The possibility of electing the first woman President of the United States is a big deal for many of us Americans. But the rest of the world may well ask: What took you so long?
Even in the days when women were not eligible to enter the professions or earn university degrees, they still could be queens and empresses.
Rulers such as Queen Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great of Russia showed that women could play power politics with the best of them.
Since women in the 20th century received the right to vote and run for office, they’ve had the opportunity to become heads of government on their own merits and not as family dynasties. Here are some examples.
1969 – Golda Meir (Israeli Labor Party) became Prime Minister of Israel.
1979 – Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
1990 – Jenny Shipley (National Party) became Prime Minister of New Zealand.
1991 – Edith Cresson (Socialist) became Prime Minister of France.
1993 – Kim Campbell (Progressive Conservative) became Prime Minister of Canada.
1993 – Tansu Çiller (True Path Party) became Prime Minister of Turkey. [added later] (Hat tip to S. Glover)
2005 – Angela Merkel (Christian Democratic Union) became Chancellor of Germany.
2010 – Julia Gillard (Australian Labor Party) became Prime Minister of Australia.
2011 – Dilma Rousseff (Brazilian Labor Party) became President of Brazil
Here are some examples of women who achieved power as members of family dynasties.
1966 – Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, became Prime Minister of India.
1974 – Isabel Peron, widow of Juan Peron, became President of Argentina.
1986 – Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino Jr., became President of the Philippines.
1988 – Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulifikar Ali Bhutto, became Prime Minister of Pakistan.
2001 – Magawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Sukarno, became President of Indonesia. [added later]
It is an interesting question as to whether Hillary Clinton, if elected, belongs on the first list or the second. She is a successful and effective politician, but would she have been elected Senator from New York or been appointed Secretary of State if she had been Hillary Rodham rather than Hillary Rodham Clinton?
Currently Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Liberia, Lithuania, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Namibia, Nepal, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom all have women as heads of state, heads of government or both. Also Burma (sort of).