Every December we have the honor and pleasure of going back through the year to find the women who have made news, made leaps forward, or made our hearts swell. The task reminds of us of what went right over the past months when so much went wrong—lingering COVID, non-stop political divisions, threats from the far right, a war in Ukraine, the rollback of women’s reproductive rights.
So here are our 2022 Women of the Year—two musicians, two politicians, three actresses, an editor, a judge, an academic star, a broadcaster, an activist—just a small sampling of what makes women at this stage of life so impactful, influential, and bold!
Click through the photos below (using the red arrows) to see who we’re honoring.
Never have we admired Emma Thompson more than we have this year. We wrote about the courage it took to stand fully naked in her movie Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and her quote, “If you want the iconography of the female body to change, then you better be part of the change,” rallied us to create the Real Body Challenge.
Women from all over the country sent in anonymous photos of themselves naked from the neck down. Our goal was to honor and celebrate bodies of all ages, shapes, and sizes. The bonus was the outpouring of emotions regarding body image that women shared with us.
There’s no doubt in our minds that Nancy Pelosi is the most skilled female politician in US history. What other woman (or man!) has navigated such treacherous waters as the 2008 financial crisis, Trump, and COVID?
We hate to see her retire, but we understand how tired she must be after years of doing the Washington dance—especially after the heinous attack on her husband. Thank you, Nancy, for all you’ve done to raise the profile and build the reputation of older women.
Singer/songwriter Lurleen Ladd is exceptionally gifted at the art of paying it forward. Because she struggled to pursue her singing career, she wanted to help someone else in the same boat to coincide with the release of her second album.
NextTribe partnered with Lurleen to find two singers looking for a break, and Lurleen flew them to Austin, where they opened at her album release concert on December 8th. We’re not surprised by this kind of generosity in a woman our age, but we are thoroughly impressed.
Michelle Yeoh is having a moment. Her role as the multi-faceted badass in Everything Everywhere All at Once has created Oscar buzz and has demonstrated that you simply can’t pigeonhole actresses (or women in general) as they age.
“You can see that there are less roles as you start aging, and then you get relegated to very familiar ‘older woman’ roles,” she told Time magazine, which named her its Icon of the Year. “What has happened very dramatically is that women have taken control of their own destiny. So many of us go out there and say, ‘Guess what? We’re going to make it happen.'”
Supreme Court Justice is a coveted title, but in this past year, it’s become a wooly one. After overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has been widely criticized for becoming too political. Though we worry about the way the court is moving, we feel enormous comfort that Ketanji Brown Jackson is now on the bench.
She is widely known as a consensus builder, and as both a former public defender and the niece of the Miami Chief of Police, she has been imbued with a sense of justice for all sides.
The governor of Michigan is proving to be a formidable foe against right-wing extremists. Obviously, Gretchen Whitmer wasn’t happy about the kidnapping plot against her, but she wasn’t daunted by it either.
The coattails of her landslide re-election in November helped bring in other progressives and shored up her power, turning Michigan into a Midwest bulwark against fascist sentiments that have rocked other non-coastal states.
Judy Woodruff has shown anyone who holds onto stupid stereotypes that women are perfectly capable of being sane and calming during a crisis. She’s helped us through crises (plural) of the highest order as anchor of PBS NewsHour.
“Ms. Woodruff’s measured delivery, with her hands clasped and her voice low, stands as a counterweight to a haywire era of American news,” said the New York Times. Judy will retire at the end of the year, and we’ll miss her and her serene intelligence on our screens every night.
Funny has rarely packed as big a wallop as it does with Jean Smart in Hacks. We laughed, obviously, but Jean as Deborah Vance calls attention to the indignities and injustices that professional, ambitious women of a certain age must endure.
“Filled as it is with heightened insights about sexism, ageism, professional disappointment and intergenerational friendship,” wrote our media critic Barbara Lippert, “the show is a knowing oasis in an otherwise terribly regressive moment for women.”
So much about Claudine Gay’s rise to president of Harvard University is inspiring. She is the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She is the second woman to lead the country’s oldest institution of higher learning. She is the first Black president.
In a video produced for the announcement, Claudine said: “As a woman of color, as a daughter of immigrants, if my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging at Harvard, that is a great honor.”
What we appreciate most about Sara Nelson, the executive editor of Harper Collins who has the power to shepherd projects from the idea phase to bookstore shelves, is that she is very dedicated to giving back and sharing her knowledge.
Sara’s two book publishing workshops for NextTribe members have made a world of difference, participants report. One woman even got an agent as a direct result of the workshop. Sara will also be lunching with the women who travel to New York City with NextTribe in April!
2022 was a banner year for Joni Mitchell. And as such, a memorable year for her fans.
In April, at a ceremony in Las Vegas, MusicCares—the charitable wing of the Grammys—held a gloriously loving tribute to Joni, naming her their Person of the Year.
In July, Joni played her first full-set concert in two decades at the iconic Newport Folk Festival, with the loving support from singer Brandi Carlisle. We’re thrilled to see the legend back in the spotlight.
We’ll always remember 2022—sorrowfully, maddeningly—as the year women lost autonomy over their own bodies. But it’s ingenious women like Rebecca Gomperts who give us hope. Rebecca is a Dutch physician and founder of Aid Access, which provides medical abortions (in pill form) in countries and now US states where they are outlawed.
“I have great trust in the resilience of women,” she told Glamour, which also named her as a Woman of the Year. “At some point, we will all have to decide, ‘You want to control us. We are not controllable.’”