Mary Pickford (1892-1979)
One of Hollywood’s first major stars, Mary Pickford helped shape the film industry throughout its earliest years as a co-founder of both the film studio United Artists and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Pickford won the second-ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in 1929’s “Coquette,” as well as an honorary Academy Award for her contributions to the industry in 1976.
Hedda Hopper (1885-1966)
Hedda Hopper began her career as an actress, but she transitioned to her best-known role in 1938: gossip columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Her confrontational column “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood,” best remembered for naming suspected communists during the Hollywood Blacklist era, made her one of the most feared and powerful figures in the industry.
Sherry Lansing (1944-Present)
Lansing was the first woman to lead a major Hollywood studio when she was president of 20th Century Fox. She also was the CEO of Paramount Pictures and was the first female movie studio head to receive a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
Penny Marshall (1943-Present)
Marshall directed Tom Hanks in “Big,” the first film directed by a woman to gross over $100 million at the domestic box office.
Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965)
Singer, dancer and actress Dorothy Dandridge had a string of uncredited roles in Hollywood films before breaking out in 1954’s “Carmen Jones.” Playing the title character opposite Harry Belafonte, Dandridge became the first African American nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for the role. She was also one of the few stars who testified in the criminal trial of Hollywood Research, Inc., a tabloid newspaper, in a trial that diminished tabloid journalism until 1971.
Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979)
Dorothy Arzner made a name for herself as one of the first female film directors with 1927’s “Fashions for Women,” and she even went on to become the first female member of the Directors Guild of America. Her subsequent work with stars like Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford made her one of the most prolific female director of studio films in history.
Kathryn Bigelow (1951-Present)
With Bigelow’s film “The Hurt Locker,” she became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, as well as the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction and the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director.
Frances Marion (1888-1973)
Marion, a screenwriter who has been credited with over 300 scripts, was the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for her film “The Big House” in 1930, and then again for Best Story for “The Champ” in 1932. She quickly became the highest paid screenwriter of either gender in the 1920s and 1930s.
Lois Weber (1879-1939)
Weber is considered by film historian Anthony Slide as “the most important female director the American film industry has known” and has been credited as the pioneer of the split screen technique in film. She was also one of the first directors to experiment with sound, making one of the first sound films in America. She also was the first American woman to direct a full-length feature, “The Merchant of Venice” in 1914. In 1917, she became the first female director to own a movie studio, Lois Weber Productions.
Alice Guy-Blaché (1873-1968)
Guy-Blaché rose from being a secretary to running her own film studio in New Jersey, and is credited for being the first female director to make a narrative fiction film. She experimented with sound syncing, color tinting, interracial casting and special effects. She made over 1,000 films by 1907.
Oprah Winfrey (1954-Present)
Host, philanthropist, actress, producer and all-around media mogul, Oprah Winfrey revolutionized the daytime talk show format with the groundbreaking “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which was nationally syndicated for 25 seasons between 1986 and 2011. The program’s wild success made Winfrey one of the richest and most influential women in the media industry.
Barbara Walters (1929-Present)
Walters was the first woman to acquire the title of “co-host” in 1974. Two years later, she became the first female co-anchor in an evening news program.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992)
Dietrich donned trousers when it was considered taboo for women to wear pants, adding an erotic charge to an everyday men’s garment. In fact, the actress was almost arrested in the 1930s in Paris.
Euzhan Palcy (1958-Present)
Palcy is notably the first black female director to be produced by a major Hollywood studio (MGM), as well as being the only woman filmmaker to have directed Marlon Brando, whom she urged out of retirement. She was also the first black person to direct an actor to an Oscar nomination.
Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)
The outspoken and independent Katharine Hepburn had one of the most successful careers of any actress in the history of Hollywood. With more than 50 credits before her retirement in 1994, Hepburn appeared in a wide variety of films during her more than 60-year career. She won four Best Actress Oscars for “Morning Glory,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “The Lion in Winter” and “On Golden Pond” — more than any other actress.
Lillian Gish (1893-1993)
An early pioneer of the motion picture industry, “The First Lady of the Cinema” Lillian Gish (far left in photo) was one of the biggest stars of the silent film era with roles in classics such as “Birth of a Nation,” “Broken Blossoms” and “La Boheme.” Over her career of more than 70 years, she went on to become one of the first female directors, an accomplished stage actress and an advocate for film preservation.