Girls Who Changed the World
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Teenage Dreamers1 of 11
By Natasha Burton
While most accomplished people reach their goals after years of hard work and life experience, some enterprising young women made their marks on the world well before adulthood. These teenagers had talent, tenacity or a combination of the two that made them exceptional beyond their years.
Anne Frank2 of 11
There are few young women who are as often discussed and revered as Holocaust victim Anne Frank. Known primarily through her diary, which was published after her death, her writing conveys both the terror of her family's situation and the romantic longings of a typical teenage girl.
Helen Keller3 of 11
At 19 months old, this future author and activist was stricken with an illness that left her deaf and blind. With the help of her tutor, Anne Sullivan, she later attended Radcliffe University, becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. (At just 16 years old, actress Patty Duke won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Keller in The Miracle Worker.)
Twiggy4 of 11
Nicknamed for her skinny frame, Twiggy became the first well-known British teenage model, at 16 years old. While she only modeled for four years, her androgynous look (notably her thin build and cropped hair) made her one of the most recognizable fashion icons of the 1960s.
Tavi Gevinson5 of 11
At age 11, this pioneer fashion blogger launched the site Style Rookie in March 2008. After pulling in over 50,000 avid readers and having her name dropped in high-profile publications like The New York Times and Vogue Italia, she continues to serve as both a muse for designers and an authority on modern fashion. (As seen by her adoption of the gray hair trend, she's also quite the risk-taker.)
Elizabeth Smart6 of 11
When she was just 14, Smart was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City, and subsequently spent nine months imprisoned by two crazed individuals who tortured her. While some would have been forever dilapidated by the experience—and rightly so—Smart went on to become a political activist and plans to start a foundation to help young people recover from similarly violent events.
Nadia Comaneci7 of 11
This world-renowned gymnast was the very first to receive a perfect score at the Olympic games in gymnastics, for the uneven bars event. Following this feat, the 14-year-old was named Female Athlete of the Year by The Associated Press.
Shirley Temple8 of 11
While this iconic child star made her mark well before her teen years, she showed poise throughout her young adulthood and paved the way for the likes of other precocious young actors, such as Jodie Foster and Dakota Fanning. (She also had the good sense to retire in her early 20s and live out the rest of her life relatively free from the limelight.)
Mary Shelley9 of 11
As the daughter of philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, it's not all that hard to believe that this British writer began working on her classic novel Frankenstein at the age of 18. Her book has since inspired countless modern movie and television adaptations, as well as other written works that center around her famous monster.
Joan of Arc10 of 11
During the Hundred Years' War, this teenager led the French army to victory, posing as a man and wearing a knight's armor. However, because she claimed to possess divine guidance—seen as a threat to the French throne—she was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake at 19 years old. Several centuries later, she was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
Nujood Ali11 of 11
Before even reaching her teens, this young girl from Yemen obtained a divorce from her thirtysomething husband in 2008, at age 10. After legal proceedings deemed that her break from tribal tradition was indeed justified, she wrote and published a memoir, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced, and has since begun studying to become a lawyer.