Country music often gets associated with male singers, but female country singers should not be overlooked. Their voices, at one moment soft and at another moment powerful, bring the exact emotion needed for singing country songs.
Without women, we wouldn’t have some of the most iconic songs of all time. And in this post, we’ll look at 31 of the greatest and most famous female country singers who’ve lent their voices and talent to country music and see how they rose to such fame. Read on!
Related: Check out our list of the greatest country singers of all time here.
1. Dolly Parton
First, we have possibly the greatest of all time, Dolly Parton, who is one of the most recognizable names in music. She is a veteran in the industry, providing us with heartfelt songs since 1967.
Parton’s hard work has paid off. Today she has had 44 albums reach the top 10 country albums list—a record amount for musicians, male or female.
Her work is highly recognized, even outside of the country music scene, with 11 Grammy Awards, 3 American Music Awards, and nominations for Academy, Tony, and Emmy Awards. And to recognize her, Parton was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for her outstanding work.
She continues to work, not only as a singer but as a children’s book author and philanthropist, among many other roles.
2. Loretta Lynn
The long and successful career of 18x Grammy Award–winner Loretta Lynn began in the 1950s when she began singing in small clubs in her area. Six decades of performing later, Lynn is the most-awarded female country recording artist of all time.
A trailblazer for female country artists, Lynn was one of the first women to sell 500,000 albums with her album Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin (With Lovin On Your Mind).
Her 60-year career is nearly unparalleled, with a whopping 50 studio albums to show for it. Remarkably, she toured until the age of 85. While she stays closer to home now, she is still actively putting out new music.
3. Reba McEntire
Known as the Queen of Country, Reba McEntire has earned this title after releasing an astonishing 34 studio albums since her career started in 1977.
McEntire has created a career around songs about love, heartbreak, and family. These themes are also seen in her work as an actress. She most famously portrayed Reba Hart, a divorced mother trying to find her way, on the WB Network.
McEntire’s singing and acting careers have seen huge success and recognition. In honor of her work, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame by a friend and fellow country music star, Dolly Parton.
4. Emmylou Harris
Celebrated for her consistent contribution to the industry, Emmylou Harris ranks as one of the most influential figures in country music history.
Since debuting in 1970, Harris has added 27 studio albums to her repertoire. Many of these topped the charts or landed in the top 10 of the Billboard Country Albums chart, as well as won the Alabama singer several Grammy Awards—in total, Harris has received 48 nominations and won 14.
Harris’ impact on country music has been recognized by her election into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and Rolling Stone magazine named her among the “200 Greatest Singers of All Time.”
5. Tammy Wynette
Anybody who has heard Tammy Wynette‘s signature song, “Stand By Your Man,” will know why she is on this list. With a voice as full and rich as hers, it’s impossible not to be captivated.
As you might have surmised, “Stand By Your Man” is Wynette’s best and most popular work, but it is by no means the only one. In a career that lasted 33 years, she had over 20 #1 hits!
Even after her death in 1998, Wynette’s influence remains evident in contemporary country music. She remains an icon of country music, her songs standing as timeless reminders of her extraordinary career.
6. Patsy Cline
Born during the Great Depression, the early life of our next singer, Patsy Cline, was marked with hardship. Yet, with determination, she became one of the most influential country singers in history and helped define the Nashville Sound with her bold and haunting voice.
In 1961, she captured the hearts of listeners across the globe with “Crazy.” Not only did it take the second spot on the Country chart, but it was also a crossover hit, landing at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Sadly, Cline’s promising career was cut short by a tragic plane crash on March 5, 1963. Her untimely death sent shockwaves through the music community. She was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a testament to her lasting influence on the genre.
7. Crystal Gayle
Our next singer is not just known for her amazing vocals and charting hits. Her dark floor-length tresses are renowned, as well as her older sister, country music icon Loretta Lynn. Who is this remarkable woman? None other than Crystal Gayle.
The Kentucky-born singer showed a talent for singing at a young age, and by the time she was 16, she was already singing at the Grand Ole Opry.
Debuting in 1975, Gayle went on to release 25 studio albums and 68 singles. Her most popular song, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
In recognition of her contributions to the music industry, Gayle was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009. She was also inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2017, affirming her status as a country music legend.
8. Anne Murray
A woman of many firsts is country singer Anne Murray. She was the first Canadian female solo artist to reach #1 on the US charts, the first to receive a Gold record (for “Snowbird”), and the first Canadian woman to win Album of the Year (for A Little Good News) in 1984.
If this is not enough, Murray helped paved+ the way for future generations of Canadian artists, like Céline Dion and Shania Twain. She is also known for her philanthropic efforts, particularly in support of physical education and sports programs in Canada.
Interested now? Then check out this incredible woman’s other hits: “Love Song,” “You Needed Me,” “Could I Have This Dance,” and “A Little Good News”—all Grammy-winning songs for your playlist.
9. Kitty Wells
Another woman of firsts is Kitty Wells. With her signature song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” in 1952, she became the first female country singer to take the top spot on the country chart in the US. Her success with this song then made her the first female country superstar.
Wells’ impact on country music extends beyond her own career. As one of the first female country stars, she paved the way for future generations of women in the industry, like Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Tammy Wynette.
Kitty Wells passed away in 2012, but her legacy lives on. She was posthumously awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1991 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
10. June Carter Cash
One of the most famous country singer-songwriters of all time is June Carter Cash. Beginning with performing with her parents and siblings under the name the Carter Family at the age of 10, Cash went on to have a career that spanned nearly seven decades.
While Cash had a somewhat successful solo career, her most prominent success was the work she produced with her husband, male country singer Johnny Cash. She famously wrote the song “Ring of Fire” about their relationship, which he subsequently sang and released.
Cash released nine studio albums of her own and six albums with her husband. Nearly two decades after the death of Cash and her husband, their musical abilities and relationship are still iconic.
11. Shania Twain
Canadian-born Shania Twain was born in Ontario but moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was 28 to pursue a country music career.
Twain’s upbeat and twangy vocals, combined with her punchy rock-and-roll instrumentals, captured the hearts of country music lovers and rock lovers alike, propelling her to chart-topping success.
Today, she has sold over 100 million records, making her the best-selling female country artist of all time. This feat is particularly impressive, given that she has released only five studio albums since her career started in 1993.
Because of her multi-genre work, the Country Music Hall of Fame created an exhibit in her honor titled “Shania Twain: Rock This Country.”
12. Taylor Swift
One of the youngest country music stars to rise to fame is Taylor Swift. At only 14, she became the youngest artist signed by Sony Music Publishing. Maintaining her early success, Swift’s fans have had the unique experience of growing up with their favorite artist.
Her music is unique, ranging from country to pop to folk. She identifies first as a songwriter, pairing the songs with whatever genre fits her music best.
Now with ten studio albums and a whopping 59 singles—not to mention broken Guinness World Records 98 times!—Swift has become the youngest person ever put on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time list for her songwriting work.
13. Carrie Underwood
Next up, we have country star Carrie Underwood, who skyrocketed to the top of the country music charts after winning the fourth season of American Idol.
While some American Idol winners fizzle out with time, Underwood has maintained her chart-topping success with many of her releases, like “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats.”
Her career has gone on for nearly two decades, earning her over a hundred awards from various organizations, which has given her the outstanding title of the most awarded country singer of all time.
Underwood has released eight chart-topping albums and is still providing fans with great new songs, with no sign of her career slowing down.
14. LeAnn Rimes
Known for the hit songs “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” and “How Do I Live,” singer-songwriter LeAnn Rimes has been very successful in the country music genre since she was 13.
Since then, her career has been studded with chart-topping songs and albums that have made her into a music industry powerhouse. Rimes has been lauded for her dynamic range and powerful vocals, qualities that earned her multiple Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 1997.
A versatile singer, Rimes has also explored other genres, most notable are her Christian releases. Her album You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs topped not just the Christian charts but also Billboard 200 and has been certified Platinum 4x.
15. Faith Hill
Our next singer, Faith Hill, is said to be a natural country music singer from birth, and it shows since her first two studio album releases were chart-topping hits, leading to her continued success.
Today, she is one of the most successful country music singers of all time, with over 40 million records sold worldwide. Her tender but powerful voice has become iconic to her fans.
Hill has released seven studio albums to date, the latest one (The Rest of Our Life) being a collaboration with her husband, country music great Tim McGraw. It is their first collaborative album together, though they have been going strong together since the ’90s.
16. Martina McBride
Our next singer’s career had an unusual start: selling Garth Brooks souvenirs at his concerts. Garth recognized Martina McBride’s talent and eagerness and agreed to let her open shows for him on the condition that she get signed by a record label.
After creating a demo, McBride was signed to RCA Nashville Records, propelling her country music career. Her first album fell short of its expected success, but her career was revitalized after her second album reached the top 10 on the country music charts.
Since then, McBride has released 12 more studio albums, seeing great success in the country music industry. She has chosen to keep her career at a reasonable level, not frequently touring to raise her children.
17. Linda Ronstadt
American singer Linda Ronstadt is the most eclectic artist on our list. Not only is she well-known in the country music scene, but she is also well-known in rock, opera, and Latin music, with each genre recognizing her achievements in their field.
In the 1970s, Ronstadt became known as the Queen of Rock and was applauded as the first female “arena class” rock star.
She has had an extremely successful career, shown through her 25 solo studio albums, 19 collaborative albums, and 4 Spanish-language albums. Ronstadt has been honored with 11 Grammy Awards over her career.
Music aside, Ronstadt has also made an acting career for herself on Broadway, television, and acting in movies.
18. Trisha Yearwood
It all started with “She’s In Love with the Boy” in 1991. After the song topped Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs charts, Trisha Yearwood was shot to fame, and there was no turning back for her.
Yearwood continued to ride on the wave of her initial success with a string of hits throughout the ’90s. Songs like “In Another’s Eyes,” featuring Garth Brooks, and her cover for LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live” further cemented her status as a country music powerhouse.
With this success came several awards. Both songs won Yearwood Grammys in 1997: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals and Best Female Country Vocal Performance, respectively.
19. Miranda Lambert
Next up, we have another country star who got her start on a singing competition show. Miranda Lambert finished third place on Nashville Star, after which she was signed to the Epic Nashville record label.
Lambert has formed an extremely successful career, beating out some country music veterans in less than two decades.
In 2017, Lambert won the American Country Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year for the ninth time, taking the record from Reba McEntire.
Additionally, she has been awarded two Grammy Awards: Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “The House That Built Me” and Best Country Album for Platinum.
Lambert has released 12 studio albums, including her collaborative work in the female-led country band Pistol Annies.
20. Sara Evans
Raised on a farm where music always played a significant role, Sara Evans began singing when she was not yet six years old as part of the Evans Family Band. This early exposure laid the foundation for her musical career.
Fast-forward to 1997, Evans debuted with Three Chords and the Truth and was soon rising in the spotlight and releasing more albums. Five of her songs reached the top spot on the country charts, including hits like “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”
In addition to her music career, Evans has also taken up acting and producing roles. She is known for her work in Where the Heart Is, Sara Evans: Born to Fly, and To Appomattox.
21. Lee Ann Womack
Texas-born singer Lee Ann Womack began her musical journey first as a songwriter and intern at MCA Records before signing with Decca Records in 1996.
A year later, she debuted with a self-titled album and hit gold. However, it was her third album that became more successful. I Hope You Dance topped Billboard‘s Country chart, while its title track also cleared the #1 spot in the Country charts of not just the US but also Canada.
Today, Womack continues to be a force in the country music scene. She remains active, both in the studio and on stage. With her unyielding passion for music, it’s clear that Womack will continue to enchant us for years to come.
22. Mary Chapin Carpenter
Before her rise to fame, Mary Chapin Carpenter was singing in clubs in Washington, DC. She had her big break when the club owner submitted demos of her songs to Columbia Records, leading to her debut with Hometown Girl in 1987.
Though Hometown Girl did not chart, Carpenter had plenty of success with her other albums, like Come On Come On and Stones in the Road.
Her work has not gone unnoticed, as her songs—”Down at the Twist and Shout,” “I Feel Lucky,” “Passionate Kisses,” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me”—have earned the New Jersey singer plenty of Grammys.
23. Kelsea Ballerini
At 19 years old, Kelsea Ballerini was signed with Black River Entertainment. Her music has gained chart-topping success, landing her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
In just five years, Ballerini released four studio albums. Her career is rapidly growing, with each album topping the charts and winning Ballerini awards. She has 12 major awards to her name already.
In February 2023, Ballerini released an emotional EP titled Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, which delves into the stages of a personal journey and has been well-received.
While Ballerini continues her music career, she is also branching into other paths. She can be found on various television shows, like Songland and Sesame Street, and is the author of the poetry book Feel Your Way Through.
24. Alison Krauss
Before Beyoncé hit the stage, Alison Krauss was one of the most Grammy-awarded female artists. She started her music career at a young age, participating in violin competitions, and eventually joined the band Union Station.
She went solo in 1989, but her 1990 album, I’ve Got That Old Feeling, shot her to success. It landed a spot on Billboard Top Country, and Krauss got her first Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording for the title track.
Krauss continues to rise in the country music industry, both as a solo artist and as a member of Union Station. She also collaborates frequently with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.
25. Rosanne Cash
As the daughter of legendary country singer Johnny Cash, it’s no surprise that Rosanne Cash made it on this list. But her lineage isn’t what makes her famous; the Tennessee-born singer is very talented in her own right.
Cash’s musical portfolio is impressive, with 15 albums to her name that have earned her 4 Grammy Awards and an additional 12 nominations. Her songs, like “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” “Seven Year Ache,” and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” top charts and are widely popular among her fans.
In addition to her music career, Cash is also an accomplished author. Her writing style is often appreciated for its lyrical quality, much like her songs.
26. Tanya Tucker
From the age of 13, Tanya Tucker was already a star. This country music singer-songwriter hit it big with “Delta Dawn” when she was only a teen, but she did not stop there.
Tucker went on to become a Grammy Award-winning artist with several hit albums and chart-topping singles to her name. “Bring Me Flowers Now,” “Strong Enough to Bend,” and “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane” are just a few examples of her notable songs.
As an artist, Tucker’s influence on the Outlaw movement is substantial, challenging the norms of the country music industry with her gutsy Elvis-influenced stage persona and her hard-living, hard-loving image. Her reputation made her a role model for successive generations of country outliers.
27. Kacey Musgraves
Kasey Musgraves is another Nashville Star alum, placing seventh in the fifth season in 2007. Since her days on the show, she has worked hard to get her career to the place it is today.
Her career truly took off when she covered songs from OneRepublic and Miley Cyrus. After the songs reached over 30 million listeners, Musgraves was signed to Mercury Nashville.
Her debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, which was released in 2013, gained her significant attention. The album, co-produced by Musgraves herself, won a Grammy award, establishing her as a noteworthy artist in the country music scene.
She has released five studio albums since 2013, and her career is continuously growing. Musgraves has already won Album of the Year five times from various organizations.
28. Gabby Barrett
Another American Idol alum, Gabby Barrett, won third place on the 16th season of the TV talent show series. Although this feat didn’t garner her much recognition, she continued to perform and grow her career.
Barrett’s career is still young but already very successful. Making an appearance on the next season of American Idol, she sang her debut song, “I Hope.” This performance caught the attention of record labels, getting Barrett signed with Warner Music Nashville.
Since the initial performance, Barrett’s song has reached the top 10 list of the Hot Country Music chart, the top 3 on the Billboard Top 100 list, and went on to become 5x Platinum-certified. Barrett is expected to be country music’s next superstar.
29. Carly Pearce
At just 19 years old, Carly Pearce started in the Nashville scene. For the next seven years of her life, she gained the interest of various record labels but was continuously rejected.
She was finally able to gain the attention of record labels by independently releasing her song “Every Little Thing.” The song made it onto the radio and was popular with listeners, finally giving Pearce the boost she needed to get signed.
Since signing with Big Machine Records, Pearce has released three studio albums. Songs from each album have been well-received by the country music scene, earning her awards for each album she has released.
30. Maren Morris
Grassroots country artist Maren Morris was able to self-release her eponymous debut album in 2015, which skyrocketed her into the record industry.
A true self-starter, Morris’s album reached 2.5 million listeners without the help of a record company. Her talent was quickly noticed, and she was signed to Columbia Nashville almost immediately.
Morris is also a successful songwriter, with credits on songs for country music stars like Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson.
One of Maren’s most notable songs is “The Bones.” It holds the distinction of being the first solo song by a woman to hit #1 on Country Airplay and enter the top 10 on the Radio Songs chart since Taylor Swift’s “You.”
She currently has one self-released and two studio albums available for fans, with more on the way as her career grows.
31. Gretchen Wilson
Singer-songwriter Gretchen Wilson kick-started her career with her hit “Redneck Woman” off her debut album, Here for the Party. This song became #1 on the Billboard Country Music Chart and became well-known in any country music-loving household.
Heavily influenced by rock and roll, Wilson’s music can be described as an upbeat country rock that you can dance to.
While Wilson continues to release music that is popular in the country music scene, none of her work has been quite as successful as “Redneck Woman.” The song earned her the only award in her career, a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Summing Up Our List Of Great Female Country Singers
Country music is a genre that is tender, emotional, fun, and exciting. It would not be the same without the female leaders of the industry, who lend their talents to this genre so well.
From old-school country music to modern-day tunes, from newcomers like Gabby Barrett or seasoned veterans like Dolly Parton, we’re grateful for the amazing work they have brought to country music.
Each of these singers deserves a listen, so treat yourself to some amazing music and listen through the list.