30 Years of WOTY: Unforgettable Moments From Every Glamour Women of the Year Awards


Electric. That’s how Glamour staff members past and present describe our annual Women of the Year awards, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020. When the event started in 1990, then editor in chief Ruth Whitney envisioned WOTY—as we lovingly call it—as a network of high-achieving women coming together to inspire others to reach their goals, and that spirit has remained in the decades following.

Some examples of this electricity: In 1992, when Anita Hill was given a special tribute in a year that also honored Women of the Year Hillary Rodham Clinton, Katie Couric, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Or in 2013, when Lady Gaga, Malala Yousafzai, and Barbra Streisand were all in the same room. And in 2018, when Kamala Harris, Chrissy Teigen, and Viola Davis were among those celebrated.

Women of the Year has always been a rare opportunity for titans and trailblazers across industries to meet and motivate each other (and you!) with their words. You can read all about this in our book Glamour: 30 Years of Women Who Have Reshaped the World, available now, which highlights some of our favorite WOTY speeches, quotes, and history.

Here, we look back at the moments and honorees who have made Glamour’s Women of the Year an event that makes us not only proud to painstakingly plan and produce, but proud to be women. Each memory and anecdote represents everything the annual event stands for: enrichment, empowerment, and yes, glamour. 

Michel Linssen/ Getty Images; Cynthia Johnson/Getty Images; Oliver Morris/ Getty Images


The first Women of the Year ceremony was held in New York City at the iconic Rainbow Room, perched 65 floors above Rockefeller Center. Among the honorees that November was Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who said in her moving speech, “If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it.”

Following the year’s success of feature film Dick Tracy and pop anthem “Like a Prayer,” Madonna was selected to be the magazine’s first WOTY cover star. Glamour editor-in-chief Ruth Whitney praised the icon at the event, telling the crowd, “While everyone’s a celebrity for 15 minutes and media stars come and go, Madonna is still getting what she wanted, still on center stage, still top banana, still commander in chief of her own wildly successful enterprise.”

Women of the Year was never considered by my mother to be a once-a-year event. She wanted to create a network of impressive women who would continue the connections they made at those awards over time. It’s why she would invite past winners back—and many did return. If not every year, then as often as possible. —Philip Whitney, son of the late Ruth Whitney, former editor in chief of Glamour, 1967–1998


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