Women Who Made It Big in Retirement

by | Sep 5, 2023

Ladies! This one’s for you. We know – we often hear lots of stories about incredible men who’ve reached success in retirement, from The Colonel, to Michael Jordan, all the way over to Steven Kotler’s peak performance aging. But if you’re wondering if the same is possible for you? We’re here to show you what women are all about. 

Here’s a list of women who’ve made it big in retirement, proving that no matter what age (or gender) you are, retirement really can be just the beginning of a rich and beautiful life, filled with success … 

Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses)

Grandma Moses was an American folk artist, born in 1860. She was known for her nostalgic scenes of rural life, capturing the simple joys, traditions and mundane tasks of farming. Such a renowned name across the world, you’d be surprised to know she didn’t start her painting career until her late 70s.

Grandma Moses as pictured by National Museum of Women in the Arts
Photo by Ifor Thomas, Grandma Moses Properties Co., New York sourced from NMWA

While it appeared to be a strange interest that came at a late age, it was actually a manifestation of her childhood dream. However, she spent most of her life living and working on five local farms with her husband before he died, and never really had the time or privilege to work on it.

But once retirement hit, the painting began and her work was first displayed in a local drugstore, where she quickly gained national recognition. In 1939, her works were included in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and by the 1950s she had become one of America’s most famous artists. 

Not just known for her paintings, but America’s rich pastoral past and a testament to what can be achieved in retirement, even as a woman in this time. 

Mary Wesley

Mary Wesley was born in 1912 and lived much of her life well outside of the limelight before becoming a bestselling author. While she wrote some children’s books in the 1960s, it wasn’t until her 70s that she achieved widespread recognition as a novelist.

Mary Wesley was a testament to the possibilities through retirement, especially for women of her time
Photo by Marc Hill/Alamy sourced from Kirkus Reviews

In 1983, she published her first novel titled “Jumping the Queue” which marked the very beginning of a productive and celebrated writing career. She went on to write and publish several more novels, including the notable “The Camomile Lawn” which went on to be adapted into a television series. 

Her works, celebrated for their wit and keen observation on human relationships, established her as one of Britain’s respected novelists and her career itself a powerful reminder that talent can flourish and be recognized at any age. 

She went on to continue writing until she passed in 2002: a testament to the possibilities for retirement. 

Gladys Burrill (aka The Gladyator)

So, we’ve covered some of our artsy girlies, but what about women who are breaking down stereotypes and have achieved great physical success in retirement?

Gladys Burrill (aka The Gladyator) is the lady you’re looking for. Her story showcases the boundless abilities of the human spirit, starting marathon running during her retirement.
(Yep, that’s right, she did marathons in retirement!)

Gladys Burrill (aka The Gladyator) showcases the boundless abilities of the human spirit, starting marathon running during her retirement
Sourced from StarAdvertiser

It all started when she participated in the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii at the age of 86, marking the very beginning of her marathon trend. 

At 92 years of age, Gladys completed the 2010 Honolulu Marathon and earned herself a spot in the Guinness World Records as the oldest female marathon finishers. 

While she definitely had a full life – having piloted aircraft, mountain climbed and done a LOT of hiking in her time – the achievements she made in her late years are a testament to her tenacity and determination, now an inspiration for many.

For those wondering HOW she did it? It was all about incorporating regular walking and jogging sessions into her routine, covering a distance equivalent to a marathon every week. And, we guess, a lot of dedication and hard work too, hey?

She has since become a symbol of perseverance, vitality and the idea that age truly is just a number. Proving that no matter what age you are, you can chase your dreams (literally!).

The best part: this chicka made it to 100! Maybe yet another testament to what purpose, drive, and success can actually do for your health. And maybe a call to some of our current retirees to see if marathons can help you elongate

your life too 😉 

Sister Madonna Buder (aka the Iron Nun)

Sister Madonna Buder (aka the Iron Nun) is yet another woman who made it big in retirement
Sourced from triathlete

Sister Madonna Buder was a champion equestrian as a teenager, but sport took a real back seat in her life. At age 23, she joined a convent and religion claimed a huge part of her life. 

But at age 48, she had a chance conversation with a priest that changed the trajectory of her life. He talked about the ability that running had to harmonize the mind, body and soul, and this was incredibly appealing to her. 

She’d never been much of a runner – unless it involved interactive sports – but she ran half a mile in five minutes and decided to keep going. 

Five weeks after her first run, she went on to complete an 8.2 mile race, and then to run the Boston Marathon, and other races soon followed. But when she started getting a little bored with the repetition? A friend suggested a triathlon. 

So how old was she when she entered her first triathlon? 52 years old. She finished it, and shortly thereafter completed her first Ironman. Since then, she has completed over 45 Ironman races and, at 82, she became the oldest woman to finish an Ironman triathlon, shattering age-group records and inspiring individuals worldwide. 

Her story embodies the principle that age is no barrier to breaking limitations and achieving one’s goals – even if it’s something you never imagined for yourself in your early years. 

She most recently participated in the Last Call triathlon in 2020, in which she opened up a new category – 90 years and above. She’s proof that being a strong, capable, stereotype-breaking, independent woman is possible, even in retirement. 

Dorothy Steel 

Dorothy Steel is yet another prime example of the idea that it’s never too late to pursue a dream – no matter your gender. Born in 1925, she lived much of her life outside the Hollywood limelight, before beginning her acting career in her 80s. 

This made no difference to the level of passion, determination and success she saw. 

Remember the 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther”? She played the character of Merchant Tribe Elder and this performance garnered her widespread attention and appreciation. The success of the film propelled her into the spotlight, her story now serving as an inspiration for many aspiring actors and retirees – proving that you’re never too old to start something new.

Dorothy Steel made a big name for herself in retirement, proving that no matter your age, gender, or race, that success is possible, leaving behind a beautiful legacy
Sourced from The New York Times

And that’s a wrap! We really hope you’ve enjoyed our list of women who made it big in retirement and that it’s helped inspire you to keep dreaming, keep growing, and keep pushing for your best life, even in retirement. 

We understand that everyone deserves access to a happy, wholesome, and successful retirement. And, while we love our boys in business, we hope this helps remind the women of the United States that it’s possible for you too. 

Because no matter what age, or gender, there’s no limit to what you’re capable of, as long as you put your mind to it. 

To learn more about breaking stereotypes in retirement, explore our full range of articles, how-tos and more at Earn Money in Retirement. Or, join our exclusive, free FB community to get the inside-scoop on all things retirement. 

(Psst! We’d love to know if you have your own stories of women who’ve made it big in retirement … even if that woman is you! Feel free to leave a comment or join the group and let us know your story! Who knows, we may even write a little blog about you too … )

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