For everyone new here, I figured I’d remind you of what my civic issues blog is all about! Essentially I’m analyzing the role of women in politics both domestically and internationally. Surprise! This week’s topic is influential women politicians around the world in history who have been influential leaders. It’s important to understand where we came from regarding this issue to measure progress.
To start off, I figured I would go all the way back to our colonial ruler: England. More specifically, Queen Elizabeth I. During her reign in Great Britain, she ushered in a golden age where the arts flourished, the religious schisms in society were soothed and exercised shrewd leadership and political strategy. More information about her can be found here. It’s really interesting how she used her power and influence as a woman to rule over England and it’s territories. For instance, she remained unmarried her entire life to keep the prospects of marriage open, which at that time would have joined nations together. Because she was eligible, other countries didn’t really wanted to cut ties and ruin their prospects of a merge with England. She used the fact that she was a woman to throw around her political influence. History doesn’t see her gender as limiting, but rather it helped her and empowered her to make the tough choices she needed to make at the time.
Margaret Thatcher was another influential person in Great Britain’s history. She was the first woman to be elected as the ‘head of government’ in a western democracy, a title she held for more than eleven years. She is described as one of the most “controversial, dynamic, and plain-spoken” political leaders of her time. Source. She successfully implemented healthcare and education reforms, despite multiple assassination attempts and she followed her convictions. Although her reign is highly criticized, there is something to be said about people who know what they want and will not stop until they achieve it.
Joan of Arc is another influential woman in history, who started her journey to leadership at the age of 17, the age of a high school senior. I’ll give a very abridged overview of her accomplishments, however more can be read about her here. She was living in France in a time when there was a lot of conflict with the English. At the time, there was a rather ineffective ruler, whom she approached at his court to ask him for a chance to help lead the French into battle. Her demonstrated convictions and passion swayed him to accept a peasant girl with zero military experience as one of the commanders in his army. She lead the French to victory, in at least three battles before she was captured and sold to the British, who put her on trial for witchcraft. She was intelligent at her trial, giving sharp responses and even garnering sympathy from the spectators. She was found guilty and burned at the stake. Her leadership was made possible by how strongly she felt about a situation, not necessarily careful collection of life experiences, which I found interesting.
Some things that all three of these ladies have in common is that they are all European, they all had strong convictions, they didn’t care much about the feelings of others, and they didn’t let their gender stop them.
I’d like to focus on how conviction plays a role in leadership and politics. No matter what country somebody’s in, it’s a necessity to have a leader who has a vision that people can get behind. Conviction is something that people need. Do you have that one friend who can never make a decision? I know that I do, and it’s frustrating. All of these women were strong in their beliefs and doors opened for them. Conviction is necessary for leadership regardless of gender.
Now back to politics. Joan of Arc had to make a plea to be put in charge of her army. Margaret Thatcher had to gain the approval of Britain. Elizabeth had to establish herself in the global community. All three could be described as masculine because of certain actions they took, and they are portrayed as being very icy individuals(with the exception of Joan of Arc, she was more witty than icy). It was almost as though they had to ‘turn off’ their femininity to be respected. Elizabeth never married. Thatcher would never be described as ‘motherly’. Joan of Arc is often portrayed in drawings with masculine features in battle. Although they were girls, they still played like boys. Although a lot of progress has obviously been made since then, it’s important to realize how ingrained the ‘leader = male’ stereotype is.
Let me know what you think of this history lesson and if there’s anyone who you particularly look up to as a leader, be it male or female! Thanks for reading!