While 2022 brought some great accomplishments for women – from our first Black women Supreme Court justice (Kentanji Brown Jackson), to the first Indigenous woman in space (Nicole Aunapu Mann) to even the winningest woman in “Jeopardy!” history (Amy Schneider) – we also lost many influential women this year.
Many who passed away this year achieved notable “firsts” themselves — from Madeleine Albright (first female Secretary of State) to Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols (first recorded inter-racial kiss on TV).
To honor their memories, we’ve compiled inspiring quotes from Queen Elizabeth II, Olivia Newton John and other iconic women who died this year.
“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” – Madeleine Albright (1937-2022)
As the first woman to serve as secretary of state, Madeleine Albright paved a road for future women in government. Albright was a “hands on” diplomat, working primarily on the U.S.’s global interests. Her family fled Czechoslovakia from Nazi and Communist regimes, so when she became a leader in American international relations, she also became an inspiration for American immigrants. In 2012, Albright earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom under President Barack Obama.
“Women in music can be sexy and alluring and fabulous and hip and cool, and still be about music. Just be about music.” – Irene Cara (1959-2022)
Singer-songwriter and actress, Irene Cara, catapulted to fame with a starring role in the 1980 movie “Fame,” for which she also performed its titular song. Her artistry started long before “Fame,” however, when she began releasing her own music at eight years old and began performing in Off-Broadway productions when she was 10. She eventually created a nine-piece all-female band in 1999 called Hot Caramel.
“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.” – Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)
After seven decades on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy will never be forgotten. Her uncle’s surprise abdication made her father the King – and Elizabeth ascended the throne at just 25 when he died. She quickly took over and held onto the crown until her death in September 2022, making her the U.K.’s longest-serving monarch. Despite many family scandals – including the infamous “annus horribilis” – the Queen remained a rock in the U.K.’s foundation.
“My [job] is to be a woman and to talk about it and not allow the media to insult me or anybody else and do what I need to do. I think that I have, as a black woman, a real function coming out with a white woman saying these things.” – Dorothy Pitman Hughes (1938-2022)
In collaboration with fellow activist Gloria Steinem, Dorothy Pitman Hughes fought against gender and racial inequities in the late 1960s through the 1970s. Pitman Hughes inspired Steinam to create Ms. Magazine, a feminist publication. Pitman-Hughes and Steinem also co-founded the Women’s Action Alliance. The WAA’s goal in its active years (1971-1997) was to connect local activists on a national level.
“There can always be healing, even if there is no cure.” – Naomi Judd (1946-2022)
Naomi Judd was best known for being one-half of the country-music duo, The Judds, with her daughter, Wynonna. From 1983 to 1991, the duo won five Grammys, nine Country Music Awards, and eight Academy of Country Music Awards. Naomi died by suicide following a long battle with mental illness the week The Judds was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Wynonna is taking The Judds on tour in 2023 with special guests, in honor of her mother.
“I wasn’t searching to collect more awards or recognition during my reign. Rather, I fed the passion that made waking up each morning feel worthwhile: speaking out against injustice.” – Cheslie Kryst (1991-2022)
Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst, who died by suicide at 31, was more than a pageant queen. After earning an MBA and law degree in grad school, Kryst worked as an attorney for a civil litigation firm and offered pro bono representation to prisoners sentenced on low-level drug charges. She also worked with The Buried Alive Project to help a client serving a life-sentence in 2020.
“[I hope my legacy is] that through my acting, I enabled people to get out of their own lives, and be transported to other areas of life that they otherwise never would have.” – Angela Lansbury (1925-2022)
Angela Lansbury was an understated legend on both screen and stage, with six Tony Awards and six Golden Globes. She never saw herself playing the “leading lady” characters, which she expressed (along with the above statement) in a 2010 video interview with The New York Times, which she agreed would only be released after her death. She still made a splash in the entertainment industry, redefining women’s roles with her complex and enticing characters.
“To make it in this business, you either have to be first, great or different, and I was the first to ever go into Nashville, singin’ it like the women lived it.” – Loretta Lynn (1932-2022)
Loretta Lynn made history as the most awarded woman country music star, with a career spanning over six decades. Lynn found solace in music as a young housewife, and by 27, she had released her first single to top the charts, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” She influenced a new generation of country music stars by writing her own songs, most of which were deeply personal – something that was not as common at the time. By 2022, Loretta Lynn released 50 studio albums, plus ten studio collaboration albums with Conway Twitty. Her autobiography, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” also made her a “symbol of Rural Resistance,” with her stories of getting married at 15 to her 21-year-old playboy husband.
“Not many bands have had the same longevity; there is life in the old girl yet. It’s about finding new inspiration and enjoyment for each other. As long as we have that we’ll keep going.” – Christine McVie (1943-2022)
Christine McVie was more than just one-fifth of the 70s to 90s rock band Fleetwood Mac – she wrote about half of the band’s “greatest hits,” including “Little Lies,” “Don’t Stop,” and “You Make Loving Fun,” all of which landed in the Billboard Top 10. McVie’s songs gave the band a more blues-y sound and said she never took too much time writing songs. She famously wrote “Songbird,” one of the band’s most beloved songs, in 30 minutes.
“Cancer can engulf your being, and I try not to live my life with all that in my mind. I live beyond it, I love beyond it, I sing beyond it, and I want that for everybody.” – Olivia Newton-John (1948-2022)
British-Australian musician, actress and activist Olivia Newton-John became widely recognized for her role as Sandy in the movie “Grease,” but her life in the spotlight started long before then. By the time she was in “Grease” in 1978, she had already won eight American Music Awards and three Grammys. Throughout her almost 60-year career, Newton-John earned four Grammys and 10 American Music Awards. In addition to her music career, she was an advocate for breast cancer awareness and research (having battled breast cancer three times) and environmental and animal rights.
“I understand that everyone needs to see role models that can inspire them and talk to them and represent them, but I believe that we need to move to a future that transcends race, gender, or anything else. We're all people.” – Nichelle Nichols (1932-2022)
“Star Trek” actress, musician, and activist Nichelle Nichols made history as one of the first Black women featured on a major television series; she even engaged in the first recorded inter-racial kiss on TV. Even after “Star Trek,” outer space continued to play an interesting and important role in her life. She began working with NASA as a representative and spokesperson to help recruit more female cadets for training.
“A new enterprise awaits. It hangs before you like fruit on a tree.” – Julie Powell (1973-2022)
Food blogger Julie Powell soared into fame with her blog, the Julie/Julia Project, where she cooked every recipe in one of Julia Child’s cookbooks in a year and blogged the entire experience. Her self-criticism and humor in her blog caught the attention of food lovers on social media, inspiring her to write a book about the experience, which was then turned into a feature film, “Julie & Julia,” starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Her blog altered the world of food writing on social media as fans of other famous cooks began replicating Powell’s blog style.
Updated to correct Queen Elizabeth’s birth year.