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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Pauley

The Women of Disney

Celebrate Women’s History Month with influential Disney women.


Happy Women’s History Month! While Disney may have been started by a man, it surely would not have survived without the creative, intuitive minds of the iconic women who worked alongside Walt and his team. International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 globally to recognize and encourage the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. This year’s theme is #InspireInclusion. By inspiring others to understand and appreciate women’s inclusion, we are working to forge a better world where women feel empowered.


Disney teaches all cast members of the company five keys. These keys are meant to be used as a guide for all guest interactions at every level. The original four keys were Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. In 2020, Disney introduced the Inclusion Key. Josh D’Amaro states, “Inclusion is essential to our culture and leads us forward as we continue to realize our rich legacy of engaging storytelling, exceptional service, and Disney magic.” 


Choose to #InvestInWomen and learn about the strong women who have been a part of bringing the magic to life.


Lilian Disney

Thanks to Lilian Disney, Walt’s wife, our beloved mouse is named “Mickey” instead of “Mortimer Mouse,” which was Walt’s original idea. Aside from that achievement, one of her biggest devotions was a $50 million donation to build a new concert hall in Los Angeles — the Walt Disney Concert Hall.


Harriet Burns

Harriet Burns was the first woman Imagineer. Some of her most noteworthy contributions include constructing sets and props for the Mickey Mouse Club and crafting a model of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for Disneyland. She was also the first woman to receive a Main Street window with a commemorative plaque to honor her work. In 2000, she was donned a Disney Legend by the Walt Disney Company as an employee "whose imagination, talents, and dreams have created the Disney magic."


Mary Blair

Noted for her prominent role as artist, animator, and designer, Mary Blair’s work can be seen in Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Song of the South, and Cinderella. Blair resigned from Disney after her work was criticized for being “overly abstract and too colorful” to take her talents elsewhere. She only returned to Disney when Walt personally requested her to work on the design of the ”it’s a small world” attraction. Now that’s a woman who values self worth. 


Leota Tombs | Katherine Irvine | Ali Irvine-Wheeler 

While Leotta Tombs is most widely known as the face of Madame Leota in Disney’s Haunted Mansion, she also worked as an Imagineer on several Disneyland attractions. If her contributions weren’t enough, her daughter, Katherine Irvine, has gone on to become the art director of Disneyland. Her most recent success was leading the team in the creation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The cherry on top? Katherine’s daughter, Ali Irvine-Wheeler has recently become an Imagineer herself after giving birth to her own daughter: Leota.


Alice Davis

If Alice Davis doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sure her husband, Marc Davis, does. These two were one of the many iconic Imagineer couples who had extremely successful careers with the Walt Disney Company. Alice designed and dressed numerous animated figures for attractions. When asked about her time with the Imagineers, Alice recalls, “Everybody had a job to do. None of us had titles. We all went by first names. And we all worked for the same thing: putting on the best show possible.”


Jennifer Lee

The iconic woman of Disney today, Jennifer Lee, was the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film and the first female director of a feature film that earned more than $1 billion gross box office revenue — that film was none other than Frozen. We’re sure you’ve heard of it.


Thank you to these wonderful ladies for paving the way and inspiring the magic behind Wishes & Wayfinding. “The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”

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