Wise Women

Helen Reddy

Helen Reddy was born in 1941 in Melbourne into a well-known Australian show business family. Her mother was an actress, singer and dancer and her father a writer, producer and actor. At age four, she joined her parents on the Australian [...]

Diana Ross

Diana Ross was born in Detroit in 1944. She began taking classes in clothing design, millinery and pattern making as she aspired to become a fashion designer. However, at fifteen, Diana joined a girl band called the Primettes, and following a [...]

Tina Turner

Anna Mae Bullock was born in Nutbush, Tennessee in 1939, the youngest of three daughters. As a young girl, she sang in the Baptist Church choir. Anna first saw Ike Turner and his band, the Kings of Rhythm, perform in a [...]

Tori Amos

Myra Ellen Amos was born in North Carolina in 1963. A musical prodigy, from the time she could reach the piano, she taught herself to play. When she was two, she could reproduce pieces of music she had only heard once, [...]

Dionne Warwick

Marie Dionne Warrick was born in New Jersey, USA in 1940. Many of Dionne's family were members of the Drinkard Singers, a renowned family gospel group performing in the New York area. Member Cissy Houston, mother of famed singer Whitney Houston, [...]

Joni Mitchell

Roberta Joan Anderson was born in 1943, in Alberta, Canada. Joni struggled at school and her main interest was painting. At age nine, she contracted polio in an epidemic and was hospitalised for weeks. One of her teachers did make an [...]

Carole King

Carol Klein was born in 1942 in New York. Her mother played piano at home and Carol was eager to learn. When Carol was four years old, her mother started teaching her music theory and elementary piano technique, including how to [...]

Vera Wang

Vera Wang was born in 1949, in New York City. The daughter of affluent Chinese immigrants, growing up on Manhattan's Upper East Side. A talented figure skater, Vera competed professionally throughout her teens. Upon her graduation from college, Vera began working [...]

Sophia Loren

Sophia was born in Rome in 1934 in a charity ward for unwed mothers. Her father, Riccardo Scicolone, refused to marry her mother Romilda, leaving her with no support and refusing to allow Sophia's sister to take his last name. The [...]

Faith Thomas

Faith Thomas was the first indigenous woman selected to play any sport for Australia. Faith was born in the Nepabunna Aboriginal mission in South Australia in 1933. Her mother, Ivy, was a traditional Adnyamathana woman from the Flinders Ranges, her father [...]

Ursula K Le Guin

Ursula was born in 1929 in California. Her father was an anthropologist and her mother was a writer. Having earned a Master's degree in French, she began doctoral studies, but abandoned these after her 1953 marriage to historian Charles Le Guin, [...]

Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading was born in 1950 in Basseterre on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts, the third of six children. When she was three years old, her parents moved with their two eldest boys to Birmingham, England, while Joan was sent to live with her [...]

Margaret Fulton

Born in Scotland in 1924, Margaret's parents emigrated to Australia when she was 3 years old. She began as a cooking teacher at the Overseas Corporation in 1947 and was later promoted to sales manager. Gaining a reputation as a Home [...]

Susan Ryan

Born in Sydney in 1942, Susan Ryan graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts, followed by a Master of Arts in English Literature from the ANU. Following graduation she served as a delegate to the ACT Labor [...]

Danielle Steel

Danielle Schuelein-Steel was born in New York City in 1947, and spent much of her childhood in France. Danielle started writing stories as a child, and by her late teens had begun writing poetry. From an early age she was included [...]

Dame Carol Kidu

Carol Millwater was born in Brisbane in 1948. Originally trained as a teacher, Carol’s life was transformed when she met her future husband Buri Kidu, a young boy on a colonial scholarship from Papua New Guinea, on a school camp in [...]

Mairead Maguire

Mairead Corrigan was born in 1944 into a Roman Catholic community in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the second of eight children. She became active with the Northern Ireland peace movement after a tragic incident in 1976 where her sister Anne's three young [...]

Annie Lennox

Annie Lennox Musician and AIDS Activist Since 2005, pop singer Annie Lennox has devoted the majority of her time to her SING campaign, raising awareness and money to combat HIV/AIDS. She shares the experiences that have inspired her, from working with [...]

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy was born in Dublin in 1939, the oldest of the four children. She went on to study at University College Dublin (where she earned a bachelor's degree in history), worked as a teacher of French, Latin, and history at [...]

Gloria Steinem

Born in Ohio in 1934, Gloria had an unsettled childhood, living in a trailer from which her father carried out his trade as a roaming antiques dealer, attending school sporadically until she was 11. Before Gloria was born, her mother had [...]

Quentin Bryce

The second of four daughters, Quentin Bryce grew up in the small town of Ilfracombe, near Longreach, where all of the children in her family were home-schooled. Later moving to Brisbane, Quentin met her future husband Michael at school (they were [...]

Dame Judi Dench

Judi Dench has developed a reputation as one of the greatest British actresses of the post-war period, primarily through her work in theatre, and later films. Judi Dench was born in Yorkshire in 1934. She attended a Quaker school in York [...]

Susan Alberti

Businesswoman, philanthropist and women’s football pioneer Susan Alberti was named the 2018 Victorian of the Year. A defining moment in Susan's life was her journey to New York to collect her daughter Danielle who was suffering severe complications from type 1 [...]

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen got her big debut as a comedian in 1986 aged 28, on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson after working in standup for a few years and making regular appearances on the talk show circuit. Finding success as an actress [...]

Pat O’Shane

Trailblazer Pat O'Shane's life is full of "firsts" - the first female Aboriginal teacher in Queensland; the first Aboriginal to earn a law degree; the first Aboriginal barrister; and the first woman and indigenous person to be the head of a [...]

Melissa Fleming

As Head of Communications and chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming works to drive empathy and generate support for the world’s 65 million refugees and displaced people. Prior to working for the UNHCR, she served [...]

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi is an 89 year old Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting,  performance, film, fashion, poetry and fiction. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to [...]

Susan Kiefel

In January 2017, Susan Kiefel was sworn in as the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of Australia. That she came into the law without any prior social or family connection, marked her as an outlier in the upper echelons [...]

Amy Tan

Born in the US to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. At age 15, she lost her older brother and father, both to brain tumours within six months of each other. Believing they [...]

Olga Korbut

As a young gymnast from Belarus, Olga Korbut was nicknamed the "Sparrow from Minsk", winning four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympic Games, in 1972 and 1976 for the Soviet team. She also won an individual gold [...]

Robyn Archer

A specialist in cabaret, Robyn Archer has released 10 solo albums, several more as collaborations, and written 20-odd shows for theatre, including The Pack of Women which was adapted into a TV special for the ABC. Born in Adelaide, Robyn was [...]

Violet Roumeliotis

As CEO of Settlement Services International (SSI), Violet Roumeliotis was named Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year for 2017 – selected from 4000 entrants for her work building her not-for-profit organisation that helps settle refugees in Australia. Growing up as [...]

Tu Youyou

Born in China in 1930, Tu Youyou was educated at private schools but was forced to take a two-year break from schooling when she contracted tuberculosis at 15. Her recovery from TB left her determined to pursue a career in medicine, [...]

Ann Dunwoody

General Ann Dunwoody (retired) is the first woman in US military history to achieve a four star officer rank. Her father, Brigadier General Dunwoody, was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and [...]

Isabel Allende

The feminist author is known for the strong portrayals of women she gives in her works. Born into a Chilean family with political ties, she went into exile in the United States in the 1970s – an event that, she believes, [...]

Lente Roode

It was during her childhood that Lente developed a great love for animals and the African bushveld. At just six years old Lente was given an orphaned cheetah cub after a neighbouring farmer had shot its mother. Together, Lente and her [...]

Jody Williams

Born in 1950 in Vermont, USA., Jody Williams learned to hate injustice at an early age when she witnessed fellow school children ruthlessly bullying her brother who was deaf and suffered from schizophrenia. Williams spent eleven years on various projects related [...]

Helen Clark

The eldest of four daughters of a farming family based in the Waikato region, Helen graduated with an MA (Honours) from the University of Auckland in 1974, majoring in politics. As a teenager Helen became politically active, protesting against the Vietnam [...]

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