Single and Successful: 10 Women Who Redefined Spinsterhood

Whenever the media talks about single women—especially famous ones—it’s typically to psychoanalyze why they haven’t settled down or to present a laundry list of their past failed relationships. It’s rarely a celebration of their accomplishments or a consideration that they might have chosen to stay single. They say that behind every powerful man, there’s a powerful woman, but behind many a powerful woman is nothing but her own rear end. While the term “spinsterhood” is arguably one of the ugliest words in the dictionary, these fearless females have redefined it as a fabulous concept.
Diane Keaton
Oprah Winfrey
Coco Chanel
Susan B. Anthony
Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Tyra Banks
Queen Latifah
Mother Teresa
Jane Austen
Susan Boyle
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Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton is an Academy Award–winning actress, mother, photographer, writer, and singleton. While she’s been linked to numerous Hollywood greats, including Warren Beatty and Al Pacino (not to mention her most legendary romance with the one and only Woody Allen), she never married. In 2001, she famously publicly denounced the need to pursue romance and happily lives her life as one of the most successful actresses on the silver screen.


Quotable Quote: I don’t think that because I’m not married it’s made my life any less. That old-maid myth is garbage.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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Oprah Winfrey

Despite her tumultuous upbringing, Oprah triumphed (without a ring on her finger) and skyrocketed above abuse, poverty, and unhealthy relationships to become one of the most powerful and wealthy women in the 20th century. While she does have the support and love of longtime-beau Stedman Graham, there are few greater advocates—and role models—for being a strong, single, and successful woman than Oprah.


Quotable Quote: Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.


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Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur (aka Coco) Chanel took the sewing skills she learned from nuns in the orphanage where she was raised and turned them into one of the most renowned fashion empires ever created—all without the help of a man. While she dated some of the most influential men of her time, including the Duke of Westminster, and masterminded Chanel No. 5, which can lure even the most elusive of suitors, she never married.


Quotable Quote: I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.


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Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony was a pivotal player in gaining voting rights for women. An educator, a renowned public speaker, and a devoted fighter for civil rights, Anthony was an independent (and outspoken) freethinker during a time when women were best kept barefoot and pregnant.


Quotable Quote: I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.


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Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Dr. Rice’s numerous accomplishments include being the first African American female secretary of state and being a pioneering force behind spreading democracy in the Middle East. Today she works as a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and as a director of its Global Center for Business and the Economy. While she likes to keep her private life, well, private, Piers Morgan recently pressed her in an interview about her choice to not marry. She responded, “I think I’m well beyond the fairy-tale marriage stage.”


Quotable Quote: I believe in a marriage of equals, that’s how my parents were, and that’s how I would see it.


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Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks started as a gawky teen model and forayed her sashays down the runway into a booming career as a media and business mogul. With no rock on her finger or man by her side, she’s managed to host an award-winning talk show, be a successful author, and is now earning an MBA from Harvard. If that’s not something to smize about, what is?


Quotable Quote: My mom never taught me to be waiting for some prince on a white horse to swipe me off my feet.


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Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah (commonly known as Dana Elaine Owens) has received a Golden Globe award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Image Awards, a Grammy Award, six additional Grammy nods, and an Academy and Emmy nod. When it comes to a woman who commands respect in Hollywood, the Queen leads the pack. Ignoring rumors about her sexual orientation and forging ahead in her career, Queen Latifah has redefined what it means to be hip, solo, and thriving.


Quotable Quote: I was taught from a young age that many people would treat me as a second-class citizen because I was African-American and because I was female.


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Mother Teresa

Even though she didn’t have the love of a man, Mother Teresa was an ambassador for the power of unconditional love. As the founder of Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, she led a global movement that served the sick, orphaned, dying, and poor. True, she was a nun and technically not allowed to marry, but that didn’t stop her from showing the world that no woman needs a man to conquer it.


Quoteable Quote: Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.


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Jane Austen

British wordsmith Jane Austen is the mastermind behind literary feats including Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Even though Austen was a genius at fictional romance, she never married. While she was reportedly engaged—for 24 hours—to longtime friend Harris Bigg Wither, she lived out her dying days single in the home of her family.


Quotable Quote: A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.


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Susan Boyle

Frumpy and dowdy Susan Boyle grabbed the world’s heartstrings with her show-stopping performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. At the ripe young age of 50, Boyle claims to never have been married and—gasp—never been kissed. The lack of testosterone by her side didn’t stop her from being one of the bestselling artists on charts around the globe.


Quotable Quote: I live by myself with my cat Pebbles . . . but I have the support of all my brothers and sisters and my neighbors and friends.


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