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Women Who Transformed the World in the 20th Century Essay

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Updated: Apr 24th, 2021


Over the last two centuries, several women have stood out in the current male-dominated society. These women have not only influenced the lives of other women, but they also have inspired the world at large(Demarzo, Vayanos,& Zwiebel, 2003, p. 7). They act as role models. These women include Coco Chanel, Elena Kagan, Michelle Obama, Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna among others. The essay will only focus on Coco Chanel, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna.

Gabrielle Bonheur Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer born on August 19, 1883. Coco Chanel became the top French modernist fashion, whose approach and technique revolutionized the global fashion industry. She was the first fashion designer to be listed in the Times among the most influential personalities of the 20th century. Coco came from a very humble background and had to solicit funds from her rich friends to open her first hat store in the French city of Paris in 1910. Her hats gained popularity among women in Paris. Besides, they requested her to design their clothes. Three years later, she opened another shop in Deauville. In 1915, Coco opened an additional store in Southern France in a town called Biarritz (Evans, 2008, p. 1).

In the 1920s, Coco Chanel expanded its products to include jewelry, perfumes, and cosmetics. During the same period, she started expanding her business globally. Her perfume (Chanel No.5) is one of the most successful brands in the last 100 years. The year 1920 was a very important year of liberation for women. It was a year where women were elected in numerous positions across Europe and America. Also, it was a year when women were increasingly considered for professional jobs, formerly preserved for men. Coco’s fashion represented these socio-political changes. She started by introducing elegant casual clothes for women, for instance, collarless cardigan jackets, cut-dress, and shoestring shoulder strap (Evans, 2008, p. 2).

On the other hand, Oprah Winfrey is a renowned actor, writer, and TV personality. Oprah was born on January 29, 1954, in rural Mississippi. She was raised by a single parent. Her parents separated soon after she was born. Oprah grew up in poverty and frequently had to dress in tatters for which she was ridiculed at school. She was also abused sexually during her childhood. After finishing her college education, she became interested in media and journalism. She got her first job as a TV presenter at a local TV station (Evans, 2008, p. 2).

Oprah’s emotional approach did not go down well with her first job. As a result, she was reassigned to an ailing afternoon talk show. After she took over, the chat program gained more popularity and this, later on, led to her TV show. Oprah Winfrey’s show is one of the most prosperous and vastly watched TV shows across the globe. It has surpassed numerous socio-cultural barriers. Besides, Oprah remains one of the most influential personalities among women folks, particularly for African American women. In the recent past, the show has focused mostly on matters of spirituality, individual support, and self-growth (Hendren, 2012, P. 190). Nutrition has also been a principal subject in the show. Oprah’s diet book has been sold in millions of copies across the globe. Furthermore, Oprah’s book club is one of the most influential clubs in Europe and America. Oprah’s influence and support influenced that the current US president Barack Obama gained over a million votes in his first term in office. According to the pundits, Oprah Winfrey arguably has more followers than all heads of states and religious leaders (Evans, 2008, p. 2).

Madonna is an American musician and a movie star. She was born in 1958 in Rochester Hills, Michigan. She was brought up by her grandparents after her mother succumbed to cancer when she was only five years of age. Her grandparents have devoted Catholics. Therefore, she was raised in a very religious family. Nonetheless, Madonna chose a different path. She started being rebellious from an early age. In the late 70s, she dropped out of school and moved to New York City, with barely any clothes, besides the one she was wearing. She got a job at the local food store and learned contemporary dance during her free time. She joined a neighborhood rock band temporarily as she was still pursuing her solo career. Her performance impressed several recording labels and got her first recording deal with Sire Records (Evans, 2008, p. 2). Madonna has sold over three hundred million copies globally, something that has never been achieved by any other female artist. She has had a great influence on pop culture. On numerous occasions, Madonna has attracted widespread condemnations for going against religion and moral teachings. Her stance sparked condemnation from the Vatican who went on a vigorous campaign to discourage people from attending her concerts. However, Madonna has always remained impenitent and continued to pursue her dream. After establishing her own company, she launched a book titled “Sex”. The book featured pornographic photos. The book was sold in over 50000 copies. Madonna has also featured in several movies (Evans, 2008, p. 2).

Impact on other women

The three women came from a relatively humble background. The story of these women portrays the kind of struggle women go through in society. They had to rise against all odds to realize their dreams. They overcame poverty and social prejudice. Coco Chanel brings out feminine power through fashion. She went against the societal norms to introduce a new approach and technique in feminine fashion. Her style and fashion were very different from the previous fashion. Women found Coco’s style and fashion more liberating (Evans, 2008, p. 1). Oprah Winfrey, on the other hand, has enormously influenced numerous aspects of women’s lives. Oprah’s endorsement of certain products has significantly influenced women’s purchasing behavior.

Her endorsement of certain politicians has also influenced women’s voting patterns. Also, she normally portrays an image of an individual who is credible, candid, confident, elegant, and humble. Her personal experiences, especially accounts of her struggle with poverty and sexual abuse, have connected her with her audience (Hendren, 2012, P. 193). Madonna is a symbol of feminine freedom. She promotes and encourages the expression of feminine sexuality without fear of victimization. We can all agree that Madonna greatly influenced many artists, for instance, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus among others. These artists have less regard for religious and social norms (Evans, 2008, p. 3).


The three women have touched the lives of many women in different ways. Coco promoted innovativeness and fearlessness among women. In other words, women can now wear whatever they want. Women in conservative societies, for instance, Islamic countries, are gradually embracing modern fashion. As the lives of the other two, Coco Chanel’s life is a revelation that an individual’s background can not hinder one from achieving his/her dream. Personally, Oprah has helped many women to overcome social and cultural obstacles. She also encourages free discussion of subjects that are forbidden in certain quarters of the society, for example, same-sex marriage. Besides, Oprah’s enormous wealth is a major inspiration to the upcoming female entrepreneurs. She encourages women to work tirelessly hard and follow their dream. Her influence will soon see women taking over from the male dominant society as regards entrepreneurship and leadership. On the other hand, Madonna promotes the expression of feminity without fear. Currently, most women do not fear posting their nude pictures in print and electronic media. I fear that Madonna’s influence will soon lead to downright social decay and justification of immorality in the society.


Evans, D. (2008). Women in Business. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Limited.

Demarzo, P. M., Vayanos,D.,& Zwiebel. J. (2003). Persuasion bias social influence, and unidimensional opinions. Academic Journal of Economics, 909.

Hendren, L. (2012). The Oprah Effect:How Oprah Winfrey Pursuades Viewers. Applied Research Project, 37(6 ),190-192.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Women Who Transformed the World in the 20th Century." April 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/women-who-transformed-the-world-in-the-20th-century/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Women Who Transformed the World in the 20th Century'. 24 April.

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