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HomeworkSpot > Leading Women



Leading Women

We haven't had a female president yet, but women are playing powerful roles in American government. The United States is a step behind some other countries in bringing women to power. Women have been queens of nations, tribal chiefs and empresses throughout history. Below, we've listed a few who have been popularly elected or appointed as heads of state in a democratic government during the last few decades.

For more information, read Women Rulers Throughout the Ages by Guida M. Jackson. Distinguished Women of Past and Present also has an excellent guide to women in government.

  • Indira Gandhi
    As prime minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and 1980 to 1984, Gandhi led the world's largest democracy. Indians called her Mataji, or "respected mother."




  • Golda Meir
    Meir moved to Palestine in 1921 from Milwaukee and quickly became a leader in the Zionist movement. She was elected to the legislature of Israel in 1949 and served as prime minister from 1969 to 1974.

  • Margaret Thatcher
    Thatcher began her long career in Great Britain's Parliament in 1959. She was the first female prime minister and the longest serving. She advocated conservative economic policies during her tenure from 1979 to 1990.

  • Vigdis Finnbogadottir
    The first popularly elected female president in history, Finnbogadottir defeated three men in her first run for Iceland's presidency in 1980. She worked to modernize Iceland and improve the status of women until the end of her fourth term in 1996.

  • Mary Eugenia Charles
    The first female lawyer on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Charles was elected prime minister after the island gained independence from Great Britain in 1978. Known as the "Iron Woman of the Caribbean," Charles instituted economic reforms and environmental protections during her three-term tenure.

  • Benazir Bhutto
    Bhutto served as prime minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and 1993 to 1996 during the country's woes with huge debt, the heroin trade and Afghan refugees.

  • Gro Harlem Brundtland
    As prime minister of Norway from 1986 to 1989 and 1990 to 1996, Brundtland encouraged entrance to the European community. A strong proponent of women's rights, Brundtland helped lead a movement resulting in increased female participation in government.

  • Violeta Barrios de Chamorro
    Chamorro became the first woman to be elected president in the Western Hemisphere when she won the election in Nicaragua in 1990. Her reforms failed to help the country's ailing economy and she retired in 1997.

  • Mary Robinson
    After she was elected president of Ireland in 1990, Robinson said of the Irish voters, "Instead of rocking the table, they rocked the system." After a successful presidency, Robinson accepted a position as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  • Mary McAleese
    Elected president of Ireland in 1997, McAleese continues to promote the peace process between Catholics and Protestants.

  • Helen Clark
    Clark became prime minister of New Zealand in 1999. She had served in parliament for 19 years and held posts as the head of the health, conservation, housing and labor departments.

  • Tarja Kaarina Halonen
    Halonen was elected president of Finland in 2000. She had served in Parliament since 1979 and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1995 until her election.



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