Much has been written and speculated about which is the superior sex: men or women. While we could banter about this all day long, it is better to provide proof of one’s superiority over the other, don’t you think? In many arenas, such as sports, men might have shown some advantage over women, even if it is a slight one. However, there are many, many other areas of life in which some women have demonstrated prowess over their male counterparts. Politics is one of them. The following are ten of the most successful women political figures in all of history and of our time. When you compare these to some of the men they ran up against, these women have it all over the guys.
1. Hilary Clinton
No longer known only as the long-suffering wife of President Bill Clinton, on January 21, 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as the 67th Secretary of State of the United States. This capped a nearly 40-year career in public service as an advocate, attorney, First Lady, and Senator. Clinton is the epitome of triumph in the face of adversity. Although her presidential run against Barack Obama was unsuccessful, she achieved an appointment in his cabinet as Secretary of State. While she might have been the butt of a few bad jokes during her husband’s presidency, who’s laughing now?
2. Sarah Palin
Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that Sarah Louise Palin has become a force in American politics within the past two years. The youngest person and the first woman elected Governor of Alaska, Palin served there from 2006 until her resignation in 2009. In addition to having the distinction of being the first female vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party when she was chosen by Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain in August 2008 to be his running mate, Palin was also the first Alaskan on the national ticket of a major party. Apparently Palin appeals to many, and has struck a chord with a certain sector of the American public, both male and female.
3. Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher holds the record for being the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 20th century. She was undefeated in the polls during the election years of of 1975, 1979, 1983, and 1987. Thatcher is also known for building a strong relationship between her country and the United States through then president Ronald Reagan; for changing the UK’s cultural and economic systems; for reducing the power of unions, increasing home ownership, and reducing the government’s role in business matters, thus opening Great Britain’s culture to more entrepreneurship. Though she was forced to resign in 1990 after some unpopular taxes she instituted, her importance to the history of Great Britain cannot be denied.
4. Indira Gandhi
Indira Nehru Gandhi fought her way to the top and became Prime Minister of India in 1966, making her the first woman leader of a democracy in the world. Gandhi served as Prime Minister until 1977, and was re-elected to the same position in 1980. Although her own bodyguards assassinated her in 1984, her importance to the history of India and to women in politics will live on.
5. Sandra Day O’Connor
Sandra Day O’Connor worked as an attorney for many years before becoming the first female Supreme Court justice. She was also assistant attorney general in Arizona, a senator for the state senate, and in 1972, she became the first woman in the United States to serve as majority leader in a state senate. O’Connor decided to run for a judgeship rather than for reelection to the state senate in 1974, beginning her judicial career. She was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, and became the first woman to serve as a justice on the US Supreme Court. Her position as justice was usually middle of the road, although she did seem to side with the Republicans in 2001 when she voted to suspend Florida’s ballot recount, thus ensuring the election of George W. Bush as President. Quite an influential woman on all counts until her retirement from the Supreme Court in 2005.
6. Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel is the first woman and the current Chancellor of Germany and the first woman leader of Germany since it became a modern nation-state in 1871. She is considered by Forbes Magazine to be the most powerful woman in the world, and was the third woman ever to serve on the G8 (after Margaret Thatcher and Kim Campbell) In 2007, Merkel became the second woman to chair a G8 summit (after Margaret Thatcher). This woman is a formidable force in international politics on all levels.
The Queen of Egypt from 55 to 48 BC, Cleopatra was the last ruler of the Macedonian Dynasty. She tried to enlist the help of Julius Caesar while trying to keep Egypt free, and eventually bore him a son. Cleopatra late, she won the protection of Rome through an affair with Mark Anthony, having three children with him. Cleopatra was a highly educated woman who studied philosophy and international relations, and was ahead of her time. She used her feminine allure to enlist the support of influential male leaders during her time, and by the same token increased her own power – how smart was that?!
8. Queen Elizabeth I
The Queen of England from 1558 to 1603, Elizabeth’s rule was characterized by acts of tolerance, government reforms, a strengthened currency, and the growth of a capitalist economy. As she herself was highly educated, she also turned her court into a great center of learning. Elizabeth remained single, although she was constantly under pressure to marry to form political alliances. Elizabeth is famous for defeating the invading Spanish Armada in 1588; for failing to suppress uprisings in Ireland; and for the long wars during her 45 year tenure, now referred to as the “Elizabethan age.”
9. Golda Meir
Golda Meir served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1978. Becoming Prime Minister of Israel in the late 1960s was a real political feat for a female at that time. Known for being powerful and tough, Meir’s defense policy was criticized after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Meir retired from politics when her Labor Party fell from power as a result of the Yom Kippur War. She is famous for being the first female Prime Minister of Israel and the third female leader in the world at the time.
10. Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was an activist for her entire lifetime, fighting for equal rights for everyone. She worked in the abolition of slavery, education reform, labor rights, and to attain women’s rights. She was the first woman ever to vote in a presidential election in 1872, even though she did so illegally and was arrested for her vote. Anthony continued to work tirelessly for women’s rights until her death in 1906. If it wasn’t for her work, women most assuredly would not have achieved the right to vote in 1920.