While Oprah Winfrey may not come to mind as a historic figure during Women’s History Month as she is still often in the headlines for various reasons, she is to be revered for her lifetime achievements to this date, especially during Women’s History Month 2012 and its theme “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment.” Oprah is a significant contributor to education through her own foundation which has provided for hundreds of grants and millions of dollars for women’s education, particularly in Africa where her Academy is a great success for the rural poor. Oprah herself has been quoted as saying: ”Education is the way to move mountains, to build bridges, to change the world.” She is truly a leader and visionary for women everywhere. Here is a brief biography of her that details her early life and commercial success.
Born as Orpah Gail Winfrey to a single mother in rural Mississippi in 1954, Oprah is considered by various annual lists and assessments to be the most influential woman in the world thanks in part to her success as the host for her multi-award winning talk show entitled “Oprah”, which was the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011.
In addition to her success as a TV personality, she is also known as an actress, producer and philanthropist. Along her way to success, Oprah set many firsts for a woman of color in the United States. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century,the greatest black philanthropist in American history,and was for a time the world’s only black billionaire.
Her career began in high school when she landed a small job in the radio business, and later at the age of 19, began anchoring Nashville’s local evening news and thus becoming the youngest and first African American anchor on the network. Her sincere and emotional delivery soon got her discovered by producers in Chicago, resulting in Oprah’s transition to the daytime talk show world. Within only a few months, she took over a slumping show and turned it from number three in the local ratings to number one.
Credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication, she is thought to have popularized and revolutionized the tabloid news genre that broke cultural taboos and set the tone for the presentation of news for years to come. By the mid 1990s she had reinvented her own show with a focus on literature, self-improvement, and spirituality. She is often praised for her ability to overcome adversity and to inspire success in others.
In addition to her talk show, Oprah has created a media empire with past and present ventures including her radio talk show, Internet domain, and media publications including “O” magazine. In 2011 she launched her own television channel called “OWN.” Because of this success, Oprah created the “Oprah’s Angel Network” in 1998 in order to support charitable efforts around the globe, having raised more than 80 million dollars to date. It has been estimated that Oprah has given more than 300 million dollars of her own fortune as of 2007, making her one of the most well recognized philanthropists of the decade.