It wasn’t until 1999 that Time changed the name of its best-known franchise, Man of the Year (established in 1927) to the gender-neutral Person of the Year.
Now, Time is making up for the delay with a new multimedia project called “100 Women of the Year: The Leaders, Innovators, Activists, Entertainers, Athletes and Artists Who Defined a Century.” The project is being released in part to honor the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, as well as International Women’s Day.
In partnership with Procter & Gamble, Time is releasing 100 covers, one for each from the past 100 years recognizing 100 women. There will also be a special edition of Time with a gatefold cover and the launch of a digital destination for the project at Time.com. Time is also coming out with a documentary that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the selection process, directed by filmmaker Alma Har’el and produced by Jellywolf Films.
“Here, in the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, and right around International Women’s Day, it seemed like the appropriate time to be able to recognize the hundred women from 1920 to 2020 who have been leaders, innovators, activists, entertainers, athletes and artists that defined the past century,” said Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of P&G.
The featured women include singer Bessie Smith (1923), fashion designer Coco Chanel (1924), pilot Amelia Earhart (1935), Argentina’s first lady Eva Perón (1946), actress Marilyn Monroe (1954), British prime minister Margaret Thatcher (1982), musician Sinead O’Connor (1992), Serena Williams (2003), German chancellor Angela Merkel (2015) and the most recent Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg (2019).
“2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S.—although women of color would continue to be disenfranchised for decades,” said Kelly Conniff, Time executive editor and editorial director of the project. “We thought these milestones were good moments to stop and think about how far we’ve come. And we decided to use them as an opportunity to look back at history, and fill in what was missing.”
An A-list selection committee was assembled to pick the 100 women who would be represented on the covers, including Katie Couric, Soledad O’Brien, Lena Waithe, actress MJ Rodriguez, former Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth, civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen, actress Zazie Beetz and former Time editor in chief Nancy Gibbs.
Beyond financial support for the project, P&G’s role in particular is tied to the production of the documentary. The company also worked with Har’el on the brand’s film Love Over Bias for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
For the CPG conglomerate, participating in the Time project is an opportunity to lean further into nontraditional advertising, building brands through narrative storytelling rather than the typical 30-second spots we’ve come to associate with the company. These efforts have come through P&G’s Queen Collective initiative with Queen Latifah, as well as narrative series from P&G brands like SK-II, which put out a docu-series with Katie Couric last year called Timelines that challenged the expectations women face around hitting milestones by certain ages.
“This is something that we’ve kicked around of how we’re going to reinvent brand building to reimagine creativity,” Pritchard said. “And that’s what this is an example of.”
Though for now the project is a one-time effort for Time, Conniff says it will continue to inform the magazine’s content going forward.
“This project was a way to acknowledge that women’s accomplishments often went unacknowledged when the world was mostly run by men,” Conniff said. “Last year, the magazine featured more women on its cover than men for the first time in its 97-year history. We hope to use this project as inspiration moving forward.”