They used their fame and influence to inspire the deaf community or to encourage people to have the COVID-19 vaccine. Some have shown fearless strength and resilience in the face of adversity while others have simply spread joy with their music, acting or dancing (even when they didn’t intend it!). Here are 10 women who did us proud in 2021…
Best known for playing Frankie Lewis in the BBC soap Eastenders, 27-year-old Rose Ayling-Ellis made history in September by becoming the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.
Her partnership with Giovanni Pernice immediately caught the public’s imagination. Their Couple’s Choice dance featured a period of silence, included as a tribute to the deaf community and was described by judge Anton Du Beke as "the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on the show".
In December, the delighted pair picked up the glitterball trophy in the final, with head judge Shirley Ballas saying: "I know in your heart you did it for the deaf community but for me, you did this for every person watching this show. You are an inspirational young lady."
Always a controversial figure in the eyes of the British press, the Duchess of Sussex made 2021 her year to tell ‘her truth’ about what happened within the Royal Family.
In a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, 40-year-old Meghan revealed that she told Prince Harry she "didn’t want to be alive anymore" and had experienced suicidal thoughts.
On a more positive note, Meghan became a mother for the second time in June, giving birth to daughter Lilibet, who is eighth in line to the throne. She and Harry also urged the world to share COVID-19 vaccines and campaigned for disadvantaged people.
Read more: Wins for women: A 2021 roundup
Watch: Cynthia Erivo: "Be OK with who you are"
Dame Emma Thompson
If the phrase ‘dance like no-one is watching’ was taken literally by anyone this year, it was by Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter Emma Thompson.
The 62-year-old star looked as if she didn’t have a care in the world when she stood up in the crowd of celebrities in the star-studded An Audience with Adele last month and encouraged others to bust some moves. Social media went crazy.
Perhaps she was inspired by her husband Greg Wise’s appearance on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing?
It’s been an incredible year for the 19-year-old tennis player who entered the US Open as a wildcard entry and finished it by becoming the first female British Grand Slam singles champion in 44 years.
Raducanu was fresh from completing her A-levels when she started the competition, but she stunned spectators by becoming the youngest Briton ever to win a Grand Slam title.
Now, she has been tipped to become the first £1bn sportswoman, with deals already in the bag with Tiffany and Co and Dior. She topped off her year by winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021.
The 40-year-old singer and songwriter has experienced a rollercoaster year, but it ended on a high.
In November 2021, a judge approved the termination of Britney’s conservatorship, a controversial legal arrangement meaning that her father – and other professionals – could control everything from whether she had a bank card to what contraception she could use.
The case sparked international protests, with fans organising #freeBritney demonstrations. It also prompted widespread scrutiny of the media’s treatment of female pop stars and of the obscure guardianship system.
Fans had already speculated that new music from the British singer and songwriter was imminent after mysterious 30 signs started appearing on buildings around the world.
Sure enough, on 19 November, she released her long-awaited new album of the same name and it became the fastest selling album of 2021. The first song from her fourth album, Easy On Me, went straight to number one.
Adele has said she recorded the album to help explain her divorce to her young son.
The singer recently announced that she is going to Las Vegas with a four-month long residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace (COVID permitting).
Taylor Swift started her career in music signing to Big Machine Records in 2005. In the contract, Big Machine owned all of the original recordings of Swift's first six albums, even when the singer moved on to Universal’s Republic Records in 2018.
But the 32-year-old singer and songwriter has taken back control over her work and is re-recording her albums after her former record label sold her back catalogue in a reported $300m deal.
The 25-year-old actress and singer has said she is most inspired by the ‘misunderstood, fashion-obsessed kid you went to school with’ and she is certainly inspiring young women and girls now.
Starting her career as a child actor on the Disney Channel she has made a successful transition to more grown-up movies and can now be seen alongside her real-life boyfriend Tom Holland in the latest Spider-Man movie.
Already a global ambassador for fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger, this year she became the youngest person to win the Council of Fashion Designers of America Icon Award.
As one of Joe Biden’s most out-front celebrity supporters and friends, Lady Gaga began the year with ‘one of the proudest days of my whole life’, singing at the presidential inauguration in January.
Her movie career continues to glitter as well. This year she starred alongside Adam Driver in the film House of Gucci. Gaga, who plays Patrizia Reggiani in the film said she called on past personal traumas to prepare do the role of Reggiani and said it was one of the most emotionally challenging roles to date, adding: "I was so broken at the end."
The 18-year-old actress and singer/songwriter showed great maturity when she visited the White House to urge young people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Her visit was first announced on president Joe Biden’s Instagram account. She said: ‘I am in awe of the work President Biden and Dr Fauci have done and was happy to lend my support to this important initiative.’
Regarded as one of Generation Z's finest artists, she ended the year by being named Entertainer of The Year by Time Magazine.
Watch: 8 Amazing Women in Art