I have opted to list just American women, merely as a way to limit it. It is NOT a list of THE 20 Women I Most Admire. Actually, it was the first 20 that came to mind.
The wife of the second U.S. president and mother of the sixth used her "intellect and lively wit" to prod progress for women "in her many letters which were preserved."
Jane Addams (pictured) "founded Hull-House in the 19th century and led it well into the 20th. She was also active in peace and feminist work."
She was a "pioneering nurse who served as an administrator in the Civil War, and who helped identify missing soldiers at the end of the war, is credited as the founder of the American Red Cross."
With Silent Spring, she "wrote the book that helped create the environmentalist movement in the late 20th century.
"Part of the 1960s folk revival and still popular today," her music affected me greatly even before I received "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" for my 16th birthday - 40 years ago! I also had a chance to see her live, which was a true joy.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (pictured)
A progressive voice on the Supreme Court in spite her recent cancer.
She was the Washington Post publisher who "took over the family business after her husband's suicide and saw it through the Watergate scandal."
Billie Jean King
Not only a fine tennis player, she worked hard to get women players better pay.
My favorite working actress. Here's a tease for the award-winning John Adams miniseries on HBO, which I have not yet seen. It features Linney as Abigail Adams - a twofer!
She wrote The American way of Death, an expose of the funeral industry, which has a profound affect on my view of life...and death.
Mary Tyler Moore
The star of two of my favorite television shows ever (The Dick Van Dyke Show and her eponymously-named show), she has also been a speaker on what they used to call "juvenile diabetes" and stem-cell research.
Toni Morrison (pictured)
Possibly the author I've read the most.
There's so much myth around her defining act. She wasn't just tired, as this narrative shows.
The wife of FDR took "positions on issues like civil rights...often ahead of her husband and the rest of the country. She was key in establishing the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights."
Margaret Sanger (pictured)
She responded to "seeing the suffering caused by unwanted and unplanned pregnancies among the poor women she served as a nurse" by taking up "a lifetime cause: the availability of birth control information and devices."
The editor of Ms. magazine. I was a charter subscriber. What more is there to say?
The "Underground Railroad conductor during American slavery was also a Civil War nurse and spy, and an advocate of civil rights."
Best "known as an abolitionist...she was also a preacher and spoke for women's rights. She was one of the most in-demand speakers of the mid-19th century in America."
Madam C.J. Walker (pictured)
She was the first great black entrepreneur, turning her hair care product sales into a business empire.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
A multi-sport athlete, she excelled in most of them.
Quotes from About.com.
Video review: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
4 hours ago