Top 5 [OT]

Quick list: the most iconic women of the 20th century. By which I mean women you’d expect just about everybody in the Western World to recognize by sight.

You don’t have to list five: I think there are only four on my own list.

(I will explain anon)


  1. Some who (I think) haven’t already been mentioned:

    I would include Frida Kahlo in the list. Her fame has increased in recent years, and her face is very recognizable due to the number of self-portraits she painted.

    Golda Meir was once very recognizable, but I think younger people today wouldn’t know her from a photograph.

    Elizabeth Taylor used to be one of the most famous, recognizable people in the world. Now, almost eight years after her death, a lot of people have forgotten about her.

  2. More odd than Marilyn M being born in the same year as the Queen, at least for this UK-person, is that Jimmy Savile was also born the same year. He was a big long-hairy eccentric DJ on pop radio and telly (Top of the Pops) and live road shows in the 60s and 70s and later had popular TV shows like Jim’ll Fix It, where he made dreams come true for various children; he was a high-profile fundraiser for various charities; was the public face of adverts encouraging people to buckle up in cars; and politically well-connected with the Thatcher government. Wackily dressed most of the time, he seemed like a generation younger than Her Maj, or indeed than my mother, who was born about 2 weeks before him. And then when he died in 2011 he was revealed as a long-standing serial child-abuser with rumours going back to 1963.

    Another disconnect between apparent ages occurred to me while listening to the eminent now-72-yo former army officer and military historian Sir Anthony Beevor (Stalingrad, for instance) talking about his favourite 8 records on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. One of them was a track by 70s glampunks Blondie/ Debbie Harry… in my mind these people are a generation apart and I imagined Beevor was casting well outside his natural generation… turns out Debbie Harry is actually 18 months older than Beevor! (and she’s also a year older than Donald T).

  3. Recognize the name, or the face? Because I think people know, for instance, Marie Curie’s name, not her face. With that in mind, my list is by sight only.
    Without reading other people’s suggestions, my list is: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Ellen DeGeneres. Okay, that’s 6, not five. I suspect when I read everyone else’s, I’ll want to add a few, anyway.

  4. the ones I want to add after reading everyone’s list (and Bill’s explanation) are Lucille Ball, Anne Frank, Jackie Kennedy and Betty White, which makes mine a top 10, not top 5 list. But yes, it looks like Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth are featuring prominently in the responses.

  5. For the record, the reason Queen Elizabeth II was on my list is because she’s got her face on all the money, in several countries.

  6. Bill explained the backstory to his question, but I don’t think he explained “anon” as he’d promised. 😛

    “Rosie The Riveter” was mentioned earlier in the comments. If you’re picturing a woman in a blue outfit against a yellow background baring her foreground arm, that’s someone else. That poster, with WE CAN DO IT! emblazoned across the top was from an unrelated WWII campaign. (In-house motivational posters for Westinghouse employees)


  7. “Bill explained the backstory to his question, but I don’t think he explained “anon” as he’d promised”

    Comment I Don’t Understand

  8. Unfortunately it would depend on the person. I started with Jackie Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II, and Marilyn Monroe. But then I stopped It is all too subjective. People I know such as SIL would not know the last two (but she would know the women in “The Godfather” movies. She would know Lucy, but she is very self-centered and would not know anyone political or who had not lived in her lifetime.

    People who are older – would not necessarily know more recent people by sight or even by name such as current celebrities.

    People who are younger might not know people like Eleanor Roosevelt – not only by sight, but might not even know the name.

    Different people are too different in their interests to know the same people by sight any longer. There is too large an age spectrum and an interest spectrum to know.

  9. I’m still depressed. The two most iconic women of an entire century was one known for being a sexpot and another noted for being born (into the right family) and not dying yet?

  10. It’s OK, Chak. Things are getting better. One of THIS century’s most iconic women is Malala Yousefzai”… who’s known for daring to suggest that educating women was worth the effort… and coming back to repeat it after being shot in the head for the temerity of it all.

  11. @James Pollock: “One of THIS century’s most iconic women is Malala Yousefzai”

    I admire and honor her, but I don’t know that I could identify a photo of her within a group (and I’m almost certain that I couldn’t spell her name), so that’s a stretch.

  12. “The Dark Story of America’s Shining Woman”?

    I guess they can’t complain about what *I* wrote.

  13. @James Pollock, yeah, I have a great admiration for Malala. She’s tough and sweet at the same time.

    Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  14. In no special order..
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Margaret Thatcher
    Marilyn Monroe
    Amelia Earhart
    Queen Elizabeth II

    (almost added Lucy from peanuts)

  15. Probably too late to matter, but
    Queen Elizabeth, yes; but I personally would recognize Queen Victoria before Hillary Clinton. but that might be mostly the clothes and crown.
    Even as few as 20 years ago I would have said Betty Grable and Farrah Fawcett from the iconic pin-up and poster respectively.
    So, of real people – Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diane, Shirley Temple (the child/moppet as few would recognize the adult) Betty Grable and Anne Frank.
    But, if I am permitted non-real people, then, for instant recognition, nobody is going to beat Minnie Mouse and that mermaid on the Starbucks logo.

  16. I think that most people today know a lot of the names mentioned, but not the faces. I don’t think they know what Eleanor Roosevelt looks like – or Anne Frank – for example, while they might know the names. Eleanor Roosevelt’s face probably would not even be known by most people my age (mid 60s) and there was an overlapping time that we were both alive.

  17. All of the “real” women that came to my mind have already been mentioned, so I think I’ll stick to “comic” characters:
    Minnie Mouse
    Blondie Bumstead
    Nancy Ritz
    Lucy Van Pelt
    Marge Simpson

  18. OK – if you want iconic comic/cartoon characters:

    Betty Boop
    Olive Oyl
    Wonder Woman
    Betty and Veronica
    Little Orphan Annie

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