100 Women of the Year

This lesson asks you: What if Time Magazine had named a 'Woman of the Year' for the past 100 years? Who would these 100 women be? Why would they be named 'Woman of the Year?' What does it mean for a woman to be influential? How can we use language - and specifically the language of magazine covers - to celebrate influential women?

  1. Read Text 1 below. It is the introductory text from a project at Time Magazine. Who do you think is on their list of 100 women? As a class, collate a list of women that you think should appear on these magazine covers. You can go as far back as 1920. Use a Google Doc, padlet.com or another digital tool to collate your answers.

  2. For 72 years, TIME named a Man of the Year. With a few exceptions, it was almost always a man, usually a President or a Prime Minister or perhaps a titan of industry. Throughout history, these are the kinds of men who have wielded influence over the world.

    In 1999, Man of the Year gave way to Person of the Year. While the name rightly changed, too often the choice was the same. With this 100 Women of the Year project, we’re spotlighting influential women who were often overshadowed. This includes women who occupied positions from which the men were often chosen, like world leaders Golda Meir and Corazon Aquino, but far more who found their influence through activism or culture. As former TIME editor-in-chief Nancy Gibbs writes, this project is an exercise in looking at the ways in which women held power due to systemic inequality. “Women,” Gibbs writes, “were wielding soft power long before the concept was defined.” To recognize these women, we have created 89 new TIME covers, many of which were designed by prominent artists. We left intact the 11 covers for women who had been named Person of the Year. The 100 choices in this project are the result of a months-long process that began with more than 600 nominations submitted by TIME staff; experts in the field; our creative partner, filmmaker Alma Har’el; and a committee of notable women from various backgrounds.

    This process prompted just as many questions as answers: “What does it mean to be a woman?” “How has society failed to acknowledge the contributions of women?” One answer came from feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, whom we picked for 1970, and whom we asked to revisit a piece she wrote that year in TIME called “What It Would Be Like If Women Win”—a rare opportunity to reflect on 50 years of change.

  3. Look back at the list that you have created as a class. What qualities do these women share? What kinds of accomplishments have they made? Why are they significant?

  4. Now visit the website that Time Magazine has created with these 100 covers, by clicking on the link below. Which women appear on both your list and Time Magazine's list? How have the editors at Time Magazine used the conventions of magazine covers to acknowledge these women and their accomplishments?

  5. 100 Women of the Year
  6. Explore the website in depth with a partner. Find two women from very different times and place, with different kinds of accomplishments. Click on 'Read more' for both women. Read the 3 short articles below to deepen your understanding of this project. Prepare and deliver a short presentation for your classmates in which you address the following questions:

    • Why do these women deserve to be acknowledged?

    • Why do you think Time Magazine has depicted these women in this way on these covers? What accounts for similarities and differences in style and layout? What kinds of authorial choices did Time Magazine and the artists have to make?

    • In what ways do these covers relate to and deepen your understanding of one or more of the seven concepts: representation, communication, identity, creativity, culture, transformation and perspective?

    Behind the scenes of Time's 100 Women
    Why Women's History Should be Everyone's History
    The Stories Behind Time's 100 Women
  7. After listening to everyone's presentations, discuss: How effective is Time Magazine's project in raising awareness about gender equality? If you were to write a letter to Time Magazine in response to '100 Women of the Year' what would you ask? What feedback would you provide? What is your analysis and evaluation or their proeject?


History is an area of knowledge (AOK). How do we know what civilization's greatest accomplishments have been? Whom should we celebrate? Why is there a Martin Luther King day (in the United States) but not a Malcolm X day? How have Time Magazine covers helpd shape a male-centric understanding of history? Can history be rewritten, through projects like '100 Women of the Year'?

Last modified: Wednesday, 20 March 2024, 9:45 AM