It’s easy to remember a time when women weren’t welcome on the country stage. When it was thought that audiences wouldn’t buy albums of female-led songs, and even worse, wouldn’t attend concerts where women were making music. Since then, so much has changed in country music. Women now have as strong a presence as men in the industry, with legends like Patsy Cline paving the way for those who would follow – Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton among them.
Today we take a look at some of the top female singers in country music. As women continue to excel in the business, it’s interesting to see the variety of artists who have made their mark on country music and where they rank among their contemporaries.
From Alison Krauss to Wynonna Judd, this is our list of the top female country singers of all time.
1. Alison Krauss
After winning her first Grammy in 1991, Alison proceeded to be the most awarded female artist. She had 27 Grammys under her belt until recently when Beyoncé snatched the crown.
2. Anne Murray
Most popular as the first Canadian female singer to reach number 1 on US charts, she helped make way for the international success of other Canadian artists like Céline Dion and Shania Twain.
3. Ashley McBryde
Known for her rock ‘n roll swagger, Ashley puts a modern spin on classic country themes. Her breakthrough single A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega brought her to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 2017.
4. Barbara Mandrell
The ’70s chart-topping singer Barbara Mandrell was the first-ever and only woman to win CMA’s Entertainer of the Year award twice.
5. Bobbie Gentry
Gentry was the first female artist to produce her own compositions, and she came into the limelight with Ode to Billie Joe which peaked for a whole month on Billboard Hot 100.
6. Bonnie Tyler
This Welsh singer was famous for her distinctive husky voice, and her album The World Starts Tonight in 1977 skyrocketed her to prominence. Holding Out for a Hero was one of her popular ’80s country songs.
7. Brenda Lee
She swept the charts during the 1960s with 47 hits ranking fourth in the decade. She was only surpassed by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Ray Charles.
8. Carrie Underwood
The Jesus, Take The Wheel singer was the winner of the fourth season of American Idol who went on to become one of the most successful female country artists.
9. Cassadee Pope
She was the vocalist of the rock band Hey Monday until she went solo in 2012 and won The Voice Season 3 and shifted to country music, where she earned her hits.
10. Connie Smith
Connie is widely regarded as country music’s most powerful and influential female vocalists. Her first record release, Once A Day, was a blockbuster smash for several months.
11. Crystal Gayle
She is one of the first huge female crossover artists in the country music genre, with Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue as one of her best-known hits.
12. Danielle Bradberry
She rose to fame after winning The Voice Season 4 as the youngest artist to win the show at the time. Her albums and singles have been definitely huge hits.
13. Deana Carter
The American country music singer-songwriter was one of the female country singers from the ’90s who chose to defy stereotypes. Her 1996 debut album Did I Shave My Legs for This? was certified multi-platinum in the US.
14. Dolly Parton
This list will never be complete without the iconic Dolly Parton. Her entire music catalogue is a treasure in country music with hits like Joshua, Jolene, and I Will Always Love You.
15. Dottie West
Alongside Patsy and Lorretta, Dottie is considered one of the most groundbreaking female country music singers. Her song Country Sunshine was used in the iconic Coca-cola commercial.
16. Emmylou Harris
The queen of country-folk first started as Gram Parson’s vocal partner, but soon enough, she gained success as a solo artist with records like her 1978 Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town.
17. Faith Hill
Faith Hill is one of the most widely-known names in the country music genre. The Mississippi-born singer bagged three number ones with her 1993 debut album.
18. Gabby Barrett
Despite being a new name, Gabby Barrett has already made records. Her debut single, I Hope, was the first debut single by a solo female artist that topped the Country Radio charts since 2017.
19. Gretchen Wilson
The Redneck Woman singer is one of the few artists who experienced a meteoric rise. And she went on to become a Grammy award-winning artist.
20. Jean Shepard
A hidden gem in country music, Jean Shepard was not one to give a damn. She was one of the first women to do honky tonks despite the fact that it was considered uncouth for women.
21. Jennifer Nettles
Jennifer Nettles is best known as the other half of the duo Sugarland and is considered one of the most successful lead singers. She collaborated with Bon Jovi for a country version of his hit single, Who Says You Can’t Go Home.
22. June Carter Cash
Despite being related to famous artists, she carved her own name with her songwriting prowess. She was a five-time Grammy Award winner and one of the most influential women in country music history.
23. Kacey Musgraves
Kacey is regarded as the future of the country music genre, breaking the molds of the traditional country by talking about weed and same-sex relationships.
24. Kathy Mattea
Kathy was a hit country music and bluegrass singer. She charted over 30 singles on the Hot Country Songs chart with four number ones in her career.
25. Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson was the first-ever winner of American Idol, which helped earn a record deal. Her debut single, A Moment Like This, was the best-selling single of 2002.
26. Kelsea Ballerini
The Tennessee native who debuted in 2014 was best known for her song Love You Like You Mean It. She is one of the hottest names in country music today.
27. Kitty Wells
Kitty Wells is considered a pioneer of female country music, as proved by the barrier-breaking 1952 hit It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.
28. Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina is another American Idol alumna who rose to fame after her runner-up win on the show. In 2018, she bagged the New Female Artist of the Year award.
29. LeAnn Rimes
At just 13, LeAnn’s debut studio album Blue hit number 1, which made her not only a country sensation but also a household name.
30. Lee Ann Womack
She was one of the female country singers from the ’90s that definitely made a mark with her music, just like her hardcore honky-tonk 1997 debut album.
31. Linda Ronstadt
Though Linda as an individual artist, was tied to the ’70s rock scene, she collaborated with artists from different genres, including country artists.
32. Loretta Lynn
Loretta was a trailblazer of her time, writing some of the best country songs that definitely showed the roots of country music.
33. Lorrie Morgan
The daughter of George Morgan, Lorrie started her career early. At the age of 13, her Paper Roses performance on the stage of Opry earned a standing ovation.
34. Lucinda Williams
Another name that should never be left out in this list is the alt country queen, Lucinda Williams. Her 1998 Car Wheels On a Gravel Road was a welcome respite of a masterpiece that shook country radio.
35. Lynn Anderson
Lynn Anderson was known for her pop crossover appeal and the very first female country artist to win an American Music Award which opened the way for female artists of today.
36. Maren Morris
Morris may be a newcomer, but she is already a record-breaker. Her 2019 album GIRL smashed the largest-ever debut streaming week with over 23.96 million streams.
37. Marie Osmond
Marie Osmond was best known for her remake of the country-pop ballad Paper Roses. This catapult into success led her to gain recognition from the ’70s through the ’80s.
38. Martina McBride
No one can ever deny the impact of Martina’s powerhouse vocals and the emotionally packed tracks that remind listeners that not everyone has it easy in life.
39. Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Carpenter brought some folk into the ’90s country music scene with her 1994 album Come On, Come On, which talked about domestic desperation among many others.
40. Mickey Guyton
Mickey is also one of the fresh names in the industry and quickly earning recognition with her contemporary country and pop styles.
41. Miranda Lambert
Under her belt is a total of 14 Female Vocalist of the Year wins, and she’s not even 40 yet. The Weight of These Wings definitely defined her career and flew her on top.
42. Olivia Newton-John
The British-Australian singer was a four-time Grammy Award winner with an impressive chart career, including five US number ones and two Billboard number one albums.
43. Pam Tillis
As the daughter of a legendary country singer, Pam Tillis was set on the same path. She was a trailblazer for the neo-traditional ’90s country radio.
44. Patsy Cline
What most artists hoped to accomplish in a lifetime, Patsy did in just a few years. Considered as one of the best vocalists in country music history, her songs easily became hits and also definitely unforgettable.
The Voice alumna may have not won the show, but she did gain success with her debut single God Made Girls, which made it to charts’ top hits.
46. Reba McEntire
Reba is nicknamed by many as the ‘Queen of Country’ owing to her four consecutive year Female Vocalist of the Year award. She also has 24 number ones, 59 top hits, and 3 Grammys.
47. Rosanne Cash
Country music really runs in the blood as Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, proved to rule the ’80s country radio with hits like Seven Year Ache.
48. Sara and Maybelle Carter
They were some of the very first stars of the genre and were known for their influential Bristol Sessions recording, which undeniably changed country music.
49. Sara Evans
With eight studio albums, including her Born to Fly and Stronger and multiple crossover hits, Sara Evans earned back-to-back awards.
50. Shania Twain
The Canadian country music artist is dubbed the ‘Queen of Country Pop’ with over 100 million records sold. She is the best-selling female artist in country music history.
51. Sheryl Crow
From recording jingles for advertisements to being a backup singer, Sheryl Crow made a path for herself, ultimately earning her nine Grammys.
52. Tammy Wynette
Her timeless duets to smash hits and the distinct pain in her voice when she sings earned her love from many country music fans.
53. Tanya Tucker
At the age of 13, Tanya Tucker already had her first hit with Delta Dawn. And during the course of her decades-long career, she achieved streaks of top hits.
54. Taylor Swift
From Tim McGraw to Evermore, Taylor Swift sold over 200 million records with 11 GrammyAwards and Emmy Awards and to top, 28 Guinness World Records.
55. Terri Clark
A Canadian country music artist, Terri Clark achieved success both in Canada and the US with certified platinum albums and several top 10 country hits.
56. The Chicks
Formerly known as The Dixie Chicks, the trio were fearless in their music. Their insane talent made a deserving, historic impact on country music.
57. The Judds
The mother-daughter duo shook the early 1980s male-dominated country charts with multiple number 1 hits. They also swept the CMA Awards from 1983 to 1991.
58. Trisha Yearwood
She started her career as a background vocalist to one of the most successful female vocalists in the country. She racked up hits throughout the ’90s until the early 2000s.
59. Wanda Jackson
Wanda Jackson began her career as part of The King’s tour. Soon enough, she earned her own title as the undisputed ‘Queen of Rockabilly,’ proving that she learned a thing or two from Elvis Presley himself.
60. Wynona Judd
After The Judds disbanded in 1991, Wynona started her solo career. Her best hits include She Is His Only Need, I Saw the Light, and No One Else on Earth, which all reached number one on the American Country Music charts.
Do you know any of these female country singers? If you do, tell us your favorites! And if you don’t, it’s time to check these women out.
Female Country Singers