Chicago's 10 Most Fascinating Women: Show Me Chicago Announces its List for 2012.

Chicago's 10 Most Fascinating Women: Show Me Chicago Announces its List for 2012.
Desiree Rogers relaxing at her Chicago home. Photo credit: Chicago Magazine.

CHICAGO, Wednesday, November 28, 2012. It’s that time of year again when we look back at what soon will become the old year before we jump ahead to 2013. For the next month be prepared for an explosion of lists with the media–print, broadcast and the blogosphere–all grinding out their endless lists of the 10 best apps, the 10 best books, the 10 best songs…and on and on.

Barbara Walters just announced her list of the 10 most fascinating people of 2012. Her list includes “Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L. James, Olympian Gabby Douglas and British boy band One Direction.  This is the 19th year for Walters whose past years’ picks include:  The Donald (Trump) the Kardashians (Kim), Pippa Middleton and the good General David Patraeus.  Fascinating or sensational?  Time will tell and usually brings some surprises along the way.

Not to be left in the dust, Show Me Chicago is out with our “Top 10″…in an attempt to get a jump on other list-makers.  With two of the past three First Ladies, Hillary Rodman Clinton and Michelle Obama having deep Chicago roots, it seems our city is a gold mine of fascinating people…so, why not, make a list of the top 10?

As it turns out, Chicago is so fascinating that Show Me Chicago could not narrow the abundance of fascinating people in the Windy City to only 10. Therefore we have put together two “Top 10” lists.  Today we will announce Chicago’s 10 most fascinating women and next week it’s the men’s turn…when we present our list of Chicago’s 10 most fascinating men.

Our criteria for putting together our list was that the people we selected had to be currently living in Chicagoland. And, secondly, they had to be public figures from the fields of entertainment, politics, the arts, business, sports or popular culture. So here goes…


1. Jeanne Gang, 47, is the founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects, a Chicago-based collective of architects, designers, and thinkers whose projects have showcased cutting edge design since 1997. Gang, in our opinion is Chicago’s hottest architect–male or female–bar none. Among her ground breaking accomplishments are the 82-story Aqua Tower–the tallest building in the world designed by a woman–the framework plan for Northerly Island, and the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. Upcoming is her exciting design for Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe that just may be the impetus for a transformation of the architecture on Chicago’s North Shore.

2. Lisa Madigan, age 46.  Small but mighty, Madigan, the Attorney General of Illinois, measuring in at a little over 5′ is the daughter of IL. House Majority Leader Mike Madigan but is very much her own person. She is smart, makes up her own mind, and is well-liked by people on both sides of the aisle.  Madigan has a promising future in Illinois or wherever she decides to hang her hat…and is someone to watch.

3. Desiree Rogers, age 53.  Rogers, the former White House social secretary, is back in her hometown working as CEO, for Johnson Publishing Company (the publisher of Ebony and Jet).  She is faced with the challenge of reviving Johnson and has already raised needed cash by selling their South Michigan Avenue building. But more than her day to day business savvy, it is her persona that creates a loud buzz wherever she turns up.

4. Martha Lavey, age 55.  Martha makes it happen whether as an actor or in her role as the Steppenwolf Theatre Artistic Director–a role she’s held since 1995. This astonishingly gifted artist, has called Chicago home since 1975 (except for one year in California). She is not afraid of change or to try new things. Her work ethic is above and beyond what seems possible for one individual. Under her direction, Steppenwolf Theatre has had a string of innovative outstanding productions, featured new plays and playwrights, encouraged young authors and actors…and continues to become more exciting with each passing day.

5. Toni Preckwinkle, age 64. Preckwinkle, President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, is a force to be reckoned with. She is smart, popular, outspoken and knows how to be tough when she needs to be.  She can pretty much name her own ticket to the future. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, she came to Chicago to study at the University of Chicago and stayed, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, marrying, raising a family, pursuing a career in education and politics as a teacher and an Alderman. Who says you can’t have it all?

6. Audrey Niffenegger, age 49.  Niffenegger is an author, artist and teacher. She was born in 1963 in South Haven, Michigan, moving to Chicago’s suburban Evanston with her family as a toddler and calling Chicago home for most of the time since then.   Niffenegger trained as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice in 1991. Her book, The Time Travelers Wife (2003) was a best seller and made into a movie in 2009  starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. The future looks bright for this multi-talented  lady.

7. Mary Schmich, age 59,  There’s something about Mary, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune whose column has been running in the Tribune for 20 years. Day after day, Mary is able to put her finger on the pulse of humanity with her sharp wit, humor and compassion–making her column a “must read” for many.  Some things that you may not know about Mary are that she was the author of the long-lived comic strip Brenda Starr and has worked as a professional barrelhouse and ragtime piano player.

8. Margie Korshak, age 73. Korshak, a lifelong Chicago resident and Chairman and founder of Margie Korshak, Inc., does not know how to take NO for an answer.  This PR diva has been in the biz for over 40 years and if for no other reason belongs on this list for her perseverance and longevity.  Over the past 43 years, MKI has represented every major theatrical production to play in Chicago. Her company also represents most of the city’s top retailers, does extensive charity work and more. Margie is a dynamo that just keeps going and going not unlike the Energizer bunny.

9. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, 62.   Byrd-Bennett, the recently named Chief Executive Officer for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), replacing Jean-Claude Brizard is new to Chicago.  Prior to coming to our city in April 2012, she served in Detroit as chief academic and accountability auditor for Detroit Public Schools.  Byrd-Bennett spent more than two decades as a teacher and principal in the New York City Department of Education and also served for more than seven years as the CEO of the Cleveland Municipal School District. She has her work cut out for her as CEO of CPS but can make a big difference if she is successful…and she has the good mayor in her corner–at least for now.

10. Irene Rosenfeld, age 59.  Rosenfeld has served as Chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International (formerly Kraft Foods) for the past six years.  The lady, who says Kraft’s mac and cheese is her fav, was named by Fortune magazine as the single most powerful woman in American business. Need we say more.


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    What ever happened to Sugar Rautboard?

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    Bertha Palmer?

  • Another list for me to aspire to being on someday. What a wonderful collection of women.

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