Which Countries Have Been Led by Women?

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Although many countries have never had a woman president or prime minister, quite a few countries have been led by a woman. Some were elected and some were placed in the role of country leader to replace their sick or deceased husbands who were the previous leaders of their countries. Four countries that have been led by a woman are Sri Lanka, India, Israel, and The United Kingdom.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike, born 17 April 1916, was the world's first elected female prime minister. Bandaranaike was a woman from Sri Lanka whose husband, Solomon Bandaranaike, was the prime minister of Sri Lanka until he was assassinated by a Buddhist monk in 1959. People called Sirimavo the "weeping widow" as she was known to cry when speaking to the public about carrying on her husband's work. She was elected as the prime minister of Sri Lanka 20 July 1960. Sirimavo's son, Anura, went into politics also and her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, became the first woman president of Sri Lanka.

Indira Gandhi, born 19 November 1917, was a symbol of power to Indian women and praised for her ability to stand up to the British. Gandhi is credited for doing much to lessen Britain's colonial control over India after 1945. Gandhi was a woman who was mostly respected by the Indian people and she was known as Mataji, meaning "respected mother." Gandhi led India for a total of 14 years between 1966 and 1977 and again between 1980 and 1984. Gandhi first became prime minister of India after prime minister Lal Shastri's death.

Golda Meir was born in Russia, 3 May 1898. She was educated in the United States and became a teacher there before moving to Palestine to live on a kibbutz in her 20s. She was a woman who was very concerned about the Arab-Jew tensions and she once disguised herself as an Arab woman to meet with King Abdullah to try to convince him, with no luck, not to go to war. Meir became Israel's ambassador to Moscow in 1949 and the prime minister of Israel in 1967. She resigned in June 1974 after much criticism, ironically, that she neglected to pay enough attention to the Arabs' attack on Israel.

Margaret Thatcher, born 13 October 1925 as Margaret Hilda Roberts, had double degrees from Oxford in law and chemistry. She entered Parliament at age 34 as a Tory. Thatcher became the education minister at age 44 and when the Tory's rightwing candidate left the Tory leadership contest suddenly, Thatcher jumped at the chance to run. The current leader at the time, Edward Heath, told her she would never beat him, but he was mistaken. Thatcher's emphasis on free markets and capitalism had won many Torys over and she solved much of Britain's trade union difficulties. She was also lauded for privatizing for profit some of Britain's largest companies such as British Steel and British Airways.

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Post 2

New Zealand is currently led by Helen Clarke, an elected prime minister. Jenny Shipley a previous prime minister, took over as leader after the incumbent resigned.

Post 1

There is at least one other country that has been led by a woman. The Philippines was led by Corazon Aquino following the first People Power in 1986.

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