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8 of the Richest Women in History

March 8, 2017, 2:01 PM UTC

Held annually on March 8, International Women’s Day honors the social, economic, cultural and political wins of strong, fierce females across the globe. Celebrated since the early 1900s, the day serves as a call for gender equality.

Many aspects of life are often viewed as a man’s domain, but powerful women have refused to accept the status quo for centuries. Get inspired by learning about eight of the richest women in history and their outstanding achievements.


She’s now a media mogul with an estimated fortune of $3.2 billion, according to CelebrityNetWorth, but Oprah Winfrey came from humble beginnings. Raised on a farm without indoor plumbing, Winfrey suffered serial abuse as a child.

Determined to change her life, she became the youngest person and first African-American woman news anchor at WTVF-TV in Nashville, Tenn., when she was just 19 years old. Eventually, she landed her own talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which ran for 25 years.

In 2011 — the same year her talk show ended — she launched the Oprah Winfrey Network. The 63-year-old has also worked on several feature films in recent years, including “Selma” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

See more: How Countries Around the World Are Celebrating International Women’s Day


Known as the “Queen of the Nile,” Cleopatra died Aug.12, 30 B.C., but her legend lives on. Despite being the last queen of the Macedonian dynasty that ruled Egypt, she had faint — if any — Egyptian roots.

Also one of the richest women in history, her net worth was an estimated $95.8 billion, according to the book “Cleopatra: A Life.” Largely considered one of the smartest, most fascinating people of all time, Cleopatra spoke as many as a dozen different languages.

She considered herself a living goddess and used this to her advantage. Legend has it she once smuggled herself into Julius Caesar’s personal quarters in a carpet or linen sack.

Brave and bold, she led several dozen Egyptian warships into battle while married to Mark Antony. The couple created their own drinking society called the Inimitable Livers.


More than just an heiress, Anne Cox Chambers continues to sit on the board of her family business — Cox Enterprises — at the age of 97. Established as a newspaper business by her father, James M. Cox, in 1898, the privately held company has interests in communications, media and automotive services.

Once the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Chambers also holds the French Legion of Honor title. Forbes estimates the media baroness’ net worth at $17 billion.

Deemed the richest person in Atlanta by Forbes in 2016, Chambers is a billionaire with a charitable heart. She started donating portions of her income from a trust established by her father to charity in the 1980s, and by the time it was dissolved in 2015, all proceeds from the trust were being distributed to 32 groups.


In 1946, Abigail Johnson’s grandfather founded Fidelity Management & Research Company. Today, she’s the third-generation family member to helm the firm. As chairman and CEO of the company, Johnson presides over $5.4 trillion in customer assets as of June 30, 2016.

Unlike many legacy executives, Johnson has worked her way to the top. In high school and college, she served as a Fidelity customer service representative. She joined the company full-time in 1988, working as mutual fund manager, before entering the executive suite.

A Harvard grad, Johnson’s net worth is an estimated $14.7 billion, according to Forbes. As of 2016, she was the richest person in Massachusetts.


Married to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates since 1994, Melinda Gates is a philanthropist intent on changing the world for the better. Named the fourth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2016, Gates shares her husband’s $85.6 billion net worth, making them the richest people in the world.

A graduate of Duke University, she co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and currently serves as co-chair. Created to help people around the globe enjoy healthy, productive lives, the foundation trust endowment totaled $39.6 billion as of Dec. 31, 2015.

Also intent on inspiring other billionaires to give back, she established the Giving Pledge along with her husband and fellow entrepreneur Warren Buffett. The pledge encourages the wealthiest people in the world to give more than half of their fortune to charity during their lifetime or to set the funds aside in their will.

See more: Melinda Gates Says She Has a ‘Partnership of Equals’ With Bill


With a fortune of $39.1 billion, Liliane Bettencourt is the richest woman in the world. Her father, Eugene Schueller, founded L’Oreal in 1907.

A company valued at $102.9 billion as of May 2016, according to Forbes, Bettencourt and her children own 33 percent of L’Oréal. Sadly, Bettencourt suffers from dementia and in 2012, her grandson took over her seat on the L’Oreal board.

Bettencourt shied away from the public eye for most of her life but was thrust into the spotlight in 2015 when eight men were found guilty of scamming her. One of the convicted, photographer Francois-Marie Banier, swindled more than $1 billion in gifts from the ailing Bettencourt over a 10-year period.


In 1998, Sara Blakely didn’t have the right undergarments to wear under white pants to a party, so she made her own. This inspired her to found Spanx in 2000 and the rest is history.

Now a fashion mogul with a net worth of $1 billion, Blakely retains 100 percent ownership of the company she created with $5,000 saved from working as a door-to-door fax salesperson. Along with her husband, Jesse Itzler, she is also part owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Despite her astronomical success, Blakely remains grounded. She was the first female billionaire to join the Gates-Buffett Giving pledge. The Spanx founder also runs a Leg Up program that supports female entrepreneurs, and her Sara Blakely Foundation has donated millions to charitable organizations globally.


Named the richest self-made woman in the world by Forbes in 2016, Zhou Qunfei is a true rags-to-riches story. The founder and CEO of Lens Technology, her net worth is currently estimated at $7.4 billion.

Remarkably, Qunfei dropped out of school at age 16 to work in a factory making watch lenses. She went on to found Lens Technology, a company that makes glass screens for mobile phones and tablets for clients including Apple and Samsung. The company reportedly supplied 21 percent of the world’s mobile phones as of 2015.

In 2015, the Chinese-based company listed an IPO on the ShenzhenStock Exchange. Still the majority shareholder, Qunfei retains an 81 percent ownership stake in the company.

This article originally appeared on GoBankingRates.