Women Who Made History, Broke Records, Achieved Firsts This Year

At age 19, Zara Rutherford became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.

Pilot Zara Rutherford smiles and waves from the cockpit of her plane


Zara Rutherford.

Olivier Matthys/Getty Images

Rutherford, whose father is a former British military pilot, circumnavigated the globe in her single-seater sport plane over five months. She broke two world records in the process as both the youngest woman to fly around the world and the first woman to do so in a microlight aircraft, according to the Washington Post.

American speed skater Erin Jackson won a gold medal in Beijing in February, making her the first Black woman to win the event at the Winter Olympics.

Speed skater Erin Jackson carrying American flag above her head after winning gold medal


Erin Jackson.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Jackson took home the gold in the 500-meter speed-skating event.

“I know I will be reflecting on this for a long time to come but if I had one thing to share it would be this: If a Black girl from central Florida can stand on the top step of an Olympic podium on the other side of the world as a champion ice skater, well, perhaps it’s true that anything is possible,” Jackson said in a statement shared with Insider’s Gabi Stevenson.

Speed skater Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands set a new world record in the women’s 1,000-meter short track.

Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands celebrates after winning the gold medal


Suzanne Schulting.

Lan Hongguang/Xinhua via Getty Images

Schulting, the defending Olympic champion, finished the quarterfinals race with a record time of 1:26.514. In the finals, she finished in 1:28.391 and won gold.

Speed skater Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands became the first athlete in history to win an individual gold medal at five different Olympic Games.

Ireen Wust wears a gold Olympic medal around her neck


Ireen Wüst.

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Wüst has won a total of 12 medals, including six gold, since her first Olympics in 2006. At 35 years old, she is also the oldest speed skater to win a gold medal.

At 49 years and 348 days old, German speed skater Claudia Pechstein set a new record for the oldest woman to ever compete in the Winter Olympics.

Speed skater Claudia Pechstein of Germany smiles and gives a thumbs-up


Claudia Pechstein.

ANP via Getty Images

Pechstein is also the only woman to ever compete in eight Olympic Games. She has won a total of nine medals: five gold, two silver, and two bronze.

Australian golfer Hannah Green became the first woman to win a mixed-gender professional golf tournament.

Hannah Green of Australia swings a golf club


Hannah Green.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Green made history as the winner of Australia’s TPS Murray River event on February 20, Reuters reported. She was also the 2019 Women’s PGA Championship winner.

In March, Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman of color and the first Afro-Latina actress to win a SAG Award for acting.

riana DeBose accepts Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role at the 28th SAG Awards


Ariana DeBose.

Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

DeBose won best supporting actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story.”

“It’s indicative that doors are opening,” DeBose told reporters backstage in the virtual SAG media room after her win, according to NBC News. “It’s an honor to an Afro Latina queer women of color and a dancer and a singer and an actor.”

Jane Campion’s second Oscar nomination for best director made her the first woman to receive multiple Oscar nods for directing. She went on to win the award at this year’s ceremony.

Director Jane Campion at an event. She has shoulder-length grey hair and glasses.


Jane Campion.

Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Campion’s first nomination was in 1994 for “The Piano,” although she did not win that year.

Her second nomination came this year for “The Power of the Dog” and marked the first time a woman had received multiple nominations in the category. She won the award, which meant it was also the first time that two female directors won the award back-to-back — Chloe Zhao won for “Nomadland” last year.

DeBose made history again as the first openly queer actor of color and the first Afro-Latina actress to win an Oscar.

Ariana DeBose poses with her Oscar at the 2022 Academy Awards


Ariana DeBose.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

DeBose won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role as Anita in “West Side Story.”

“Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. When you look into her eyes you see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate,” DeBose said in her acceptance speech. “So to anybody who’s ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever, or you find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”

Billie Eilish won an Oscar for best original song, making her the first Academy Award winner born in the 21st century.

Billie Eilish


Billie Eilish.

PATRICK T. FALLON / Contributor Getty Images

Eilish, who was born in December 2001, and her brother and collaborator, Finneas O’Connell, took home the award for best original song for their James Bond theme “No Time to Die.”

After accepting the award, a shocked Eilish said, “Whoa. Oh my God. You guys! This is so unbelievable, I could scream!”

Although just 20 years old, Eilish is not the youngest ever recipient of the award — Markéta Irglová won best original song for “Falling Slowly” from “Once” in 2008, when she was 19.

The Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination in April, making her the first Black woman to become a Supreme Court justice.

Ketanji Brown Jackson


Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Jackson is poised to serve as the 116th justice and the first Black woman on the Supreme Court in its 233-year history once retiring Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, steps down this summer, Insider’s Oma Seddiq reported.

She also makes history as the first former public defender elevated to the top court, bringing a diverse legal background to the bench that was highly sought-after by the Biden White House.

Three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah — broke with their party and joined all 50 Democrats in the historic vote, a showing of bipartisanship that has become increasingly rare for Supreme Court confirmations.

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