Things You May Not Know About Women Rulers In History
Queens of the Nile Exhibition At Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. Source: (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
For centuries women have been in leadership roles as far back as biblical times. Some of them have made history and have fascinating stories behind their roles.
In the 15th century B.C., the women in Egypt and Greece were quite different from each other. The Egyptian women were more independent, legally and financially; whereas, the women in Greece had to depend on their husbands.
Hatshepsut, Queen of Egypt, 15th Century B.C.
Queen Hatshepsut was one of these Egyptian women. She became the most successful of all the female pharaohs. As a natural born leader, she had many magnificent structures built such as her own temple. She became such a strong-willed leader that she even declared herself “king” rather than as “queen.”
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, 69-30 B.C.
As the last queen of Egypt, Cleopatra has been the subject of many movies and plays. Through two different leaders, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, she was able to hold on to her throne off and on. During the constant battles with Rome over the throne of Egypt, both men met their deaths. Caesar was assassinated, but Antony purposely fell on his own sword after realizing the battle was lost, and because he thought that Cleopatra had betrayed him. Before he actually died from his wound, he was taken to her. She assured him that she had not betrayed him and then he died in her arms.
Cleopatra was distraught over his death, and knowing that Octavian would humiliate her publicly, she planned her own suicide by the use of a poisonous snake. Her body has never been found.
In the year 40 A.D., the Trung Sisters were victorious in an uprising they led against the Chinese government that was ruling over Vietnam at that time. Women in those days were less restricted than in later years. They were even able to become warriors, which are what the Trung Sisters were. Upon the death of Trung Trac’s husband, she and her young sister, Trung Nhi organized an army of 80,000 people, including their own mother among other women. They trained them to be warriors and generals.
After their victory and Vietnam became independent, the people made the sisters their first leaders; however, it was short-lived. With three years of constant battles with the Chinese, they were badly defeated in 43 A.D. In order to maintain their honor, the sisters committed suicide. Despite this, their bravery has been commemorated throughout history with monuments and other memorabilia.
Joan of Arc was a leader who led the French Army during the Hundred Years’ War against the British. Proclaimed as a heroine, she began as a peasant girl who was raised by highly religious parents. At the age of 13, she began having visions and saw St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret, who gave her specific instructions. These instructions, at the age of 16, led her to speak to the Dauphin Charles, who was in a dispute with King Henry VII over the crown of France. At first, he dismissed her because of her age, but later did hear her out and believed what she described in her visions, and allowed her to lead the Army.
Just a year after the victory against the English, at the age of 19, she was taken captive and put on trial for witchcraft, leading to her execution by burning her at the stake. After the war, a re-trial was done that proved the trial was fraudulent, and that she was innocent, making her a martyr.
Mbande Nzinga was a warrior queen in Angola in the 17th century. Portugal was kidnapping people from parts of Africa, including Angola, and making them slaves. Having spent a lot of time with her father, Nzinga became a warrior and hunter. She was also very intelligent and learned the Portuguese language, which helped her in negotiations later. During her brother’s reign, she was sent over to negotiate peace with the Portuguese. At the meeting, they refused to give her a seat, so she, not wanting to feel inferior, sat on the back of her servant.
Although the treaty was signed, it was not honored and her brother the king committed suicide. She then became queen and became very determined not to give in to demands by the Portuguese. With strategic alliances, she was able to help provide a sanctuary for others who had been enslaved. Despite all her efforts, the fight continued for years, even after her death. Her bravery will always be remembered and has inspired many after her to continue to resist. Angola became independent in 1975.
Other important but unique female leaders that made their mark in history include:
• Isabella I of Castile, Queen of Spain, 1451-1504
• Mary I, Queen of Scotland, 1542-1587
• Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1533-1603
• Amina, Nigerian Queen, 1560-1610
• Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, 1729-1796
• Victoria, Queen of England, 1819-1901
• Tzu Hai, Empress of China, 1835-1908
• Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, 1898-1978
• Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, 1917-1984
• Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of England, 1925-2013
Each of their amazing stories reflects different eras of history and has helped to shape the countries in which they served. Women throughout history have demonstrated their ability to serve in different capacities.
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