Oscar-winner. Best-selling musical artists. Super Bowl halving artists. These our women of the century in entertainment. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, when women gained the right to vote, the United States TODAY compiled a list of 100 Women of the Century, which recognized pioneering women who have contributed to their country and communities and helped shape our country.
We have famous superstars still making waves (Rita Moreno, Whoopi Goldberg, Dolly Parton) and deceased women who paved the way for them (Aretha Franklin, Anna May Wong, Katharine Hepburn). The entertainers on our list pack a punch, and they know it.
Women of the Century: Recognize the achievements of women from the past 1
In a male-dominated genre, Celia Cruz became one of salsa’s pioneering artists. Born in Havana, she moved to the United States in 1961 during the Cuban Revolution. “The Queen of Salsa” revolutionized the genre by integrating African elements of her identity into her songs. She won five Grammys, including two Latin Grammys, received honorary doctorates from Yale University and the University of Miami, and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Three-time Grammy Award winner Halo Estefan is a Cuban American best known for Latin pop hits such as “Conga” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”, which catapulted her to international fame. In 1992, she became the first person of Latin descent to headline the Super Bowl halftime show. She was awarded the Kennedy Center Awards in 2017, making her the first Cuban American to receive the award, which honors contributions to American culture through the performing arts.
Often referred to as “The First Lady of Song” She Fitzgerald was one of the most popular female jazz artists in the country and the first African-American woman to win a Grammy. While she had always strived to be an entertainer, she inadvertently launched her musical career at 5pm and woke up the audience at an amateur singing competition. She released her first No. 1 hit, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” in 1938 and went on to win 13 Grammys.
“Soul Queen” was a largely self-taught and talented pianist and singer, recording many of her earliest tracks in her father’s Detroit church at age 14. Aretha Franklin eventually moved to New York, where she produced many hits, including “Respect” and “Freeway of Love.” She won 18 Grammys and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Whoopi Goldberg jumped into her career in 1983, starring in a one-woman production, “The Spook Show.” She contributed her own original comedy material that dealt with racial issues in America and won a Grammy Award for best comedy album. Goldberg went on to star in films such as “Sister Act” and “The Color Purple” and eventually won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Ghost” in 1991. She hosted her own talk show, “The Whoopi Goldberg” “View, and moderate” View. “
Born into a liberal family with a mother who ran a Connecticut suffrage organization, Katharine Hepburn was an astute actress who starred in classics such as “Little Women,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “On Golden Pond.” She won her first Oscar for her role in “Morning Glory” in 1933. Hepburn was also memorable off-screen, refusing to adapt to the traditional Hollywood star by choosing not to wear makeup and escape from the media. By the end of her career, she had received 12 Oscar nominations and eventually won four.
Queen Latifah, born Dana Elaine Owens, first started out as an influential rapper and won a Grammy Award for her hit single “UNITY” in 1995. She then turned to acting and starred in movies such as Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever” and TV shows such as “Living Single” and her talk show of the day, “The Queen Latifah Show.” She was the first rapper to star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One of her most acclaimed roles was in the musical “Chicago” in 2002, where she received a nomination for the Oscar for Best Actress.
Hattie McDaniel is best known for being the first African-American to win an Oscar, as she did in 1940 for “Gone With the Wind.” While beginning as a radio actor, she eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and landed major roles on screen in “Judge Priest” and “The Little Colonel.” After winning the 1940 Academy Award for Best Actress, she returned to radio and joined CBS Radio “The Beulah Show” in 1947.
Draw Moreno moved to New York from Puerto Rico at 5 and later became the first Latina to win an Oscar. Known for her role as Anita in “West Side Story”, she is one of only 16 people to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Moreno is a passionate civic activist who participated in the March in Washington and is also known for his work that inspires children in Latino society.
Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter
Dolly Parton is one of the world’s most recognized and beloved artists. She has released nearly 90 albums and written more than 700 songs, including No. 1 hits “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene.” She starred in films such as “Steel Magnolias” and “9 to 5.” Parton is also a businesswoman and philanthropist. Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country and other tourism companies have transformed East Tennessee’s economy, provided thousands of jobs and attracted millions of visitors. In 2004, the Library of Congress awarded her the Living Legend award.
Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey
Also known as “Mother of Blues” Ma Rainey became one of the first entertainers to introduce blues to his musical repertoire and served as inspiration for poets such as Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown. She is best known for hits such as “Prove It On Me Blues” and “Deep Moaning Blues.” In 1990, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A 1982 play by August Wilson, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, is a tribute to her.
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, Nina Simone aspired to be a pioneering African-American classical pianist and applied to the Curtis Institute of Music, where her admission was denied. She attributed her refusal to racism and began singing in jazz clubs. She was signed in 1957 and wrote songs such as the 1958 hit “I Love You Porgy” and her protest theme “Old Jim Crow.” As a civic activist, Simone collaborated with Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and other influential people to perform at the meeting.
One of the highest paid black artists of his time, Bessie Smith was a blues vocalist who began his career as a street musician to support his orphaned siblings. After making her recording debut with Columbia Records in 1923, she created hits such as “Down Hearted Blues” and “Careless Love Blues.” She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Anna May Wong
Highly regarded as Hollywood’s first Chinese American star, Anna May Wong defied his father’s wishes and continued his Hollywood career behind his back at an early age, appearing as an extra in films such as “The Red Lantern.” She had one of her leading roles in 1922 the movie “Toll of the Sea” which started her popularity as an Asian American actress. She went on to star in “The Thief of Baghdad,” “Peter Pan,” “Daughter of the Dragon” and “Portrait in Black.”
Featuring: USA TODAY reporters Jenna Ryu, Elinor Aspegren, Autumn Schoolman, Sarah Elbeshbishi, Ella Lee and Camille Caldera
Sources used in the list of women of the century include newspaper articles, state archives, historical websites, encyclopedias and other resources.