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Amy Schneider is the first woman to win more than $1 million on 'Jeopardy!'

With her win Friday, Amy Schneider (left) became the first woman in <em>Jeopardy!</em> history to win more than $1 million.
Casey Durkin
Jeopardy Productions
With her win Friday, Amy Schneider (left) became the first woman in Jeopardy! history to win more than $1 million.

After her 28th victory in a row — a runaway $42,200 win capped by a Final Jeopardy question about a 1948 expedition account — Amy Schneider has become only the fourth contestant and the first woman in Jeopardy! history to win more than $1 million on the regular game show.

Schneider, a software engineering manager from Oakland, Calif., called her run on the show "a life-changing experience."

"It feels amazing, it feels strange," Schneider said in a press release. "It's not a sum of money I ever anticipated would be associated with my name."

Schneider's record-breaking run began Nov. 17, when she claimed a last-minute victory by being the only contestant to correctly answer the Final Jeopardy clue ("A cemetery on this island has the graves of Robert Fulton & 2 of the first 4 Treasury Secretaries" The correct response: "What is Manhattan?").

During an episode that aired the week of Thanksgiving, she acknowledged her identity as a transgender woman by wearing a trans pride flag pin.

"I didn't want to make too much about being trans, at least in the context of the show. I am a trans woman, and I'm proud of that fact, but I'm a lot of other things, too!" she wrote on Twitter of her decision to wear the pin.

"The fact is, I don't actually think about being trans all that often, and so when appearing on national television, I wanted to represent that part of my identity accurately: as important, but also relatively minor. But I also didn't want it to seem as if it was some kind of shameful secret," she added.

Schneider reflects on what made her a success

In a December essay for the website Defector called "How I Got Smart," Schneider attributed her success on the show in part to privilege she had experienced throughout her life — both socioeconomic and otherwise.

"Moreover, I am white, and until well into adulthood, was perceived as male. Had that not been the case, my intelligence would have been seen as surprising at best, and threatening at worst, which undoubtedly would have impacted my intellectual development," she wrote.

With her latest win, Schneider joins an exclusive group of Jeopardy! millionaires. Only four people have won more than that sum in their appearances on the regular broadcast; when earnings from special tournaments are included, the total is five.

After Ken Jennings made his groundbreaking run of 74 consecutive victories, almost 15 years passed before any other contestant was able to win more than 20 episodes in a row. (That included the previous female record-holder, Julia Collins, who won $429,100 in 2014.)

But big winners have come more frequently in recent years, with James Holzhauer's 32-game win streak in 2019, followed by Matt Amodio winning 38 last year.

A new winning streak gives "Jeopardy!" a boost after controversy

Schneider's streak has brought a positive light back to Jeopardy! after the show was criticized over its handling of the host vacancy left by the death of longtime host Alex Trebek.

A slate of celebrity guest hosts that included Aaron Rodgers, Katie Couric and LeVar Burton took turns hosting the program in 2021, purportedly as part of an audition process for a new, permanent host.

Instead, the prolonged process ended with the announcement that Sony Pictures Television had elevated show executive producer Mike Richards — the man once tasked with leading the search for a host — to the role himself.

Richards' selection was immediately met with backlash and questions about whether the audition process had ever been real to begin with. He stepped downjust nine days later.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.