainable textile products that can be used in hospitals or daily life.
Osaka’s bona fides are there for any sports buff: she won the Grand Slam singles championship four times, is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles, and the first Japanese player of any gender to reach the number one slot in the game. Her biggest impact, however, goes far beyond statistics. A strident activist, Osaka has used her platform to draw attention to police brutality and racial inequality, both on the court and off. In March 2021, she was the catalyst for a global conversation about mental health after refusing to do interviews during the French Open. Though a controversial decision, it highlighted the extreme pressures we put on our public figures and their right to take control of their own narrative.
Conservatives, progressives, moderates — everyone seems to love Dolly Parton. From traditional country ballads like “Jolene” to everlasting pop hits like “I Will Always Love You,” her versatile songwriting is now enshrined in the great American songbook. She has proven to be a multimedia mogul producing, performing, and writing music for many endeavors including the feminist 1980 comedy film 9 to 5 that was adapted to a successful TV series and Broadway musical. With over 174 million books gifted, the philanthropist’s Imagination Library is dedicated to inspiring a love of reading by giving books free of charge to children. Parton endeared herself to the public even further during the COVID-19 pandemic, when her large donation to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center helped pave the way for the Moderna vaccine.
According to an interview with USA Today, a conversation about candidate likability and electability during the 2016 U.S. election first gave Ramshaw an idea to look at news through a different lens. The then editor-in-chief of lauded nonprofit news organization The Texas Tribune, she noticed the conversation was centered around women — a fact that was even more noticeable four years later when a historic number of female candidates threw their hat into the ring. Fed up with the status quo, she founded The 19th, a non-profit newsroom covering politics and gender through in-depth reporting. In a tumultuous media environment, this CEO proves that focusing on underserved communities and adhering to best practices in journalism is a path to success and the 19th’s roster of bold face named supporters couldn’t agree more.
When the world first marvels at the upcoming first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, it will do so thanks to the painstaking work of astrophysicist Rigby, the operations project scientist for the recently launched space breaking endeavor. Rigby’s work centers around how black holes grow and how stars create elements in the periodic table using gravitational lensing, a technique that gives current telescopes an unprecedented view of the insides of galaxies. If all that seems hard to fathom, Rigby is happy to cut through the fog. She frequently breaks down the complex subject through public talks while inspiring a new generation of space explorers.
Sejima’s body of architectural work, which includes the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art and the New Museum in New York City, is never meant to bring attention to itself. Instead, her language of gentle curves, sleek surfaces, and rigorous geometric forms are meant to be meld into the surrounding landscape, a reflection of their individual locations. Perhaps more revolutionary is her approach to what a building should be. Instead of basing her designs on fictional ideas on how spaces ought to be used, she tries to avoid assumptions. In the process, she has created a form of modernism that brings actual life into Le Corbusier’s infamous “machines for living.”
By now, Yousafzai’s harrowing ordeal is internationally known. In 2021, she was shot in the head by a Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan gunman aiming to stop her activism on behalf of girls’ education. Rather than giving in to fear after recovery, she co-founded the Malala Fund in 2013 to ensure education for refugee girls. A year later, Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and she has used her story to inspire future women leaders. Apple took notice and in March 2021 announced a multi-year partnership with Yousafzai, working on programming for their streaming service.