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Top 10 Most Influential Women

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by: Susan Sherwood, Ph.D.
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Jordan's Queen Noor, like all the women on this list, has used her talents to positively impact the world.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Mythology and legend are packed with powerful and influential women. Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, war and the arts, presented humans with the chariot, plow, flute and bridle. It's hard to imagine life without her benevolent intervention. Pandora, on the other hand, cracked open a jar and let loose a world of pain and suffering. 

But you don't need to delve into fiction to find great women. History is full of significant females, from queens and criminals to artists and scientists. They've been rated, compared and inventoried. Lists often contain many of the same names: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Mother Teresa and Amelia Earhart, to name just a few. These women are truly remarkable, but there are others just as worthy who often go overlooked.

In compiling a new list, how do we decide who merits inclusion? How should women's relative levels of influence be ascertained? This is a subjective process, but criteria must be established and acknowledged; new inventory, therefore, was developed using the following standards:

  • The women changed the opinions or actions of others.
  • Their impact was international.
  • Their influence was positive. (Sorry, Pandora.)
  • The effects were sustained over time.
  • They come from a variety of professions and geographic locations.

With those stipulations in mind, here is a chronological list of the top 10 influential women.

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