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Last Updated: Friday, 24 December, 2004, 23:13 GMT
Female faces of the year
Clockwise from top left: Wangari Maathai, Condoleezza Rice, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Marge Simpson, Sharon Osbourne, Margaret Hassan, Kelly Holmes, Janet Jackson, Rebecca Loos, Caron Keating

These are some of the women who have made the headlines in 2004, as featured by the BBC News profiles unit. The men of the year will be profiled next week.

The American millionaire lifestyle guru, Martha Stewart, is currently serving a five-month sentence in prison after she was found guilty in July of conspiracy and obstruction. She was found to have lied to federal investigators about a suspicious share sale. But the shamed TV presenter hasn't been idling away her time in jail. She has secured a new TV series to begin late next year revolving around her cooking and lifestyle skills.

Dreams came true for Kelly Holmes when she became a double Olympic champion, striking gold in the 800 and 1500 metres. As the year drew to a close, she completed a triple triumph by becoming BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The 34-year-old former army sergeant has found it difficult to stop smiling since Athens, and says when she races next time, there'll be one big difference: "I won't be bothered about losing."

"My heart was broken," said Paula Radcliffe, the favourite to win the Olympic marathon, as she recalled how she pulled out of the race, weeping and seemingly bewildered by the side of a hot and dusty road. Eight days later, she failed to complete the 10,000 metres too, and ridicule was heaped from some quarters upon her slender frame. But in November, Radcliffe salvaged some pride by winning the New York marathon.

Former Blue Peter presenter Caron Keating died of breast cancer, aged 41, at the Sevenoaks home of her mother and broadcaster, Gloria Hunniford. She joined the well-known children's television programme in 1986, revealing her mother's identity only later. Her quirky dress sense appealed to youngsters and everyone admired her daring as she abseiled down a 200ft building or dived with sharks.

Perpetually 34 years old, Marge Simpson was named the ideal Mum in a poll by the Mothers' Union. An unusual mother, admittedly, with her spire of blue hair from which she's been known to produce a swarm of bats, the cat and a telephone number to call if Grandpa falls in the bathtub. Eschewing assertive feminism, she is obsessed with cleaning, baking and easing her family's troubles. She is a selfless genius.

Kimberly Quinn will be remembered in relation to the demise of a Home Secretary. David Blunkett resigned as an official inquiry found a "chain of events" linking him to the speeding up of a visa application by his ex-lover Kimberly Quinn's nanny. News of their affair was leaked in the summer and Mr Blunkett has since sought access to her child - which he claims is his - in the courts. Mrs Quinn is married to Stephen Quinn, a director of publishers Conde Nast.

When the British-born, Iraqi-based aid-worker Margaret Hassan was kidnapped in Baghdad in October, there was hope that she may survive the ordeal. Two Italian women charity workers had also been recently taken hostage and released. But her kidnappers showed no mercy despite numerous appeals from Muslim groups who emphasised Mrs Hassan's valiant work in dispensing health care to Iraqis as director of Care. She was known in the slums of Baghdad, by the people she worked tirelessly to help, as Madam Margaret. Thousands mourned her at a funeral service in Westminster Cathedral. Her body has not been found.

The image of David Beckham as the perfect husband took a knock when his former PA, Rebecca Loos, claimed they had an affair. Her story, complete with steamy text messages, was bought by a tabloid for a six-figure sum. Since then, Ms Loos has exploited her fame by launching herself on the celebrity circuit including an appearance on reality TV show The Farm.

Sonia Gandhi, leader of India's Congress Party, surprised the nation by winning the general election in May against the odds. But the 57-year-old widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, stunned the country soon afterwards. "The post of prime minister has not been my aim," she said. "I was always certain that, if ever I found myself in the position I am today, I would follow my inner voice. I humbly decline the post."

Singer Janet Jackson's career suffered over-exposure in February during the half-time show at the Super-Bowl. She flashed one of her breasts during a dance routine with Justin Timberlake. Middle America was outraged and there were a record number of complaints. Timberlake famously described the incident as a "wardrobe malfunction". America's Federal Communications Commission was neither convinced nor amused and fined the broadcaster, CBS, $550,000 for indecency. They're refusing to pay.

Fanny Blankers-Koen, who died in January at the age of 85, said her world changed overnight in 1948 when she won four gold medals at the London Olympics. She was 30 and the mother of two children when she recorded the feat, which led to her election as the greatest female athlete of the century. In another era, she would have been a millionairess - instead, she was given a bicycle and had a rose named after her.

The Russian became her country's first Wimbledon champion when the virtually-unknown 17-year-old took the crown from the big-hitting Serena Williams. The leggy Siberian sensation won the Women's Tour title too, but has attracted resentment from some of her Russian women rivals. They're irritated by her 10 years in America and the temperamental outbursts from her father.

With gold medals in the 100 and 400m at the Athens Olympics, Tanni Grey-Thompson underlined her status as Britain's greatest-ever Paralympian. It took her cache of gold to 11 from five Paralympics. Tanni, 35, says she won't be wheelchair racing in Beijing in 2008 but believes that securing the 2012 Games for London would be "the best thing for Paralympic sport I could imagine".

Actress Jill Halfpenny used her EastEnders role as manicurist to nail the title of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing celebrity champion. With her professional partner Darren Bennett, she wowed the judges and audience with three different dances, scoring the only full marks of the series with their jive. She went on to win the show's Christmas Champion of Champions title. Having been axed from the BBC soap, Jill is to showcase her dancing - and singing - skills by starring in the West End show, Chicago.

A $1.5bn windfall landed on the Salvation Army's doorstep in the form of a bequest from Joan Kroc. The widow of the founder of the McDonald's restaurant chain died in 2003 and requested the donation, the largest ever to a single charity, is used to build community sports centres for working class children. Mrs Kroc, whose husband Ray opened his first burger bar in 1955, also left more than $200m to US National Public Radio.

The environmental activist Wangari Maathai from Kenya became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a controversial choice because of statements she reportedly made asserting that AIDS was a laboratory-created ailment released upon Africa by the West. She claims she was quoted out of context. At the ceremony in Oslo, she said "We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and, in the process, heal our own."

Mastermind of husband Ozzy's career and her family's reality television show, Sharon Osbourne became a Saturday night fixture on British television screens as a judge in ITV's X Factor just after her husband recovered from a serious motorbike accident. She was consoled by the Prince of Wales after losing 2million worth of jewellery in a burglary and appeared on the BBC's Crimewatch programme to offer a big reward for information.

Charlize Theron gained 30lb and donned heavy make-up to play a serial killer in Monster and won the Best Actress Oscar. South African newspapers, excited about the country's first winner of the title, started digging for details of Theron's life. They found that her early years were blighted by real-life tragedy. Her parents' marriage was rocky, and when she was 15, Charlize saw her mother shoot her drunken father dead in self-defence.

It was a good year for Condoleezza Rice. Following President George W Bush's re-election in November, Rice was promoted from National Security Adviser to Secretary of State. She is the first black female to be appointed to the prestigious post, overseeing US foreign policy on behalf of the President. Born in 1954 in Birmingham Alabama, Condi Rice spent her formative years in a segregated society but excelled at school and plays piano to concert level.

Tapes recorded by her voice coach 14 years ago ensured that Diana, Princess of Wales, was in the headlines again. She described the death of her bodyguard, Barry Manakee, as "the biggest blow of my life" and voiced her suspicion that he'd been "bumped off". An inquest decided Mr Manakee's death in a motorcycle crash was an accident. But police have begun a new investigation.


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