100 years of power

From Mary Pickford to Carly Fiorina, the most powerful businesswomen by decade.

Katharine Graham (1917-2001)
Katharine Graham (1917-2001)
Chairman and CEO, Washington Post Company

Graham got the top job the old-fashioned way: She inherited it. Her father, Eugene Meyer, bought the Post in 1933; Graham took over the reins after the suicide of her husband in 1963. She led The Washington Post through the Vietnam era, publishing the Pentagon Papers, and Watergate, a story the Post owned. At the same time, she oversaw the changes that turned a once-struggling local newspaper into a national force. The company, which also owns Newsweek, diversified into television and took stakes in other newspapers. In the process, she became the first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and a staple on "most admired women" lists.

"The thing women must do to rise to power is to redefine their femininity," she once said. "Once power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact power has no sex."

Mary Pickford

C.J. Walker

Elizabeth Arden

Lila Acheson Wallace

Mary Gindhart Roebling

Olive Ann Beech

Margaret Rudkin

Ida Rosenthal

Ruth Handler

Estée Lauder

Katharine Graham

Catherine Cleary

Linda Wachner

Carly Fiorina
50 Most Powerful Women Women have come a long way (don't say 'baby') - and they're not slowing down. The credentials of the women on Fortune's list this year are the strongest yet. (more)
25 Highest-paid women Which corporate women raked it in last year - and how much did they earn? (more)
25 Best-paid men See how male executives' paychecks compare. (more)