Famous People Living Solo, Present and Past


Maureen Dowd (1952- ) is an author and columnist for the New York Times who received a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for distinguished commentary. She received the Damon Runyon award in 2000 for outstanding contributions to journalism and the Mary Alice Davis Lectureship award from the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin in 2005.

Harriet Miers (1945- ) is a lawyer who served as White House Counsel for President George W. Bush. Prior to her government service, she represented clients which included the Walt Disney Company and Microsoft. She served as president of the Dallas Bar Association (the first female to hold that post) and chaired the Board of Editors for the Journal of the American Bar Association. In 2007, she registered with the United States Department of State as an agent for the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Embassy of Pakistan.

Janet Napolitano (1957- ), governor of Arizona, was nominated by President-elect Obama to become Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. She is a breast cancer survivor.

Sally J. Priesand (1946- ): America’s first ordained female rabbi. Rabbi Priesand has leadership roles in the Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County, Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey, the Center for Holocaust Studies at Brookdale Community College and she is president of the board of directors for Interfaith Neighbors Inc. After battling breast and thyroid cancer, Priesand retired in 2006. In 2007, she donated her professional and personal papers to the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio to document the history of women in the rabbinate. In 2009 she received the prestigious Elizabeth Blackwell Award.

Helen Reddy (1941- ): Australian pop singer and actress. She scored an international hit in 1972 with “I am Woman”, a song that quickly became a feminist anthem and hit #1 on the U.S. charts. Reddy has also appeared in many movies and television series, including two that she hosted. In 2006, she published an autobiography titled, The Woman I Am.

Janet Reno (1938- ) was appointed by President Bill Clinton as Attorney General, the first woman to hold that post. Reno served the longest term as Attorney General since William Wirt in 1829. Prominent cases prosecuted during her term include the Unabomber, the Oklahoma City Bomber and the Microsoft Antitrust case. In 2009, Reno was awarded the Justice Award by the American Judicature Society which is given to individuals who have made significant contributions toward improvements in the administration of justice within the U.S.

Dr. Condoleezza Rice (1954- ) currently serves as U.S. Secretary of State and is the first African-American woman to hold that Cabinet post. She previously served as National Security Advisor (2001-2005), was Provost at Stanford University (1993-1999) and was a top advisor on Soviet and East European affairs during the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2004 and 2005 Forbes Magazine ranked her as the most powerful woman in the world. In March 2009, Rice went back to Stanford University to teach political science and become the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Insitution.

David Souter (1939- ) was Attorney General of New Hampshire, and served as an associate justice for the United States Supreme Court. He was a Rhodes Scholar and attended Harvard College, Oxford University in England and Harvard Law School. He retired from the court in 2009.

John Waters (1946- ) is a filmmaker known for his funky, transgressive movies that reflect his passions; blood and violence. Waters also identifies with the LGBT community and is a wonderfully unique individual with a “laugh-out-loud” sense of humor. In 2010, he published a book titled, Role Models.


Alvin Ailey (1931 – 1989): African-American modern dancer and choreographer, founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His company popularized modern dance throughout the world with its international tours. West 61st Street between Amsterdam and Columbus in New York City was renamed as “Alvin Ailey Way”.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was a schoolteacher involved in the temperance and abolitionist movements before joining with other suffragists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton to champion women’s rights. She was arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election, 48 years before U.S. women gained the right to vote in 1920.

Joan of Arc (1412-1431) is a national heroine in France. At age 17 she led the victorious French troops in the Battle of Orleans (1429). Two years later she was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake; in 1920 Joan was canonized by the Roman Catholic church as a saint.

Sarah Bernhardt (1844 – 1923) was a famous French stage and silent film actress and writer. She spent most of her adult life single, only married briefly to Greek-born actor Aristides Damala (Jacques Damala) until his death in 1889. It is rumored that Sarah had affairs with Louise Abbema, French impressionist painter, and the Prince of Wales (Edward II).

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) was an African-American writer and the only science fiction writer to date to receive a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Butler overcame shyness, self-doubt and an improverished childhood to become recipient of Hugo awards, Nebula awards and an award for lifetime achievement in writing.

Emily Carr (1871 – 1945): was a Canadian writer and artist influenced by the cultures of Alaska and British Columbia. She was named “The Mother of Modern Arts” by the Group of Seven, her work was exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada, and her book “Klee Wyck” won the Governor General’s Award. Multiple Canadian public schools, as well as an institute of art and design, are named after her.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) was a famous French fashion designer who introduced the world to her signature cardigan sweater, “little black dress” and Chanel No. 5. She briefly served as a nurse in World War II. Coco even had a Broadway musical, Coco written about her life!

Marie Barbare Edwards (1920-2009) was a psychologist who helped spark the ‘Single Pride’ movement. In 1974, she published a book, The Challenge of Being Single and was written about in an LA Times article printed that same year, “A Singles’ Lib Manifesto.”

Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603) was the last and longest-reigning monarch in the English Tudor dynasty, ruling for 45 years. During her reign England became a substantial power in Europe, defeating the Spanish Armada and spreading English influence around the world through exploration.

Ella Cora Hind (1861-1942): Western Canada’s first female journalist. Agricultural editor for the “Winnipeg Free Press”, world authority on crop predictions, president of the Canadian Women’s Press Club, and active supporter of women’s suffrage and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) was a liberal newspaper columnist, political commentator, humorist and author. She wrote for the Texas Observer, the NY Times, the Dallas Times Herald, Esquire, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Nation.

William Lyon Mackenzie King (1874-1950) served three terms as Canadian Prime Minister and has been ranked by historians as Canada’s greatest PM. During 21 years in office he established Canada’s independence in international affairs, instituted social security programs and gave responsibility for the economy to the federal government.

Edward I. Koch (1924-2013) New York’s 105th mayor, is a lifelong bachelor. According to the New York Times, he is often asked but declines to say whether he is gay. “I do not want to add to the acceptability of asking every candidate, ‘Are you straight or gay or lesbian?’ and make it a legitimate question, so I don’t submit to that question. I don’t care if people think I’m gay because I don’t answer it. I’m flattered that at 84 people are interested in my sex life — and, it’s quite limited.”)

Maggie Kuhn (1905-1995) was the founder of the Gray Panthers. She once quipped: “Many people asked me, ‘You’re not married — how does it happen that a woman like you never married?’ And my standard response is, ‘Sheer luck.'”

Jackie “Moms” Mabley (1894 – 1975): African-American comedian and one of the most successful black vaudeville entertainers. Though she had four children and five grandchildren, Mabley never married and she lived most of her life as a lesbian. Moms Mabley broke taboos and challenged assumptions throughout her career with her character of an old woman, who was sexual, savvy, and irrepressible.

Agnes Campbell Macphail (1890-1954) was the first female elected to the Canadian House of Commons. She was active in progressive politics; committed to rural issues, penal reform, senior pensions and workers’ rights; and promoted these issues through writing, activism and legislation.

Agnes Martin (1912-2004) was a Canadian-American painter who lived and worked in both New York City and Taos, New Mexico. Her style was minimalist and many of her paintings reflect her Taoist leanings

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a British writer, political scientist, abolitionist and feminist who was acquainted with Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill, George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Darwin. She wrote an unflattering portrait of America in Theory and Practice of Society in America (1837), and through subsequent writings introduced Britain to the abolitionist cause.

Edvard Munch (1863–1944) was a painter and printmaker who largely influenced the German Expressionism art movement in the early 20th century. Munch is best known for his painting, The Scream (1893).

Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (1910-1985) was an activist for civil rights and women’s rights, a lawyer, teacher, poet and minister. Murray served as professor of American Studies at Brandies University, was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women, and was the first African-American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest.

Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was an English physicist and mathematician most known for his work, “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.” He served as a member of parliament at Cambridge University, warden of the Royal Mint and president of the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1705.

Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958) was an English suffragist and co-founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WPSU) in 1903. Her vocal demands for women’s voting rights caused her imprisonment in 1905. After earning a law degree she continued her activism for voting rights and sexual equality and was appointed a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1936.

Dame Freya Stark (1893-1993) was a fearless British travel writer who traveled solo in regions, such as the Arabian deserts, where women seldom traveled. During World War II, she helped create a network to persuade Arabs to support the Allies. She is known for her linguistic abilities, cartography and her travel writing.

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was an inventor, engineer, physicist, and futurist well known for helping design the modern AC electrical supply system.

Charlotte Whitton (1896-1975): Canadian social reformer, feminist, and first female mayor of a major Canadian city (Ottawa). Whitton served as mayor from ’51 -’56, and again from ’60 -’64, and was a staunch defender of Canada’s traditions and legislation to aid children.


Can an unmarried person become President of the United States?

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) had been widowed for 19 years when he was elected as the third President.

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was single during his service as the seventh President because his wife died just before his inauguration.

Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), the eighth president, had been widowed for 14 years when elected.

James Buchanan, Jr. (1791-1868) was the 15th President and the only one never to marry.