I’ve written a lot of posts about notable and less-known women in history but given the recent election results in America, I thought it would be a good time to give a low-down on some of the most powerful females in history.
Of course such a list is to a degree a personal choice and the figures listed are purely for their absolute power rather than being influential in any other way. There are lots of variables involved in ranking modern day figures against historical ones.
I don’t really believe in grouping individuals by their race, sex, religion or whatever. When I was a boy, Carl Lewis was and Daley Thompson were the greatest athletes in my eyes, not the greatest black athletes or the greatest male athletes. Mrs Thatcher was the the Prime Minister, not the most powerful woman on the planet. Having said that, here is the first part of my list 🙂
10. Queen Cleopatra (69-30 BC) was the last Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, was known for her superior intelligence secured Egypts Independence for as long as possible from the Roman Empire that was growing ever more powerful in neighbouring lands. Rather unfairly modern culture obsesses about her beauty and her love affairs with Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony but there is so much more to her than that and these affairs should be seen as a measure of her great power and importance than than anything more mundane.
9. Borte Ujin (1161-1230) I have a big soft spot for Borte having studied Mongol history at University. She was the wife of Genghis Khan and Empress of the Mongolian Empire, the largest land empire in history. She was one of Genghis Khan’s most trusted advisors and ruled the Mongol homeland in the long periods when he’d be away at war. Can you imagine just how hard it was to rule an empire from eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean and keep a lid on all the intertribal power struggles going on. She must have been quite a woman. She had nine children and was a fantastically skilled horseback archer.
8. Indira Gandhi (1917 – 1984) One of two modern day figures on my list. Indira was the first and only female Prime Minister of India, serving 4 terms between 1966-1984, when she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. She was a controversial but very powerful figure, winning a war with Pakistan, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. She was murdered by her bodyguards over her order to storm their holy temple during an insurgency four months prior.
7. Empress Wu Zetian (624-705) was the only female Emperor in Chinese history, living during the Tang Dynasty. Her rule is known for expanding the Chinese empire, economic prosperity, and education reform. Interestingly, she was also known for her interest in Buddhism. A part of me wonders how into Buddhism she was given she was also known for her ruthlessness and cruelty with rumours that she even killed her own son and daughter. Either way, not a woman to mess with!
6. Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1979 and 1990, the first woman to hold this office. She was the longest-serving British PM of the 20th century and instrumental in winning the Cold War, even the Soviet Union dubbed her the “Iron Lady”. She won a popular and in some ways spectacular victory over Argentina in the 1982 Falklands War, but her economic policies had mixed support, as she promoted a free market economy and confronted the power of the labour unions. Possibly the most free-market ruler of all time, she changed Britain and large parts of the world but maybe not always for the best. Thatcher, Thatcher the Milk Snatcher as she was known in my school.
My next post will complete the run down with figures 5-1. You might have a clue who makes it if the words ‘We are not amused’ mean anything!