Helen Reddy signing an I Am Woman poster in Hollywood in 2013

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image captionHelen Reddy shot to fame in the 1970s

Helen Reddy, the Australian singer behind feminist anthem I Am Woman, has died aged 78.

Reddy died on Tuesday in Los Angeles, her family said in a statement on Facebook.

Her children Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers described her as a “wonderful mother, grandmother, and a truly formidable woman”.

“Our hearts are broken. But we take comfort in the knowledge that her voice will live on forever.”

Reddy had a string of pop and rock hits in the 1970s, but is best known for the 1972 anthem I Am Woman – a rousing tune which became prominent in the women’s liberation movement.

A sleeper hit, it went on to sell millions of copies worldwide, making Reddy the biggest-selling female artist globally for two years running.

In collecting her 1973 Grammy Award for best female vocalist, Reddy famously thanked “God because she makes everything possible”.

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image captionHelen Reddy became a feminist icon for her hit song

Born in Melbourne in 1941, Reddy grew up in a showbiz family with actor parents, and performed regularly as a child.

After winning a talent contest in Australia, her prize ticket took her to New York City in the 1960s, where she auditioned for a recording contract.

That opportunity fell through but Reddy decided to stay on in the US, later signing with Capitol Records.

Her first hit, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, was followed by a succession of others including Crazy Love, Delta Dawn, and Angie Baby.

But it was her second hit, I Am Woman, which catapulted her to international fame and became a defining song for a generation of women.

Reddy said she had penned the lyrics – with lines such as “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman” – after struggling to find other songs which reflected her pride in being a woman.

In between touring internationally, she also hosted a season of the Helen Reddy Show on NBC TV at a prime-time slot in 1973.

A year later she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Diagnosed with dementia in 2015, she spent the last years of her life in a celebrity care home in Los Angeles.

A film biopic, titled I Am Woman, was released in Australia earlier this year.

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