Name a powerful and influential woman in contemporary society (either in the US or elsewhere) and explain her significance and power.The teacher asked this question under "Role of Mongol Women" in...

Name a powerful and influential woman in contemporary society (either in the US or elsewhere) and explain her significance and power.

The teacher asked this question under "Role of Mongol Women" in the subject "History of World Civilization;" that's why this question is in "history." Otherwise, I think the answer can be given, in general.


Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a great number of women to choose from, but the first who comes to mind for me is Oprah Winfrey.

To start with the obvious, she is very wealthy. This usually makes people take notice. However, it is the job she had done on TV that has earned her the money and the attention that she uses so artfully across the US and throughout the world.

Oprah supports charitable causes, and Presidents; people take notice of what she has to say, even if they disagree. Her reputation for helping others is widely recognized. She has championed the cause of those in need financially, and the need for self-improvement from the inside, out. Her endeavors have not only made her name a household word, but have opened doors for her that would not necessarily have been accessible to her under other circumstances.

Ms. Winfrey has promoted physical health, mental and emotional well-being, and self-validation of all people, but especially those who are underprivileged or suffering in some way. She has been a driving force behind getting Americans to read; Oprah has acted in and/or produced some highly meaningful films, most especially The Color Purple.

After Phil Donahue's "reign" so many years ago, Oprah has changed the face of daytime talk shows. She has had a variety of guests who not only entertain, but inspire. She has raised enormous amounts of money and given away enormous amounts of money; she has taken on the big guns (the beef "growers"); reunited families; interviewed "the good, the bad, and the ugly;" honored individuals; honored teachers; and, honored heroes of all kinds.

Oprah has gained the public's ear by being in the public eye, and in all these things, it is this, specifically, that has given her power. Even though she is wrapping up her last year with her show, I cannot imagine that she will be any less influential. She may end up working more like Barbara Walters, with special programming, rather than daily programming. But Oprah's ability to get people to listen is probably what makes her one of the most powerful women in America today.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While she is a polarizing figure, I would choose Hillary Clinton as an example.  To different degrees and in different ways, you could also argue Madeleine Albright and Condoleeza Rice are also good candidates given that they held the same position Clinton now holds, that of Secretary of State.

What gives Clinton an edge in terms of influence is that she has spent her whole life in the public eye and government.  While a First Lady of either the State of Arkansas or of the United States is an unelected position and has no real authority, it most certainly has influence. She steered, behind the scenes, the direction of her husband Bill Clinton's Presidency on key issues from health care to abortion.

Even Clinton's enemies concede that she is very intelligent and a shrewd political tactician.  In her time in the US Senate, she was well-respected by Republican and Democratic colleagues alike, and by all accounts, in the 2008 campaign she came the closest a woman ever has to becoming President of the United States.  Had she won the nomination, I believe she would have defeated McCain and Palin just as Obama did.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having read the links that you included about the Mongol women, I think that you would want to emphasize (when you answer this question) that these modern women are powerful in their own right.  The Mongol women were powerful because they married powerful men and got to exercise power while the men were away.  This is not the same way things work now.

None of the women mentioned above are powerful simply because of their husbands.  You could argue Clinton started out that way, but her power does not rely on Bill Clinton any longer.  Even then, I would say that she got elected because she was famous, not because people thought she would act in her husband's place.

I think that you should point out this difference because I bet this is what your teacher is trying to explore -- differences in sex roles over time and place.

I should also mention that Brazil's next president is female (Dilma Rousseff) and Chile's previous president was female (Michelle Bachelet).

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

How about Melinda Gates?  She is one of the founders of the Gates Foundation which is very influential in charities both in the US and worldwide.  She and her husband Bill have done much good with their wealth.  However, based on previous posts, I suppose she is basically connected to and powerful because of her husband.  However, now that she has reached this point, I doubt that even if Bill Gates passed, Melinda would still be an affluent woman.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm thinking of Condoleezza Rice, first black woman to serve as Secretary of State.  She's also a single woman, which means she got her position without the prestige or power of a spouse. This is a position of power not only in the United States but worldwide, and I especially appreciate that she served and is now teaching--rather than capitalizing on her experiences in an outrageous way as so many former public servants have done. 

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to suggest Dr. Maya Angelou. She has made a huge impact on the world through her writing, her work as an educator, as an historian and a civil rights activist. She has worked with and served on various presidential committees. Her body of work still continues to effect change.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, to celebrate her release, what about Aang San Su Kyi, the elected leader of Burma who was then placed under house arrest for many years who has just been released? She is one of my heroes and a very inspirational person - absolutely committed to democratic power in Burma.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think we can ignore that Sarah Palin has become an influential woman. Whether you like her or not she has been a motivating figure behind the Tea Party Movement and is once again being mentioned as a viable candidate for the Presidency.

epollock | Student

I would have to say that one of the most influential women in America today is Hillary Clinton. Not simply because she is the current Secretary of State but as the wife of Bill Clinton and the wife of the person who raises billions of dollars, I think she is more powerful than Melinda gates and Oprah Winfrey. The other people, generous as they are, don't have much say over international affairs as Hillary Clinton does.

ivana | Student

In the previous answers, the focus was on women in USA. Since your question is either in US or elsewhere there are two influential women in Europe's politics that I associate with being influential immediately:

1. Margaret Thaucher: though she is no longer in active politics, her political legacy is still present. I consider her the predecessor of woman politicians in Europe today.

2. Angela Merkel : probably the most powerful female politician in Europe today.

There are naturally many other influential female politicians in Europe and elsewhere. In addition female politicians are not the only powerful women but that is what we first think of. When I think of this question a little more, I guess the choice of the most influential  women is subjective since different people have different values and are influenced in different ways. For some of us the most influential women in our life is our mother or some other women unknown to the public.