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10 Women Who've Transformed Our Approach to Wellness

women in healthcare


From innovative scientists and doctors to compassionate philosophers and influencers, women are constantly shaping what it means to be well. Let’s celebrate a few of these impactful women who have changed (or are changing) the way we approach wellness.

Meet the Women Who Defined Wellness

1. Susan Sontag (1933–2004)

The woman who reshaped the way we talk about illness. 

Susan Sontag was a philosopher, activist, and writer. In one of her most notable books, Illness as Metaphor, Sontag explored the often negative, victim-blaming ways people talk about illness and those who suffer from disease.

Sontag’s writings challenge the stereotypes we have about illness versus wellness and remind us that experiencing both is a natural human experience. After all, “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” 

2. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831–1895) 

The woman who opened the door for women of color to practice medicine. 

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was a woman of firsts: the first female African American to attend medical school, the first female African American to become a doctor, and one of the first African Americans to publish a book (Book of Medical Disorders). Unfortunately, not much about her life was documented, but we do know this: she worked relentlessly hard to help free slaves and relieve the suffering of others. Today, her story inspires women of color to pursue their goals in medicine and help others, no matter their background. 

3. Mary Putnam Jacobi, MD (1842–1906)

The woman who debunked menstruation myths. 

Mary Putnam Jacobi was on a mission to show the world how powerful women can be—and prove that they have a place in medicine. She paved the way for countless women as the first woman to study at l’École de Médecine in Paris, the first woman to be accepted to the New York Academy of Medicine, and by creating the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women.

She is most famous for debunking the once-common belief that any kind of exertion (even reading!) while menstrating was dangerous. Armed with facts, statistics, charts and her own incisiveness, Jacobi proved that women are strong and stable—even during their menstrual cycles. This opened the door for a deeper understanding of women’s menstrual cycles, female power, and women’s rightful place in the fields of medicine and education. 

4. Tu Youyou (1930–present)

The woman who opened the world’s eyes to the power of traditional medicine. 

Tu Youyou saved millions of lives from deadly malaria by researching, isolating and experimenting with the plant compound artemisinin. She later earned a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to celebrate her work and dedication.

Aside from her clear accomplishments, Youyou renewed our curiosity and acceptance of traditional healing methods as a path to wellness. She made her discovery not through a state-of-the-art doctorate program or learning the latest research methods abroad, but by studying classic Chinese medical texts from the Zhou, Qing, and Han dynasties.

Most importantly, Youyou bridged gaps. Gaps between tradition and modernity, East and West and nature and science. She reminds us that “Chinese medicine will help us conquer life-threatening diseases worldwide, and that people across the globe will enjoy its benefits for health promotion.”

5. Jessamyn Stanley (1987–present)

The woman who’s breaking yoga stereotypes. 

Jessamyn Stanley is a modern yoga teacher and speaker who breaks down the stereotype that only thin, flexible women can do yoga. From classes to speaking events to her book, Every Body Yoga, Stanley teaches that any woman no matter her shape or size—can do (and enjoy) yoga. Her message to women everywhere: how you feel is more important than how you look

6. Robin Berzin, MD (1981–present) 

The woman who’s making preventative medicine more accessible. 

Dr. Robin Berzin is a functional medicine doctor who believes wellness is more than fighting disease; it's a way of life. To help people access more regular, personalized wellness care, Berzin founded Parsley Health, a primary care practice that offers virtual and in-office visits with integrative wellness plans. Parsley Health focuses on prevention to support a lifetime of health, rather than focusing solely on reaction to problems as they occur. 

7. Tara Brach  (1953–present)

The woman who’s helping us live more mindfully. 

The meditation movement is going strong, and Tara Brach is one of the most influential mindful women leading the pack. Brach teaches how Buddhist meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening can help us lead healthier lives with less stress and more joy. Her leadership in the mindfulness space has helped make mindfulness and meditation approachable ways to live well. 

8. Gwenyth Paltrow (1972–present)

The woman who made wellness trendy. 

Gwenyth Paltrow may not be a Nobel prize winner, but her influence on the wellness industry is undeniable. Her wellbeing empire, Goop, started as a humble newsletter in 2007. Now, Goop has its own wellness product line, podcast, and even a Netflix series dedicated to breaking wellness taboos and exploring life well-lived. 

9. Dr. Nicole LePera (1982–present) 

The woman who is destigmatizing mental health and trauma therapy.

With over 4.8 million followers on Instagram, Dr. Nicole LePera is one of the most popular mental health influencers of our day. The space she creates on her social media platform is a far cry from the stiff-couched therapist offices of yesterday. Instead, she guides with a vulnerable yet to-the-point approach, which has helped spur the move towards more meaningful (and shareable) conversations about destigmatizing mental health issues and prioritizing emotional wellbeing.  

10. Arianna Huffington (1950–present) 

The woman who’s fighting the burnout epidemic. 

You may know Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post, but she has since turned her sights to wellness after suffering from severe burnout. Now, she runs Thrive Global, a platform dedicated to helping people overcome burnout and restore their work-life balance. Huffington and Thrive Global’s programs teach companies and employees how to reframe our objectives to advocate for productivity, happiness, and wellbeing at work. 

These women (and our own founder, Joy Smith) bravely pursued their passion for wellness and a healthier world and are teaching us to do the same. Now, find out which 10 women are transforming the wellness industry through CBD!

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