female dyslexics

17 Successful Female Dyslexics

We have listed 17 successful female dyslexics who despite their learning problems at school, have achieved amazing things in their field. Find out who makes it on to our list! Are there any you did not even know about?

No. 1 – Erin Brockovich

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Best Known Achievement: Her Work as a Legal Activist
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Erin Brockovich is a famous lawyer and environmental activist who despite her dyslexia won a $333 million class-action lawsuit — the largest of its kind in U.S. history. For her, the toughest adversary wasn’t the multi-billion dollar corporation she was against, nor the thousands of pages of medical records and legal briefs, it was reading at school. It was also the fact that due to her inabilities in the classroom, she endured a lot of teasing from other kids.

Like most dyslexics, Brockovich never had a name for her difficulties. That was until much later in life when she was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“My high school teachers would not have believed I could have read all those briefs,” says Brockovich, describing her experience as a dyslexia at school. “Early on I was told I probably wouldn’t make it through college. I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I had great hardships in school — since second grade.”


No. 2 – Jessica Watson

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Best Known Achievement: Youngest to sail solo and unassisted around the world.
Female Dyslexics Home Country – Australia


The 16-year-old was a preschooler when she was diagnosed with severe dyslexia – the lone child in the class unable to count to 10 or recite the alphabet. But after enduring the stigma of illiteracy, Jessica’s fate changed at age 11 when mum Julie read her Lionheart, the story of Jesse Martin’s solo world voyage.

“What people don’t realise is that I was reading to her because she couldn’t read,” says Watson’s Mum, describing her private pain battling dyslexia in her daughter. “I was helping her access a world she couldn’t reach.”


No. 3 – Debbie Macomber

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Best Known Achievement: #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Growing up, Macomber did not know she had dyslexia. In fact, she didn’t realize she was dyslexic until her children were diagnosed with the learning disability years later. She struggled in school and did not learn to read until she was in the fifth grade, but Macomber never gave up her dream of one day becoming published.

“I assumed I was dumb. Often times when we have a disability in one area we are often compensated in another area by a talent – for me it was storytelling, I wanted to become a writer because I had stories to tell.”


No. 4 – Agatha Christie

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Best Known Achievement: Crime Novelist, short Story Writer and Playwright.
Female Dyslexics Home Country – England


Christie couldn’t even balance her own checkbook due to her learning disability. She had a hard time spelling correctly, as a self proclaimed “extraordinarily bad speller” and was not good about remembering numbers, but her dyslexia did not hold her back.


No. 5 – Octavia Spencer

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Best Known Achievement: Academy Award Winning Actress and Author
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Before all of the awards, accolades and before all of the Hollywood lights, when she was growing up, Spencer had trouble reading. Due to dyslexia, the words were jumbled, and she would have to start reading the same passages over and over again, losing interest.

“I’m reading today because of Encyclopedia Brown, Encyclopedia Brown was my first boyfriend, in my mind.”


No. 6 – Diane Swonk

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Best Known Achievement: Chief Economist and Financial Commentator
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA

Swonk is an internationally recognized economist and a financial commentator on national and international television. She is also a resource for global business leaders and policy makers and a sought-after speaker for business and youth groups. Because of her dyslexia she says “I spent a lot of my life insecure”. And even though she has reached success in her life she says “I can’t read a speech. I write out the thoughts I want to cover and make an outline, but I never look at it while I’m speaking. The art of communication is something I’ve worked hard at.”

At school she found it difficult learning traditional ways. “I couldn’t memorize the times tables or add a column of figures, and I didn’t know left from right, but calculus and algebra were a piece of cake.”
When she was finally diagnosed with the condition she says, “I realized I wasn’t alone, and that there was a world out there where I could be accepted and be who I was. Now I’m very open about my dyslexia. It’s part of who I am and it’s made me who I am. If you want strategic thinking, come to me. If you want linear thinking, don’t come to me.”


No. 7 – Jennifer Aniston

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Best Known Achievement: Award Winning Actress
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Aniston revealed that she doesn’t read all that often because of dyslexia, which hurt her self-esteem during some of her formative years. She found out she had the learning disability in her 20’s.

“I thought I wasn’t smart. I just couldn’t retain anything,”…“Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained.”


No. 8 – Loretta Young

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Best Known Achievement: Oscar for Best Actress in 1947, for The Farmer’s Daughter
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Young complained to her mother that she couldn’t tell the b’s and the d’s apart in her school readings. Her family had her vision checked, but there was little more support available in the 1910s and 1920s. By her early teens, she was tutored on movie sets, and not expected to study much. She recognized herself as having dyslexia when she first heard the word, after a career in which she memorized whole scenes to avoid reading unfamiliar text in front of others. Young was one of the early celebrity readers to volunteer her time and voice for making audiobooks to help other dyslexics.

“I hated school . . . . One of the reasons was a learning disability, dyslexia, which no one understood at the time. I still can’t spell . . .”


No. 9 – Professor Elizabeth Blackburn

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Best Known Achievement: Nobel Prize in Medicine
Female Dyslexics Home Country – Australia


Blackburn discovered the molecular nature of telomeres – the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information – and co-discovered the ribonucleoprotein enzyme, telomerase.

“One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia. I had a lot of trouble in school and was put into remedial classes. I thought that I was stupid”


No. 10 – Princess Beatrice of York

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Best Known Achievement: Granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II
Female Dyslexics Home Country – England


From a young age, Princess Beatrice struggled with reading and writing and was diagnosed as dyslexic at age seven.

“I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was seven and it was a bit of a struggle to begin with. It was a challenge as I began my school career – spelling and reading was something I couldn’t really get my head around.”

“Dyslexia is not a pigeonhole to say you can’t do anything. It is an opportunity and a possibility to learn differently. You have magical brains, they just process differently. Don’t feel like you should be held back by it.”


No. 11 – Whoopi Goldberg

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Best Known Achievement: Academy Award-winning Actress, Comedian, and Television Host
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Goldberg remembers growing up under a number of false labels. “When I was a kid they didn’t call it dyslexia. They called it… being slow, or you were retarded…” Her mother knew that those labels were false, and that in fact she was dealing with something else.

“I’m dyslexic, so there weren’t a whole lot of books in my early life. But I did love stories. I love fairy tales and I love spooky stories. Anything with a good 25 to 30-minute brain trip for me to go on. I still like to be read to.”


No. 12 – Keira Knightly

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Best Known Achievement: Award-winning Actress
Female Dyslexics Home Country – England


Knightley struggled with reading in school and was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 6. Her parents took quick notice and used an incentive to improve her reading. The incentive was that if she was able to learn to read, her parents would hire an agent for her.

“I am a slow reader. I always loved words, which is a strange thing given that I couldn’t actually read them.”


No. 13 – Cher

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Best Known Achievement: Singer and Actress
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Cher was not diagnosed with dyslexia at school, unable to read she dropped out two weeks into high school. She was diagnosed at 30 when looking for solutions to her own dyslexic child. Because of her dyslexia she became an avid listener and was able to retain information most others missed.

“I am a terrible reader, I don’t write letters. Numbers and I have absolutely no relationship. I can dial a phone OK, as long as it’s not long-distance. I write the first letter of the word, and my mind races to the last letter. I see words and jumble them together.
I see billboards, billboards no one has even invented.”


No. 14 – Cath Kidston

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Best Known Achievement: Cath Kidston Limited
Female Dyslexics Home Country – England


Cath Kidston is an English fashion designer, businesswoman and author whose company was valued at £75 million. She is particularly known for her nostalgic floral patterns and did not know she had dyslexia at school.

“I can’t remember a phone number but I can recall a particular shade of green from 20 years ago. I was always learning, just not through traditional academic subjects.”


No. 15 – Dr. Carol Greider

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Best Known Achievement: Nobel Prize in Medicin
Female Dyslexics Home Country – USA


Greider is one of the three winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, joining just eleven other women in winning the Prize since its inception in 1901. Greider has never seen her gender as an obstacle; but in her early years of schooling, as well as in graduate school admissions, there was one obstacle to overcome: her dyslexia.

“When I was in elementary school I was considered a poor speller and somebody who couldn’t sound out words, so I was taken into remedial classes,”€…“I remember having a tutor come down and take me out of class and bring me to a different room. It certainly felt like I wasn’t as good as the other kids.”€…“I found ways to overcome any difficulties that I had. I would memorize words and how they were spelled rather than try to sound them out. So, I feel as though that taught me that if I want to do something, I just put blinders on and I go forward and I do it. Some of the ways that I overcame my struggles in school helped me later on to be able to focus.”


No. 16 – Maggie Aderin-Pocock

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Best Known Achievement: Space Scientist, Mechanical Engineer, and Science Communicator
Female Dyslexics Home Country – England


Aderin-Pocock was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of eight, and started out hating school. She changed schools 12 times before she was 18. “It didn’t agree with me,”…“I used to sit at the back of the classroom and sort of skulk a bit. Because of my dyslexia, my reading and writing weren’t very good at all.”

“Imagine a dyslexic from London meeting the queen of England. It’s mind-boggling stuff, but that shows how much potential you have.”


No. 17 – Salma Hayek

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Best Known Achievement: Space Scientist, Mechanical Engineer, and Science Communicator
Female Dyslexics Home Country – Mexico – USA


Hayek dropped out of college and began her acting career. Once acheiving success in Mexico, she moved to America. Hayek had trouble learning English at first. Her first few months in America were difficult especially with her dyslexia hindering her learning English.

“Some people read really fast, but you’ll ask them questions about the script and they’ll forget. I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once. I directed [The Maldonado Miracle], and I never brought the script to the set.”


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Tom Mullally17 Successful Female Dyslexics

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