In 2022, we marked the passing of a number of exceptional women whose phenomenal impact on culture, entertainment, politics, and many other fields will never be forgotten or diminished. Several of them were bold pioneers and adventurous trailblazers who opened doors for the women who came after them. Each was passionate about what she was doing. Each is irreplaceable.
We thought this would be an appropriate time to revisit these ladies’ lives and achievements. It’s our way to say thank you one more time and bid them a respectful, grateful farewell.
Queen Elizabeth II
When then-Princess Elizabeth made a radio address to her subjects on her 21st birthday, April 21, 1947, she uttered this stirring vow: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
As queen, she resolutely kept that promise for the next seven decades, through political upheaval, war, 15 prime ministers, and seismic social and economic changes in England and throughout the world. She was wholly dedicated to the monarchy and preserving all its grand, historic traditions. Queen Elizabeth prioritized her royal duties above all else and won the hearts and minds of her people for doing so.
She filled many roles – monarch, wife, family matriarch, and national symbol. Even when headline-generating scandals erupted involving her children’s marriages – Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s – she remained unflustered and steadfast.
No other female monarch in history has surpassed the length of her reign – an astounding 70 years and 214 days, before she died in September.
Modern audiences knew Angela Lansbury from her role as charming sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the TV series Murder, She Wrote (1984-96), films such as Beauty and the Beast (1991), and the play Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979). Devotees of films from Hollywood’s Golden Era recall Lansbury’s performances in movies like Gaslight (1944) and The Harvey Girls (1946). This resilient and gifted lady had an 80-year career that was truly unmatched. Lansbury’s homespun charm made her loved by generations of moviegoers, theater aficionados, and TV buffs.
Olivia Newton-John was wholesome yet sexy, a potent combination that, along with her abundant talent, distinguished her highly successful career as a singer and actress. She sold over 100 million records worldwide, won four Grammy Awards as well as plenty of other professional honors, and starred alongside John Travolta in one of the most popular musical films ever, Grease (1978). Behind the scenes, Newton-John bravely dealt with breast cancer three times and advocated for breast cancer research.
To loads of music lovers, keyboardist and singer Christine McVie was the unobtrusive engine that made Fleetwood Mac run. She joined its ranks in 1970 after she wed John McVie, and went on to become a vital member of the band and a leading creator of its inimitable sound. McVie penned some of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits such as “Songbird,” “You Make Loving Fun,” and “Don’t Stop,” which became an anthem for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
After Shelley Long left the NBC sitcom Cheers, Kirstie Alley breezed into the pub where everybody knew your name without missing a beat. She made the role of Rebecca Howe so indelible for six years, and was such an ideal comic foil for Ted Danson’s Sam Malone, that she earned a Golden Globe and an Emmy for it. Alley was also an accomplished film actress who was in the Look Who’s Talking franchise, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), and Summer School (1987). Alley was sassy, she was witty, and she was just so darn funny.
Cecilia Suyat Marshall
Marshall was married to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the High Court, for 38 years. She was a prominent and passionate civil rights activist her whole life and worked from 1948 to 1955 as the secretary for the deputy executive director of the NAACP, Dr. Gloster B. Current.
Speaking of Star Trek, while the show ended its run on television in 1969, it’s a good bet that no one who watched it ever forgot Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the show and in some of its cinematic sequels. It was a groundbreaking role for a Black actress on television.
Nichols intended to leave the show to take a role on Broadway, even writing a letter of resignation and giving it to the creator and producer of Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry. However, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. implored Nichols to stay, telling her that she was a hugely important figure to Black women and youngsters across America who were inspired by her. Not only did Nichols change her mind and remain on Star Trek, she also helped NASA to recruit women and minorities.
Madeleine Albright, the United States Of America’s 64th secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, was the first female to serve in that position. The milestones on her resume indicate the depth of her commitment to representing her country at the top diplomatic level.
Albright was on the National Security Council, the faculty of Georgetown University, was our ambassador to the United Nations, and was a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this nation’s highest civilian honor.
Who can forget being enthralled by films like Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983)? Those movies were so captivating largely because of their musical scores. Their title songs became deservedly famous, along with the gifted woman who performed them, Irene Cara. She also co-wrote “Flashdance…What a Feeling.”
Glamorous yet down-to-earth, she skyrocketed to stardom on the popularity of those tunes. “Fame” was an international chart-topper. “Flashdance…What a Feeling” won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Loretta Lynn, known as the Queen of Country Music, will be remembered for her silky voice and hits like “Fist City,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Lynn exerted a profound influence on the country music genre during her six-decade career. She was a courageous risk-taker and championed women’s right to self-empowerment. Her songs tackled controversial themes like birth control, the stigma unfairly faced by divorced women, and the Vietnam War. Remarkably prolific, Lynn wrote 160 songs and recorded 50 studio albums.
Naomi and Wynonna Judd sang together as a crowd-pleasing mother-daughter duo, The Judds. Among their accomplishments, they garnered five Grammy Awards and recorded 20 top ten hits. Wynonna and her sister, Ashley, disclosed that their mother took her own life on April 30, 2022, as a result of mental illness in the hope of enhancing public understanding and encouraging people to seek treatment.
Anne Heche attracted almost as much attention for her head-turning romantic relationship with Ellen DeGeneres from 1997 to 2000 – she claimed that she was blacklisted in Hollywood because of it – as she did for her acting. Heche gave knockout performances in films such as Donnie Brasco (1997) and Wag the Dog the same year. She moved easily from doing films to being on stage to acting on television. Heche’s death on August 11, 2022 from injuries she suffered in a fiery car crash in Los Angeles ended a brilliant career far too soon.
The name Estelle Harris might not ring a bell, but the role she played on Seinfeld as George Costanza’s mother is probably one you recall from watching the quirky sitcom. She did voice work for many films, plus commercials early in her career, but it was playing Estelle Costanza that propelled her to fame. Harris said of the character, “She is the mother that everybody loves, even though she’s a pain in the neck.”
Before Loretta Swit was Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the TV series M*A*S*H, the role belonged to singer and actress Sally Kellerman in Robert Altman’s 1970 film. She received an Academy Award nomination for her dazzling and memorable performance as the nurse Hawkeye couldn’t stop picking on. Kellerman’s career endured for 60 years. She acted in a slew of films, some of which were helmed by Altman, plus TV shows with credits in such classics Bonanza (1966 and 1970), The Outer Limits (1963 and 1965), The Twilight Zone (1963), and the film Back To School (1986). We will always remember Kellerman for being the unforgettable nurse from the 4077th MASH.
Imagine cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s landmark book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie Powell didn’t just imagine doing it, she actually whipped up scores of Child’s delectable dishes and wrote about the experience. What began as a blog for Salon morphed into a book, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Child frowned upon it, calling it “a stunt,” according to her editor, but readers ate it up.
Not many actresses can compete with Jack Nicholson, but Louise Fletcher nearly stole a film out from under him when she played the brutish Nurse Mildred Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). A merciless harridan, she ruled over the patients at a mental institution like a dictator. That stellar performance won Fletcher a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award, and an Academy Award. Her career after Cuckoo’s Nest was somewhat uneven, yet she had already left her mark in Hollywood history.
Ronnie Spector and her all-girl singing group, The Ronettes, belted out 1960s hits like “Be My Baby” (1963), “Do I Love You?” (1964), and “Baby, I Love You” (1963). Spector, who was married to famed music producer and later, convicted murderer, Phil Spector from 1968 to 1974, had a renaissance in 1986, when Eddie Money paid homage to her in his song “Take Me Home Tonight.” Sometimes referred to as the first “bad girl of rock and roll,” Spector’s music was oh-so-good.