Greatest Female Icons From Every Year

Aug 18, 2020Eric

Female icons can come for a variety of fields, and they all attain iconic status for different reasons. They may have been the first to break a long-standing barrier, electrify an audience with a performance, or contribute something to expand and enrich the cultural moment of their time. The world has never been short on female icons, as each year produces another woman, or women, who finds a way to obtain the status of a real-life icon permanently. 

Diana Ross - 1970

Image Credtis: Getty Images/Bettmann Collection

Diana Ross found freedom and continued success at the start of the 1970s. The former Supremes frontwoman left the group to pursue a solo career, which started her string of successes during the Disco decade. She not only released her first solo album, but she was also nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her starring role in the 1973 Billie Holliday biopic "Lady Sings the Blues." 

Donna Summer - 1971

Image Credits: Getty Images/RedFerns/Fin Costello

The undisputed Queen of Disco, Donna Summer, became and remains iconic not only for her artistry and talent but for her important contributions to pop music, in general. Her breakout single, 1977's "I Feel Love" is considered to be a landmark song that brought electronic synthesizers into pop music, and is still as influential today as it was then. 

Jane Fonda - 1972

Image Credits: Getty Images/The LIFE Picture Collection/Bill Ray

The 70s were a turning point for Jane Fonda. Daughter of Hollywood royalty, the actress rode the wave of popularity generated by her role in "Barbarella" to become a political activist. She participated in civil rights marches and became a very high-profile opponent of the Vietnam War. Her outspoken politics did not come at the cost of her career, as she won an Oscar for her role in "Klute" in 1971. 

Mia Farrow - 1973

Image Credits: Getty Images/The LIFE Picture Collection/Alfred Eisenstaedt

Actress Mia Farrow also spent the 70s making a transition. After her whirlwind marriage and divorce from Frank Sinatra, the actress then married French composer Andre Previn, and the two started a family. The actress had biological children, but would also adopt several children. She also starred in several plays and took the iconic role of Daisy Buchanan in 1971's screen adaptation of "The Great Gatsby." 

Cher - 1974

Image Credits: Getty Images/Fotos International/Frank Edwards

The 70s were a big decade for Cher. She split from her husband and partner, Sonny Bono, while also making her television debut with her eponymous show. She released her first solo album to critical acclaim, and she became a style icon for her outrageous, revealing outfits that she wore on her show and to red-carpet premieres. 

Farrah Fawcett - 1975

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No one embodies the 70s better than Farrah Fawcett. The blonde beauty shot to stardom with her role on the iconic 1970s TV show "Charlie's Angels," while her style and, of course, her hairstyle, influenced millions of adoring women and made men put her poster on their wall. 

Olivia Newton-John - 1976

Image Credits: Getty Images/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/David Mcgough

Olivia Newton-John will always be tied to the 1970s. Despite being a successful singer and performer in her native Australia, the role of Sandy in the film adaptation of the musical "Grease!" made her a world-famous actress, who would forever live in that singular role that she made her own. 

Joni Mitchell - 1977 

Image Credits: Getty Images/Redferns/Tony Russell

The Canadian singer-songwriter was among the first woman to even have that label attached to her name. Joni Mitchell, like her fellow singer-songwriters at the time - Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt - redefined how women negotiated the pop music terrain without having to trade on their sex appeal, but purely on their talent and brilliant songwriting

Diane Von Furstenburg - 1978

Image Credits: Getty Images/Susan Wood

In 1978, Diane Von Furstenburg was on the verge of creating a fashion empire. She did create it and it is still around today, but she did not only become a business titan. It was her designs, and specifically, the "wrap dress" that would make her legendary not only among fashion designers but women all over the world who learned how to dress because of her designs.  

Tina Turner - 1979 

Image Credits: Getty Images/Evening Standard/Frank Tewkesbury

Anna Mae Bullock aka Tina Turner was another woman who was liberated, in more ways than one, in the 1970s. She separated and divorced her then-husband Ike Turner, who, as the singer would later reveal, was physically abusive toward her throughout their entire marriage. Tina would go on to record her first solo album, tour with the Rolling Stones, and become one of the first Black women to appear on the newly-created MTV. 

Mary Tyler Moore - 1980

Image Credits: Getty Images/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/David Mcgough

Mary Tyler Moore may have become a breakout TV star in the 70s, but she reached new heights of fame during the 80s. While her eponymous show ended during the 70s, its impact was so strong that she had already cemented her status as a feminist icon. In the 80s, though, Moore got married, and starred in the 1980 film, "Ordinary People," which garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. 

Madonna - 1981

Image Credits: Getty Images/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Ann Clifford

No one perhaps embodies the spirit of the 80s better than Madonna Louise Ciccone. She rose to meteoric heights during the 80s, influencing not only the world of pop music but of fashion and style as well. Dubbed the Queen of Pop, Madonna was everywhere in the 80s, and not only because of her music, but also because her style was ubiquitous and inspired many imitators. 

Whitney Houston - 1982

Image Credits: Getty Images/Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection

Whitney Houston debuted with her self-titled album in 1985 and forever became known simply as "The Voice." The record's blending of R&B with pop influences redefined what kind of music a pop artist could make, and her towering voice also became the gold-standard for future performers from Adele to Ariana Grande. 

Janet Jackson - 1983

Image Credits: Getty Images/The LIFE Picture Collection

Having been born into a famous family, and having been overshadowed by her famous siblings, Janet Jackson finally came into her own during the MTV decade. Her album, "Rhythm Nation 1814," released in 1989, was a milestone album for any artist, regardless of her famous name. The album spawned five #1 singles and seven singles that entered the Top 10, which is a record that still stands. 

Meryl Streep - 1984

Image Credits: Getty Images/Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection

While Meryl Streep began her acting career in the 70s, it wasn't until the 80s that she cemented her status as an acting powerhouse. The 80s saw her go on a streak of iconic roles resulting in her first two Oscar wins, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "Kramer v. Kramer" and a Best Actress Oscar for her most celebrated role in 1982's "Sophie's Choice." 

Oprah Winfrey - 1985

Image Credits: Getty Images/Ron Galella Collection/Ron Galella

The first episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was broadcast in 1986, but it wasn't until the 1990s that Oprah Winfrey would become the media personality that she is best known for. While other talk shows focused on tabloid gossip and celebrity scandal, Winfrey would take on more complex social issues, along with a celebrity interview every now and again. 

Dolly Parton - 1986

Image Credits: Getty Images/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/ Kevin Winter

The country music superstar rode a wave of success during the 80s, culminating with her role in the 1980 work comedy, "9 to 5". Parton's performance of a downtrodden secretary in the film, along with other 80s mainstays Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, became iconic and one of the first movies to portray harassment in the workplace. The movie's signature song was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song. 

Princess Diana - 1987

Image Credits: Getty Images/Tom Stoddart

Lady Diana Spencer officially became Princess Diana at the start of the decade. Her fairy-tale wedding was seen around the world and was billed as the wedding of the century. The young Diana was always considered very photogenic and, as such, everything she wore quickly became a fashion trend. The Princess not only reinvigorated the Royal Family's image but also infused a much-needed jolt of youthfulness to the monarchy. 

Jodie Foster - 1988

Image Credits: Getty Images/The LIFE Picture Collection

Actress Jodie Foster would cap the 80s with a historic Oscar win for Best Actress in 1989. Acting ever since she was a toddler, the actress grew up in Hollywood and appeared in iconic movies like "Taxi Driver" before she was in high-school age. Of course, her Oscar for the "The Accused" would not be her last, as in only two years she would win another Best Actress Oscar for her role in "The Silence of the Lambs". 

Julia Roberts - 1989

Image Credits: Getty Images/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Marion Curtis

America's Sweetheart became America's Sweetheart in the 1990s thanks to her legendary role in 1990 mega-hit "Pretty Woman." While Roberts had acted in only a few minor roles in the 80s, it was "Pretty Woman" that put her on the path to becoming Hollywood's highest-paid actress and landed her a Best Actress Academy Award in 2000 for "Erin Brockovich." 

Cindy Crawford - 1990

Image Credits: Getty Images/Images/PL Gould

Another famous "pretty woman" from the 90s, Cindy Crawford, became the symbol of the decade as well as a style influencer with every dress she wore quickly being imitated by women everywhere. Her iconic beauty mark was seen everywhere during the decade, from fashion shows to magazine covers, to music videos and movies during her run as one of the world's first supermodels. 

Which female icons do you celebrate the most? Who were your female icons when you were growing up? Let us know in the comments section below. A list of female icons will never stop growing. New icons appear every year for different reasons. They can remind us of the icons of the past or be someone wholly original. A female icon can always join the pantheon of celebrated women for her particular style, talent, or accomplishment. 

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