13 Famous Rhodes Women

How Stuff Works recently featured an article listing “13 Famous Rhodes Scholars.” The articled paid tribute to such notable scholars as Bill Clinton, Kris Kristofferson and James William Fulbright, but featured just one woman - Naomi Wolf.

We present an alternative list, to celebrate thirteen famous women Rhodes Scholars. Here, Naomi Wolf is joined by twelve other notable Rhodes women from such diverse fields as politics, journalism, business, law and medicine.    

1. Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow is an American television host and political commentator. Since 2008, she has hosted a nightly television show, The Rachel Maddow Show, on MSNBC. In hosting the show, she has established herself as one of the most notable liberal media figures in the United States. In 2012, she published a book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. As a Rhodes Scholar, she completed a DPhil in politics, studying HIV/AIDS in the context of British and American prisons. She was the first openly gay or lesbian American to win a Rhodes Scholarship. 


2. Naomi Wolf


Naomi Wolf is an author and leading spokesperson in the third wave of the feminist movement. She garnered international renown after the publication of her book The Beauty Myth in 1990, and went on to write a number of other books, including Vagina: A New Biography, published in 2012. She has also worked as a political consultant on the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton (1996) and Al Gore (2000). As a Rhodes Scholar she completed a DPhil in English Literature. 


3. Susan Rice


Susan Rice is the National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama. Previously, she held the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations between 2009 and 2013. She is an expert in international relations, peacekeeping security, and, earlier in her career, developed an expertise in African politics: she was appointed as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997, during the Clinton Administration. At Oxford, she earned an MPhil and a DPhil in International Relations. 


4. Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the director of the White House Office of Management & Budget. Previously, she had been president of the Walmart Foundation, and President of the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While at Oxford, she completed a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.


 5. Heather Wilson

Heather Wilson.jpg

Heather Wilson is an American politician and educator. She is a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New Mexico’s 1st district from 1998 to 2009. She was appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy after graduating from high school, and became the first woman to command basic training and the first woman Vice Wing Commander. After serving in positions in both the federal government and the state of New Mexico, she became the first female veteran elected to a full term in Congress. In 2013, she was selected to be President of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. As a Rhodes Scholar, she earned a DPhil in International Relations.  

6. Jennifer Robinson

Jennifer Robinson is an Australian human rights lawyer who acts in free speech and freedom of information cases in British and European courts. She has been a legal advisor for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, defending Assange in extradition hearings and advising WikiLeaks throughout ‘Cablegate’ and the Bradley Manning proceedings. She is also Director of Legal Advocacy for the Bertha Foundation. As a Rhodes Scholar, she graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Law and an MPhil in International Public Law. 


7. Chrystia Freeland

 Chrystia Freeland is a Canadian politician and journalist. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, which won the 2013 Lionel Gelber Prize for non-fiction reporting on foreign affairs. In 2013, she left journalism to stand as a candidate for MP in Toronto Centre, and she won with 49 percent of the vote. Previously, she was the managing director and editor of consumer news at Thompson Reuters. As a Rhodes Scholar, she completed a Master of Studies in Slavonic Studies. 


8. Bonnie St John

Bonnie St. John is an American leadership consultant, keynote speaker, Olympic medallist and author. After having her leg amputated at the age of five, she won two bronze medals in Paralympic downhill skiing at the 1984 Paralympics in Innsbruck.  She was later appointed by President Bill Clinton as a director for Human Capital Policy on the White House National Economic Council. She has written a number of books, including her most recent bestseller, How Great Women Lead, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter, Darcy. As a Rhodes Scholar, she earned an MLitt in Economics.     


9. Sagarika Ghose            

Sagarika Ghose is an Indian journalist, news anchor and author. Currently, she is the deputy editor and prime time anchor on the news network CNN-IBN. In 2004, she became the first woman to host Question Time India. She has also worked at The Times of India, Outlook magazine and The Indian Express. While at Oxford, she completed a BA and an MPhil in Modern History. 


10. Kathleen McLaughlin

Kathleen McLaughlin is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. She was appointed President of the Walmart Foundation in 2013, where she manages the company’s charitable efforts, recorded in excess of $1bn in 2012. Before joining the Walmart Foundation, she worked as a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company in Toronto, gaining extensive experience in the firm’s Social Innovation Practice and Retail Practice. While at Oxford, she read for a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and was also awarded a diploma in Theology. 


11. Nancy-Ann DeParle

Nancy-Ann DeParle is an American lawyer and political operative. She has been a senior advisor in the Obama administration: most recently, she served as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy between 2011 and 2013. Previously, she served as the director of the White House Office of Health Reform, where she led the administration’s efforts on health care issues, including the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. At Oxford, she earned a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. 


12. Leana Wen

Leana Wen is an American physician, patient advocate and writer. Currently, she is an attending physician and Director of Patient-Centered Care Research at the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University. She is the author of the book When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. She is also the founder of the campaign, Who’s My Doctor, which works toward transparency in medicine. While at Oxford, she was awarded an MSc in Modern Chinese Studies. 


13. Elizabeth Kiss

Elizabeth Kiss is an American academic and educator. She is the eighth president of Agnes Scott College, a liberal arts college for women in Atlanta, Georgia. Previously, she was the Nannerl E. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. She specialises in moral and political philosophy and has published on a number of topics, including moral judgement and education, human rights, ethnic conflict and nationalism, and feminist debates about rights and justice. As a Rhodes Scholar, she studied for a BPhil and DPhil in Philosophy.    


Find out more about women Rhodes Scholars then and now at The Rhodes Project.