And The Oscar Went To… Women Trailblazers In Film

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Oscar statuettes
EntertainmentFilmHistory 2 Comments

Oscar fever is officially over. The red carpet has been rolled up, dresses and jewels have been returned to their rightful owners. Some nominees have gone on to make history, while others have headed home empty handed.

Women You Should Know congratulates this year’s award recipients on their incredible accomplishments, but we’d also like to take this time to pay homage to, and recognize the women who have made history and achieved many firsts on entertainment’s biggest night, paving the way for today’s winners.

Janet Gaynor – First woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress at the 1st Academy Awards on May 16th, 1929. She was a 22-year-old sensation that beat out veteran, movie grand dame, Gloria Swanson.

Shirley TempleShirley Temple – First actor and child to receive a “special” Oscar. In 1934, at 5 years old, she was given the Juvenile Oscar, which was a miniature version of the original statuette.

Luise Rainer – The first woman to win consecutive Best Actress awards in 1936 & 1937 for The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth.

Hattie McDaniel – In 1940, she paved the way for African-American performers, both male and female, when she won for Best Supporting Actress in Gone with the Wind.

Katharine Hepburn – With four wins, she still holds the record for the most Oscar’s won by an actor.

Tatum O’Neal – Was the youngest person to win a competitive Academy Award. She was 10 years old when she won Best Supporting Actress in 1973, for Paper Moon.

Julia Phillips – First woman to win Best Picture, for The Sting in 1973.

Jessica Tandy – Until Christopher Plummer’s win last night, she held the record for the oldest Oscar winner with her win in 1989, for Driving Miss Daisy, she was 80 at the time.

Halle Berry OscarHalle Berry – In 2002, for her role in Monster Ball, Ms. Berry became the first African-American woman to win Best Actress.

Kathryn Bigelow – Made history in 2010 when she became the first woman to win Best Director.  She is one of only four women to ever be nominated for Best Director, in 84 years.

Meryl Streep  – Holds the record for the most-nominated performer, male or female, in all acting categories. She has been nominated 17 times.


Unfortunately, women are still significantly underrepresented in the film industry. With only 25% of Oscar nominees being women there are many new firsts still to come. Barbra Streisand said it best when introducing a special tribute honoring women in film in 1993, “I look forward to the time when tributes like this will no longer be necessary, because women…will be honored without regard to gender, but simply for the excellence of their work.”

We do too.

  • LRB

    I have another Oscar “first for women” that I just read about this weekend… apparently the practice of lending gems on Oscar night began in 1944, when Harry Winston (of the legendary jewelry house), allowed actress Jennifer Jones, nominated for Best Actress, to borrow some diamonds. So, she was the “first” woman to become a walking jewelry brand billboard on the Oscars red carpet… but, I doubt that back then anyone was shoving a microphone in her face, demanding to know, “who are you wearing?”

  • Alice

    It is shocking that in 84 years only 4 women have been nominated for Best Director… I honestly cannot wrap my head around that fact.

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