20 Successful After 40

The other day I read through one of my favorite time sink websites and came across yet another list of those who did not achieve success until after 40. The problem was that this list contained the same well-tread group of names that every other website and social network media uses. Looking throughout all of space and time, aren’t there others from whom we can draw inspiration?

It took me ten minutes, but I compiled my own list. I defined their point of success as that age when they achieved that for which we know them. In most cases, their success came after decades of consistent, focused work. Their name links to their Wikipedia page. My paltry sentences do not do their lives and work justice.

In no particular order, please enjoy:

  1. Mary Kay Ash did not start her eponymously named company until 45. Mary Kay revolutionized how employees were treated and women felt about themselves.
  2. Madeleine Albright at 60 was the first woman to be Secretary of State after establishing herself squarely in the fields of international politics and diplomacy.
  3. Corrie ten Boom was hauled off to the Herzogenbusch concentration camp at 52 for hiding Jews during Nazi Occupation in Belgium. Upon her release, Corrie set up rehabilitation centers for concentration-camp survivors.
  4. Margaret Thatcher ascended to political heights at 54 when elected the first woman Prime Minister of the UK – a position she held for 11 years. She graduated with a chemistry degree.
  5. Gro Harlem Brundtland at 42 was elected to the first of three terms as Prime Minister of Norway. She headed the UN Commission for Sustainable Development. Her original training as an M.D. served her well as the head of the World Health Organization.
  6. Meg Whitman at 42 was named CEO of eBay — a company that start with 30 employees and went to more than 15,000 by the time she moved on to HP.
  7. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize at 69 years old for her dedication to ministering to and loving the unloveable in India.
  8. Ursula K. Le Guin was 41 when she finally gained wide spread recognition for her life time of writing.
  9. Indra Nooyi was named President and CEO of Pepsi Co. at 46. She got her first job after interviewing in her traditional sari… Indian modesty means keeping one’s ankles covered.
  10. Maya Angelou finally won international acclaim for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” at 41. She was only the second poet to read their work at a U.S. Presidential Inauguration.
  11. Katharine Graham took the reigns of the Washington Post at 46, after her mentally ill husband left her for another woman and then committed suicide. Among other awards, she went on to win a Pulitzer prize.
  12. Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win an Academy Award for directing (Hurt Locker) at 58. She also directed Zero Dark Thirty and cult classic, Point Break.
  13. Suze Orman started publishing her books on finance at 41, but it wasn’t until she hit 51 that her show aired on CNBC and America got to know her broad smile and sage financial advice.
  14. Shirley Chisholm at 45 became the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress. She was also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
  15. Wilma Mankiller at 40 was elected first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. This position holds tremendous sway with all other Native American tribes, the Canadian government and the U.S. government.
  16. Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepted nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States at 60 years old. Now past 90, she continues to serve. Her friend and colleague, Sandra Day O’Conner was a mere 51 when she started her tenure on the bench.
  17. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book (Little House in the Big Woods) at 65. The rest of the Little House on the Prairie series came later.
  18. Diane von Furstenberg at 51 relaunched her fashion company and gave us the now famous wrap dress. She’s been dressing professional women ever since.
  19. Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde held various ministerial positions in France before becoming the first woman managing director of the International Monetary Fund at 55.
  20. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia at 68 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize five years later for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.

I lied.. there were 21.

Who is on your list?


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