50 Women You Want on Your Side

The best examples of fortitude, attitude, endurance, and resilience, true grit, and true wit.

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The Fierce List

They’ve got their nerve-- that’s why we picked them. They’re tireless transformers, bold blowers of the whistle, glass-ceiling smashers and party crashers. They’re uppity and down to earth, tough and compassionate, graceful and invincible. Survivors and revivers; resisters, insisters, sisters—we say, MORE power to you.

Cliff Watts

Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State

We’re not over The Hill yet. For one thing, the Secretary of State’s to-do list isn’t quite like ours. She’s already checked off “make historyas only first lady to become senator or cabinet member” and “win more primaries and delegates than any woman presidential candidate.” Still left: “pick up pantsuit at cleaners" and “world peace.”


Hillary Clinton tells us...


I feel strongest when...

I see the tremendous work our diplomats and development experts do around the world on behalf of the American people.


The thing that keeps me strong is...

My faith in our country. Americans have always risen to every challenge. That’s who we are. It’s in our DNA.
We believe there are no limits on what is possible or what we can achieve. 


My secret weakness is...

Chocolate. All these trips to Belgium and Switzerland can get me in real trouble.


The strong woman who’s my role model is...

My mother, Dorothy Rodham. I can only hope to have her grace and grit when I’m 91.

Tina Thompson: WNBA Star

The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, tells More that being a mom has deepened her strength. Her guiding principle: “You can’t expect people to be anything other than themselves. Accepting that reality is half the battle.”



“I Feel strongest when I have given until I know I have no more to give.”

—Tina Thompson

Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook COO

She was friended in a big way: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created the position of COO for Sheryl Sandberg in 2008, wooing her away from Google, where she was vice president of global online sales and operations. (Before that, she served as chief of staff to Bill Clinton’s secretary of the treasury.) The mother of two, Sandberg oversees Facebook’s sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy, privacy and communications. We like.

Lori Proctor: Nurse

Lori Proctor, a nurse, worked as a hospital performance-improvement coordinator. She thought an MBA would make her more credible with doctors, and she wrote off the tuition on her taxes. The IRS said no. She appealed, argued the case herself and won—inspiring all women who want to do their work better.

Cheryl D. Eckard: Quality Manager of GlaxoSmithKline

Cheryl D. Eckard risked her job to blow the whistle on pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline by exposing plant contamination. The company settled, and Eckard’s share was $96 million.

Carla Franklin: Advocate

Carla Franklin was anonymously stalked online. She wanted to learn her tormentor’s identity in order to track him down, but Google at first refused to give her the information. Franklin went to court, and a judge compelled Google to release the man’s IP address. Now she’s advocating for a New York State law to protect people from cyberharassment.

Mama Lou: Superwoman

Mama Lou is a mighty—and mighty foxy—strong woman(real name: Linsey Lindberg). In her show, she bendsmetal and drives nailsinto wood with her fist. “The first time I ripped a whole telephone book in half,” she’s said, “I realized that I could honestly do anything!”


"My confidence is bulletproof."

-Mama Lou

Angelina Jolie: Actress

Yep: lots of drama (the Oscars, Brangelina), lots of kids (six), lots of ink (tabloids, tattoos), lots of lips. But Angelina Jolie puts her money where her pout is, touring hot spots as Goodwill Ambassador for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees—and donating more than $10 million to vital causes from restoring Haiti to building girls’ schools in Afghanistan.

Bob Charlotte / PR Photos

Asmaa Mahfouz: Activist

Asmaa Mahfouz, 26, a pro-democracy activist in Egypt, made a YouTube video that helped rally the crowds that toppled the repressive government in January. “I, a girl, am going down to Tahrir Square,” she says on camera, “and... I’ll hold up a banner... Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family’s rights.” They came.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Activist

Aung San Suu Kyi,pro-democracy heroine of Myanmar, was recently freed after 15 years under house arrest, held by a repressive regime.

Queen Rania: Queen of Jordan

Queen Rania of Jordan has started programs promoting children’s health and education and the teaching of tolerance.

© RD / Leon / Retna Digital

Gloria Allred: Lawyer

Gloria Allred is an attorney whose sleaze detector sometimes seems askew. But for every tiresome celebrity mistress or murderer’s girlfriend she represents, there’s a big discrimination case that she’s taken on, from forcing the male-only Friars Club to accept women in the 1980s to an ageism suit against an electronics chain. For this, and for her tough ’tude, crusader Allred makes our grit list.


“Weakness is a luxury that neither my clients nor I can afford.”
—Gloria Allred

Glenn Harris / PR Photos

Melinda Gates: Former Microsoft Manager

Melinda Gates, a former Microsoft manager, married the boss. With husband Bill, she’s cofounder and hands-on cochair of the largest philanthropic organization in history, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 1994 the organization has awarded nearly $25 billion to eradicate AIDS and malaria and help people here and abroad to escape poverty and secure food, clean water and a good education.

Courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates

Joia Mukherjee: Medical Officer

Joia Mukherjee, MD, chief medical officer of the global charity Partners in Health, rallied local staff in Haiti to treat victims of the 2010 quake. She also oversees programs in Africa, Latin America, Russia and Kazakhstan. “The coolest thing ever,” she’s said, “is to change the world.”

Beth Klein: Attorney

Beth Klein, a Denver attorney, wrote Colorado’s 2010 Anti-Human-Trafficking Law. This has allowed authorities to charge everyone involved in prostitution rings, from brothel owners to those who transport sex workers. Now legislators in other states are seeking Klein’s counsel to draft similar laws. Says Klein, “My mantra is: No fear.”

Michelle Obama: First Lady

To be Mrs. Buck-Stops-Here is tough enough. Add hands-on parenting and a rigorous agenda that includes championing military families and fighting childhood obesity, and you have a very full plate (but one with a nice healthy serving of veggies). First Lady Michelle Obama manages to balance it all with dazzling authenticity and warmth.

Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Robina Niaz: Advocate

Robina Niaz immigrated to New York from Pakistan and became a social worker. Faced with the paucity of services for Muslim women, she founded Turning Point for Women and Families, the only nonprofit in the city to directly address domestic violence in the Muslim community. The Koran, she’s said, condemns the abuse of women. “If I see injustice being done to women and children, I have to speak up. It’s my duty.”

Diana Von Furstenberg: Clothing Designer

Someday there’ll be an opera called The Wrap Dress in China. Diane von Furstenberg is opening DVF boutiques in Beijing and Shanghai in hopes of conquering the huge Chinese market. And she and her husband, Barry Diller, have taken “The Giving Pledge,” committing to donate the majority of their wealth to charity.

Donna Ward / PR Photos

Angela Ahrendts: CEO

Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, has not only boosted company sales to $2.1 billion but has also made the veddy British and once rawther stuffy brand ultrahip. In her spare time, she cocreated the Burberry Foundation, supporting youth charities. Pretty good for a girl from New Palestine, Indiana.

Landmark / PR Photos

Mary Tillman: Mother

In 2004, when her son, NFL football star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman, was killed in Afghanistan, Mary Tillman was devastated—and dubious about the military’s murky official account of the event. Her relentless investigations not only forced the Army to disclose that Pat was killed by friendly fire but also exposed a high-level ­cover-up and led to congressional hearings. Tillman, a former special education teacher, subordinated her intense pain and cherished privacy to her search for the truth. Especially galling was what she saw as officials’ attempts to exploit her son by presenting him as a martyr while concealing the facts of his death. “I know that Pat was heroic,” Tillman has said, “and I didn’t need their deceptions to confirm it.”

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elizabeth Smart: Survivor

Elizabeth Smart was 14 when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom. Over the next nine months, she kept her faith and her sanity while enduring sexual abuse and death threats. Last year, as a poised 23-year-old, she bravely testified in court against her tormentor and his complicit wife. She was thrilled, she said, to “give hope to other victims who have not spoken out... about what’s happened to them.”

Meghan McCain: Political Junkie

Meghan McCain campaigned for her dad, John McCain, but Pop’s GOP doesn’t do it for the Daily Beast columnist and author of Dirty Sexy Politics. A supporter of gay people’s rights to marry and serve openly in the military, McCain wants her party to be a bigger, much more fabulous tent. “I love punk rock,” she’s said. “I have a tattoo... and, yes, I am a Republican.”

Sister Mary Scullion: Advocate

Sister Mary Scullion, advocate for the homeless, cofounded Philadelphia’s Project H.O.M.E., a model program that gets people off the street and into housing and jobs. She finds strength, she tells us, in being part of a diverse community with “a common vision of human dignity and justice.” Admirer Jon Bon Jovi described her as a nun “who swears and spits.” Replied Scullion: “I do not spit.”

Elizabeth Scharpf: Business woman

Elizabeth Scharpf was alarmed to learn that the lack of affordable sanitary pads causes millions of girls in the developing world to miss school, then drop out. So she founded Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) and is launching a women-run factory in Rwanda to make inexpensive, comfy pads from the fiber of local banana trees. The Harvard MBA hopes to open similar factories elsewhere, keeping girls in school, providing eco-friendly sanitary protection and creating jobs—a rags to riches story.

Lisa Murkowski: Senator

Republican moderate Senator Lisa Murkowskiof Alaska didn’t fold when a Tea Party contender beat her in the 2010 primary. She launched a write-in campaign and won—after a protracted court battle—becoming only the second person in U.S. history (and the first woman and first incumbent) to be elected to the Senate as a write-in candidate.  


“What keeps me strong is knowing that I’m working for  my sons’ futures.”

—Lisa Murkowski

Gabrielle Giffords: Congresswoman

Gabrielle Giffords, Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, was meeting with constituents in a supermarket parking lot in January when a gunman opened fire. Six people died, and Giffords took a bullet to the brain. The nation was shocked and shaken—then elated by her steps toward recovery. In early February, she spoke her first words, and as of this writing, she hoped to be in Florida in April when her husband, U.S. Navy Captain Mark Kelly, lifted off in the space shuttle Endeavour. Kelly has said, “She’s a strong person, a fighter... like nobody else that I know.”  

Patricia Maisch: Protector

Patricia Maisch kept the body count in Tucson from becoming even higher. While two men in the crowd tackled the alleged shooter, she grabbed an ammo clip from his hands as he tried to reload.

David Becker/Stringer/Getty Images

Carolyn McCarthy: Advocate

Carolyn McCarthy, Giffords’s congressional colleague from New York—whose husband died in a mass shooting in 1993—introduced legislation that would ban the kind of large-capacity ammunition magazine Maisch wrested from the assailant.

Oprah Winfrey: Media Queen

Perhaps you’ve heard of Oprah Winfrey. Everything the Queen of All Media touches turns to gold, $2.7 billion worth. Piles of it go to charity. Money, she’s said, provides “the ability to concentrate on other things that really matter. And that is being able to make a difference... in other people’s lives.”

Cliff Watts

Meg Whitman: eBay CEO

Meg Whitman made her estimated $1.3 billion fortune as CEO of eBay—and spent some $144 million of it on her unsuccessful 2010 bid for the governorship of California. Never mind. “I try to focus on the positives of what I’m doing and not get drawn into being negative and defeatist,” she told us. “I look for humor in the current challenge and try not to take myself too seriously.”

Getty Images

Arianna Huffington: Media Mogul

Arianna Huffington made headlines when AOL agreed to pay $315 million for the Huffington Post, the popular, progressive online news site she founded six years ago. As president and editor-in-chief of the new Huffington Post Media Group, she now oversees all of the company’s editorial content, including  MapQuest and Moviefone. You’ve got clout!

© RD / Dziekan / Retna Digital

Tina Brown: Media Mogul

Tina Brown, former editor of the New Yorker, has merged her news website the Daily Beast with the moribund Newsweek, a magazine she plans to revitalize. She also created the annual Women in the World: Stories and Solutions summit, which perhaps was on her mind when she told More:


What keeps me strong is...

the humbling stories of the courage of women in places like Afghanistan and Congo who face insuperable odds every day but still keep their dignity and humor.


The strong woman who’s my role model is...

Dr. Hawa Abdi. She is a Somali-born doctor and lawyer anda fearless advocate for social justice. Dr. Abdi is the founder of a hospital where 90,000 Somalis seek shelter and medical help each day. Last year a militia tried—unsuccessfully—to take control. When the militants shouted that “women can’t do things like this,” she refused to back down, demanding, “What have you done for society?” She is a true testament to the power of female ­determination!

Constance McMillen: Advocate

Barred in 2010 from attending the prom with her girlfriend, Constance McMillen, then 18, sued her Mississippi school district, which settled in her favor. Now in college, McMillen can be proud of her legacy: This year, a lesbian couple at a Minnesota high school sued for the right to walk together in a school-dance procession—and got a standing ovation from classmates when they arrived.

Bindi Irwin: Wild Child

Bindi Irwin, 12, has the animal magnetism of her late dad, “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin—and his dedication to protecting endangered species. The singer, actress and Emmy-winning host of a wildlife series for children donates a chunk of her earnings to conservation charities.

Albert L. Ortega / PR Photos

Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor: Justices

When Kagan joined her black-robed sisters on the bench last year, she brought the U.S. Supreme Court a step closer to gender equity. Now, for the first time in history, it’s one third female. Only 1.5 appointees to go before our highest court rightly reflects the demographic makeup of our nation.

Stephenie Meyer: Author

Stephenie Meyer has sold over 100 million copies of her Twilight quartet; the three movies grossed over $1.7 billion. Another metric: At Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, one senator asked whether she supported Team Jacob or Team Edward.

Albert L. Ortega / PR Photos

Laura Hillenbrand: Author

Laura Hillenbrand constructs elegant, impeccably researched nonfiction—Seabiscuit, Unbroken—despite suffering from brutal, debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Washington Post

Nora Ephron: Author

Nora Ephron, known for such witty films as Julie & Julia and Sleepless in Seattle, has now made it chic to embrace, or at least chortle defiantly at, aging. I Feel Bad About
My Neck
and I Remember Nothing are ­divinely—what were we saying? We’ll let Ephron do the talking:


I feel strongest when...

I stand up straight, which I don’t always do.


What keeps me strong is...

my fantastic gift for denial.


When i feel my strength flagging, I...

drink a Coke Zero.


My mantra is...

1. Get over it. 2. Life is too short to live without bread. 3. Never buy a flag lot.


The strong woman who’s my role model is...

Christiane Amanpour.


The first time I knew my own strength was…

I have a clear memory: I am running up a steep flight of stairs. I’m in high school. I trip and skin my knee. I start to cry. I realize it doesn’t hurt enough to cry. I stop crying.

Sylvain Gaboury / PR Photos

Edna Foa: Psychologist

Edna Foa, PhD, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, has developed a fast, effective new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, now on the rise among returning U.S. soldiers. The technique involves gently helping sufferers repeatedly relive bad experiences, thus dissipating their pain and power.

Kirsten Gillibrand: Congresswoman

In 2009 she was a second-term congresswoman appointed to fill the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she decided to run for president. But Kirsten Gillibrand, who handily won re-election last year, has dramatically raised her political profile (and healthfully dropped the more than 40 pounds she put on when she had her sons, now seven and three). Hard to pigeonhole—she gets top marks from both the NRA and the League of Conservation Voters—she has helped win compensation for ailing 9/11 first responders and introduced legislation thatled to the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Janet Mayer / PR Photos

Jai Pausch: Wife of best-selling author

Jai Pausch is extending her husband’s legacy. Before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2008, college prof Randy Pausch gave a moving farewell to his students that became a viral video and best-selling book, The Last Lecture. Now his widow is writing a column, “Ask Jai,” on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network website, offering support to patients’ families.

ZUMA Press/Newscom

Lady Gaga: Musician/Performer

Would we notice talented musician and songwriter Stefani Germanotta if she hadn’t changed her name and donned a dress made of meat? Well, probably her “Poker Face” video on YouTube would have gotten only 73,349,161 hits instead of the 73,349,162 it’s scored as of press time.

Janet Mayer / PR Photos

Tina Fey: Entertainment Extraordinaire

Tina Fey, actor, writer and producer, was once described by her 30 Rock costar Alec Baldwin as “smart, funny, beautiful. Devoted, tough, respected. Now, if she’d only work on her posture.” Plus, we know we couldn’t face real life without her fake Sarah Palin.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Esperanza Spalding: Jazz Musician

Esperanza Spalding caused fans of Justin Bieber to have a cow when she snatched this year’s Grammy Award for Best New Artist away from him. The bassist-vocalist, who’s just 26, is the first jazz singer ever to win that coveted title.

©Scott Kirkland / Retna Digital

Lauren Zalaznick: Media President

Lauren Zalaznick, formerly the Czarina of All Chickflickia, has expanded her portfolio. As president of NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, she oversaw Bravo, Oxygen and iVillage. Now she heads up the whole shebang as chair of the company’s Entertainment & Digital Networks.

© RD / Leon / Retna Digital

Aerin Lauder: VP and Creative Director

Aerin Lauder, senior vice president and creative director of Estée Lauder, has a great eye (overseeing visuals from packaging to ads), a fine nose (successfully reviving archival fragrances) and a head for business (adding designer Tom Ford to the team). Like her Grandma Estée, she’s chic, classy
and canny.

Shannon Beiste: Glee star

Shannon Beise, Glee’s football coach (played by actress Dot-Marie Jones), is a jurassically big-boned gal. But what shines is her soft side—those gorgeous dimples, that kind nature, the way she yearns for a first kiss (sweetly delivered last year). We love that she can melt our hearts and crush a fridge.

Mike Yarish/FOX

Penelope Cruz: Actress

Penelope Cruz has beauty, passion, talent— and Javier Bardem. This month the new mom (who has demonstrated that she has the guts to take on an eclectic array of roles—whatever intrigues her, large or small) cavorts as a bad girl in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean.



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First Published Fri, 2011-05-13 15:15

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