An Historic Year

This is an historic year. But then, every year is historic once it is over. But this is a particularly historic year for women on the political front.

The two wealthiest nations in Europe are headed by women-Germany and Britain. Austria, Norway, Malta, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia all have female heads of state or prime ministers. Women were elected to lead in South Korea and Taiwan. Bangladesh,a Muslim country, has had a female prime minister for seven years now. Chile, Namibia, Nepal, Myanmar, and numerous smaller nations can be added to the list.

Both major political parties in the United States had women running for their nominations for President and the US appears poised--for the first time--to elect a woman to be the 45th President. On January 20, 2017, a woman may be sworn in as leader of the wealthiest, most powerful nation the world has ever known.

We have always been told that women have never really been important on the global political stage and that is why this year is so momentous. But is that really true? Undoubtedly, men dominate the lists of national leaders throughout history, but does that mean that women had no influence. Who is it that has been telling us that women have typically been irrelevant? Historians? Male historians?

If we take a peek back in time, we can find hints of female power across the world. Pharaohs Sobekneferu and Hapshepsut along with Queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra ruled the wealth of ancient Egypt. Empresses Lu Zhi and Wu Zetian held tremendous power in China. Eight women have held the position of Empress Regnant in Japan--the first died in 628. In Korea, Queen Seondeok of Silla and Jindeok of Silla developed the term yeowang or "female king" to refer to themselves instead of the term wangbi, which is usually translated as "queen consort" and refers to the wife of a king or emperor.

The Queen of Sheba--or more likely Saba--was made famous by the Bible along with Queen Salome of Judea. Shammurāmat was an empress regnant of Assyria between 811 and 808 BCE.

The Hadith texts of Islam provide numerous examples of women having public leadership roles. Muhammad’s first wife Khadija bint Khuwaylid was his chief adviser as well as his first and foremost supporter. His third wife Aisha Abu Bakr, lead an army at the Battle of the Camel.

Amina was a Hausa Muslim Warrior Queen of Zaria, in what is now north west Nigeria. Queen Njinga Mbande was a 17th-century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola. In ancient Maya, during the Classic Period, there were five women who rose to the position of ruling queen.

And, of course, we are all familiar with Isabella I of Castile, Elizabeth I of England and Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia.

A few of these women have had their stories extensively told. Some, I am sure, you have never heard of before. It is my hope to tell the stories of the many women who have influenced our world through time--famous, infamous, and forgotten.

I hope you enjoy!

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