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Time for women: The numbers behind the history of Person of the Year

Five women – and an obscured sixth – grace the cover of Time’s Person of the Year issue, honoring the “the Silence Breakers,” the men and women exposing sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The accompanying article was conceived, reported and written by women, according to a tweet from Charlotte Alter, the national correspondent for the magazine.

“It was fact-checked by women. The video was shot and edited by women. The layout and photo spread were designed by women,” Alter tweeted. “It's one of the reasons I'm proud to work at Time.”

But as incisive a decision it was to acknowledge the #MeToo campaign as the most influential narrative of the year, where have the contributions of women landed on the Time list historically?

Here are some numbers.


Number of American women to nab solo Person of the Year honors: 1

Wallis Simpson, the socialite who spurred a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom, is the only American woman to have earned the title of Person of the Year on her own. The year was 1936 and her claim to fame was spurring King Edward VIII to abdicate the throne in the interest of true love.

Number of women to independently earn Person of the Year: 4

After Simpson, only three other women have been individually recognized with the title. A newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II earned the title in 1952. Corazon Aquino, first female president of the Philippines, was honored in 1986. German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the accolade in 2015.

Number of times a watchdog group consisting predominantly of women has been Person of the Year: 2

In addition to “the Silence Breakers” this year, Time honored “the Whistleblowers” in 2002, represented by three women, Cynthia Cooper, Sherron Watkins and Coleen Rowley, who called out workplace misconduct at WorldCom, Enron and the FBI, respectively. 

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