Alaska has been home to some amazing and very unique women. Some of them were born in Alaska and later moved away, some of them grew up in Alaska before they became famous, while others have lived in Alaska their entire lives. What makes someone famous in Alaska isn’t always a singer or an actress, but more along the veins of women who make a difference, who are blazing trails in whatever field they love. Not only will you see women that are famous for the arts, but also you are going to see women who are famous for politics, activism, athletics, and more. In Alaska, we take great pride in women who have made a difference.
Disclosure: This post not only shares about famous Alaskan women,, but also has Affiliate Links that I earn commissions from. This is how I make a living and keep this little blog running. Thank you for supporting me! I appreciate it. Much love, Kristi.
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Elizabeth Jean Peratrovich, Activist 1911 – 1958
Elizabeth Peratrovich was a vital civil rights activist, not only for Alaska, but for the country as a whole. As a member of the Tlingit nation she worked tirelessly to gain equality for Alaska Natives. She has been credited with moving forth the first anti-discrimination law in the United States, the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945. Because of her amazing contributions, February 16 has been recognized in Alaska as Elizabeth Peratrovich day.
Libby Riddles, Dog Musher 1956 –
Libby Riddles wasn’t born in Alaska (she moved here just before her 17th birthday), but she has definitely become one of Alaska’s most famous women. She fell in love with the sport of mushing when she was young and by 1985 became the first woman to ever WIN the Iditarod!!! The Iditarod is a 1000-mile sled dog race, basically Alaska’s Super Bowl. She also later became an author, writing three books about her adventures.
Aliy Zirkle, Dog Musher 1970 –
Another great Alaskan woman that wasn’t born in Alaska. Aliy Zirkle moved to Alaska at the age of 20 and began dog mushing mostly to be able to explore her rural area. She then decided to adopt sled dogs and teach herself how to train dogs and how to race. Aliy first raced in the Yukon Quest in 1998 (though she would go on to be the first female to win that race in 2000). She has actually competed in either the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest every single year since 1998. She has also received countless awards throughout her career, including the Yukon Quest Challenge of the North award, which is given to the musher who “most exemplifies the spirit of the Yukon Quest, a spirit that compels one to challenge the country and win”, and she was also the recipient of the Iditarod Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for exemplary care of her dogs.
DeeDee Ann Jonrowe, Dog Musher 1953 –
Dee Dee Ann Jonrowe moved to Alaska as a teen and became an American Kennel owner as well as a dog musher who is a 3-time runner up in the Iditarod. She also holds the fastest recorded Iditarod time for a female. One major facet of her fame is that in 2003 she stunned the world, by completing the Iditarod just 3 weeks after completing chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Susan Howlet Butcher, Dog Musher 1954 – 2006
Susan Howlet Butcher was the second woman to win the Iditarod and in 1990 because the second person to win it four times, as well as being the first person to win four out of five years running. Susan passed away in 2006, and on March 1, 2008, Susan Butcher Day was established. Susan Butcher Day is every first Saturday in March to coincide with the traditional start of the Iditarod.
Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska (2006-2009), 1964-
Love her, or hate her, Sarah Palin continues to be one of the most famous women to come from Alaska. Her time spent as the Republican Party nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 2008 election with presidential nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain didn’t hurt her fame. She is recognized as the first Alaskan to be on the national ticket of a major political party as well as being the first Republican woman selected as a Vice Presidential candidate. Sarah Palin is also a best-selling author, with her book Going Rogue, selling over two million copies.
Lisa Ann Murkowski, Senator, 1957-
Lisa Murkowski has been a United State Senator since 2002. She is well known as a moderate Republican and is often the swing vote in crucial elections. Additionally, she is the second-most senior female republican in the Senate. In 2010 she became only the second senator ever (after Strom Thurmon in 1954) to be voted in via a write in election.
Valerie Plame, Novelist, 1963-
Valerie Plame is a former operations officer for the CIA who is now a writer and spy novelist. She was also quite famously the subject of a CIA leak scandal in 2003 which was given the name of the Plame Affair. In the scandal, her identity as a covert officer for the CIA was leaked to the press by members of George W. Bush administration which then became public knowledge.
Sara King, Author, 1982-
Sara King is an Alaskan born author who is currently working on her 11th novel, part of the After Earth series. She was born in Fairbanks and has continued to live in Alaska her entire life. She specifically specializes in fantasy fiction.
Irene Bedard, Actress, 1967-
Irene Bedard has been playing Native American roles in Hollywood since the 1990s, though perhaps her best-known role is that of Pocahontas in Disney’s 1995 feature film Pocahontas. She’s gone on to play the role again in Pocahontas II, an episode of House of Mouse, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and in a video game. In 2005, she played Pocahontas’ mother in The New World. She is of Inupiat, Inuit, Cree, and Métis ancestry.
Vivica Genaux, Opera Singer, 1969-
Vivica Genaux is a coloratura mezzo-soprano opera singer from Fairbanks, Alaska. She has sung in major operas like The Barber of Seville at the Metropolitan Opera as well as L’italiana in Algeri at Opéra National de Paris.
Jewel, Singer, 1974-
Jewel Kilcher, better known as Jewel was a massively popular singer around the world in the 1990s and early 2000s. She wasn’t born in Alaska, nor does she live there now, but she did grow up in Homer and often said that her life in Homer inspired her music. Her albums have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and her music has won a number of awards through the years. Though she isn’t Alaskan anymore, she may actually be the most famous Alaskan woman of all time.
Sue Aikens, Television Personality, 1963 –
Sue Aikens has made a name for herself on the television show “Life Below Zero” which follows the lives of Alaskans who live in very remote areas and how they have to depend on themselves solely for survival. Trying to survive in the below-zero conditions, demonstrating their everyday struggles as they hunt and depend only on their survival skills using the resources they have available.
Holly Madison, Model, and TV Personality, 1979-
Holly Madison has had quite a career, she’s starred in E! Network’s The Girls Next Door, she’s also been a model, a showgirl, and is a New York Times best-selling author. She also starred on Dancing with the Stars, but was injured during practice and was voted off. Just like Jewel, she was raised in Alaska, but born in another state and currently lives in yet another.
Do you know of any other famous women from Alaska that deserve to be on this list? Let us know about them in the comments below.
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