Respect Equality

USA TODAY names 2023 Women of the Year

This year’s list includes Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, astronaut Nicole Mann, and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey speaks during a Democratic election night party Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Story at a glance

  • Each year, USA TODAY’s Women of the Year program recognizes women across the country working to benefit Americans and the global community.

  • The 2023 honorees champion causes including Alzheimer’s disease research and preserving Chinatowns in cities across America.

  • Past honorees include Simone Biles, Rachel Levine, and Melinda French Gates. 

To mark Women’s History Month, USA TODAY announced its annual list of Women of the Year. This year’s honorees include politicians, public figures, and activists working to spark widespread positive change. 

The diverse list includes more well-known figures like former First Lady Michelle Obama, along with groups of women working together to make change, like the USA Women’s Soccer Team. 

Their work ranged from leading the call for policy initiatives for equal pay to advocating for children’s mental health. 

Here is this year’s list of honorees.

Quannah Rose Chasinghorse-Potts 

The Indigenous American model and activist is being recognized for her work lobbying against oil leasing, championing Indigenous culture and fighting for climate justice. Chasinghorse-Potts was born on Navajo Nation in Arizona and is both Hän Gwich’in and Sicangu-Oglala Lakota. Alongside her mother, Chasinghorse-Potts advocates to protect her homelands from oil drilling with a goal to preserve lands for future generations. 

Bobbi Cordano

Cordano serves as the president of Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. The institution is a leader in education for deaf and hard of hearing students. Cordano is the first deaf woman and openly LGBTQ+ president of the university. She is being honored by the publication for her leadership on sign language equity in education, economic opportunity and innovation. Cordano has also worked as an attorney, and opened two bilingual charter schools for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Goldie Hawn

Actress Goldie Hawn is being honored for her charitable work and contributions, which focus on youth education services and mental health. The Goldie Hawn Foundation teamed up with researchers and scientists to create MindUp for Life. The 15-lesson learning program for schools teaches children skills to regulate stress, form positive relationships, and act with kindness. It currently operates in 47 countries

Maura Healey

The Massachusetts governor made headlines last year when she became one of the two first openly lesbian governors in American history. Tina Kotek (D) also won her bid for governor of Oregon in 2022. USA TODAY is honoring Healey as the first woman and openly LGBTQ person elected governor of Massachusetts and for her leadership and advocacy for LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights. In 2015, Healey was sworn in as the first LGBTQ+ attorney general in the United States. 

Nicole Mann

In October 2022, Mann became the first Indigenous woman NASA astronaut to go to space. Mann served as commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. During her time in space, Mann and her crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments and technology demonstrations. She is also a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corp and has received two Air Medals, along with numerous other honors. Mann is registered with the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes. 

Monica Muñoz Martinez 

Martinez is an award winning author, teacher, and public historian. She is being recognized by USA TODAY for helping develop solutions to address racial injustice. Martinez is the lead investigator of Mapping Violence: Racial Terror in Texas 1900-1930, a project aimed at recovering histories of racial violence in the state. She’s also a founding member of Refusing to Forget, a non-profit organization that advocates for a public reckoning with racial violence in Texas. Martinez teaches at The University of Texas at Austin Department of History.

Michelle Obama 

Best known for being a former First Lady of the United States, in recent years Michelle Obama has turned her focus to writing and advocating for women’s health and rights. From advocating for an end to child marriage to empowering girls around the world through education, Obama’s efforts span national and international borders. In 2018, Obama launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance to help support increased access to education for adolescent girls. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, Obama has spoken out in support of reproductive rights

Sandra Day O’Connor  

First female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor is being honored for her commitment to finding a treatment and cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In 2018, O’Connor announced she had been diagnosed with the beginning stages of dementia and that she would withdraw from public life. However, prior to her own diagnosis, O’Connor served as an honorary chair of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and on the Alzheimer’s Study Group. O’Connor has also testified in front of Congress on the growing threat Alzheimer’s disease poses to the country. For years, she was the primary caregiver for her husband John Jay O’Connor when he was diagnosed with the disease.

Sheryl Lee Ralph

Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph has been working in the industry for decades, and most recently, won an Emmy for best supporting actress for her performance in Abbott Elementary. USA TODAY is not only honoring Ralph for her trailblazing work in Hollywood, but for her advocacy efforts on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 1990, Ralph founded the DIVA Foundation as a memorial to friends she lost while in the original Broadway company of Dreamgirls. The organization has hosted the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS and health awareness benefit concerts in the United States.

Grace Young

Author and culinary historian Grace Young is being recognized for her efforts and advocacy to save Chinatowns across America. Throughout the pandemic, business closures in her own Chinatown in New York spurred Young to take up the call to advocate for the ethnic communities facing challenges and extinction. Young has received a Humanitarian of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation for her work and was included on Good Morning America’s Inspiration List for Who’s Making AAPI History in 2021. 

USA Women’s Soccer Team 

Advocacy efforts by the U.S. Women’s National team lead to passage of S. 2333 Equal Pay for Team USA Act, which was signed into law by President Biden this January. The law mandates that all athletes who represent the United States in international competitions receive equal pay and benefits for their work, regardless of gender. The law applies to all athletes participating in the Olympics, World Cup and Paralympics. The legislation comes after players filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2019, and complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. 

Women of the 118th Congress 

The 118th Congress has a record number of women members. USA TODAY is honoring these lawmakers for their efforts to improve the United States’ political landscape. Women account for 28 percent of lawmakers in Congress, making up 153 of 540 voting and nonvoting members. Although the total marks a steep increase in representation compared with the 112th Congress ten years ago, the total is still far below the total share of women in the U.S. population. 

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