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Women's Historic Footprint

Influential Leadership Across Time

Throughout world history, women have made extraordinary contributions to their societies. They have served as heads of state, architects of revolutions, military leaders, strategic advisers, and champions of justice. Some are well known, some less so, but all have been trailblazers. When we think about our present-day efforts to achieve gender parity in U.S. politics, let us remember that female political power is not a new phenomenon. It has existed since the beginning of time.

Below are just a few of the heroines throughout world history that have built empires, subdued enemy forces, and changed the course of history for their nations, kingdoms and communities. We celebrate their stories.

2500-2330 BCE
1507-1458 BCE
900-800 BCE
375-316 BCE
70-30 BCE
AD 30-61
AD 39-40
AD 240-After 274
AD 624-705
AD 870-918
AD 1153-1212
AD 1412-1431
AD 1451-1504
AD 1533-1610
AD 1580-1663
AD 1626-1689
AD 1601-1671
AD 1729-1796
AD 1761-1839
AD 1797-1883
AD 1819-1901
AD 1822-1913
AD 1835-1908
AD 1887-1967
AD 1897-1995
AD 1898-1995
Women’s Right to Vote – August 18, 1920
First Woman Elected to the Texas State Legislature – Edith Eunice Wilmans, 1922
Texas’ First Female State and Federal Judge- Sarah T. Hughes, 1930
First Female Assistant District Attorney and First Woman Elected as a Director to Texas State Bar Board of Directors – Louise Ballerstadt Raggio, 1954
First Female Council Member – Calvert Collins, 1957
First Hispanic Council Member – Anita Martinez, 1969
First Appointed Woman Mayor – Adlene Harrison, 1976
First Elected Woman May​or – Annette Strauss, 1987
First African-American to Serve as Chief Justice and First African-American woman to Win a Multi-County Election in Texas History – Carolyn Wright, 1995
First Latina Nominated for Governor – Lupe Valdez, 2004
Black Woman Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives – Lorraine Miller, 2013
First African-American Woman Police Chief – Ulysha Renee Hall, 2017
First Hispanic Woman Elected to the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees – Karla Garcia, 2019

2500-2330 BCE

Kubaba

Kubaba was a Sumerian ruler who reigned for nearly 100 years. She was the only woman to lead the ancient empire of Mesopotamia. The Hittites idolized her as a goddess and shrines in her honor were spread throughout Mesopotamia.

2500-2330 BCE

1507-1458 BCE

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut was an Egyptian pharaoh from 1479 to 1458 BCE. She was an effective leader, reestablishing trade routes and ordering hundreds of buildings to be erected. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty.

1507-1458 BCE

900-800 BCE

Queen Semiramis

Queen Semiramis was an Assyrian queen made popular through historical legends. After her husband, King Ninus, died, she reigned over Assyria. It is recorded that Queen Semiramis restored ancient Babylon and protected it with a high brick wall.  She also built several palaces throughout Persia.

900-800 BCE

375-316 BCE

Olympias

Olympias was the mother of Alexander the Great and wife to Phillip II of Macedonia. She was the Regent of Macedonia from 317 – 316 BCE. During this time, Olympias was a persistent leader. Additionally, she served as both strategist and confidant in the power plays and quests for domination in which both Alexander the Great and Phillip II took part. 

375-316 BCE

70-30 BCE

Cleopatra

For nearly three decades, Cleopatra served as Ancient Egypt’s Co-Regent. Cleopatra was multilingual, well-educated, and a dominant leader. Through the strategic alliances she made with influential Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, she influenced and negotiated issues of war, policy and trade for her kingdom.

70-30 BCE

AD 30-61

Queen Boadicea

Boadicea was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the conquering forces of the Roman Empire. In AD 60, her husband died and the Romans proceeded to annex their kingdom. Consequently, Boadicea led a revolt of several tribes, killing an estimated 70,000–80,000 Romans and British soldiers. Before her ultimate defeat, Boadicea’s intense war campaign made Nero consider withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain.

AD 30-61

AD 39-40

Trung Trac and Trung Nhi

The Trung sisters were military leaders of the first Vietnamese independence movement. They led an uprising against the Han Dynasty rulers and instituted an autonomous, independent state. Trung Trac and Trung Nhi led marches and assembled a large army consisting mostly of women. They became queen regnant of the region and managed to resist subsequent Han attacks on the country for over three years.

AD 39-40

AD 240-After 274

Zenobia

Septimia Zenobia was a third-century queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria. She launched an invasion that brought most of the Roman East under her control, culminating with the annexation of Egypt. Zenobia’s kingdom was marked by an appreciation for the diversity of its cultures, including protection for religious minorities.

AD 240-After 274

AD 624-705

Wu Zetian

Wu Zetian was an empress regnant (or female emperor) for more than half of a century. Wu was the only female emperor in the history of China. During Wu’s leadership, the Chinese empire experienced a major expansion, extending beyond its previous territorial limits, deep into Central Asia.

AD 624-705

AD 870-918

Æthelflæd

Æthelflæd ruled Mercia in the English Midlands. She was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great – the king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. At the height of the Viking invasion in England, Æthelflæd greatly assisted in fighting off renewed attacks by fortifying cities and making strategic alliances.

AD 870-918

AD 1153-1212

Lilavati of Polonnaruwa

Queen Lilavati was a leader during a crucial time of the Sinhalese monarchy. Lilavati exuded a strong sense of dominance and sovereignty. The general public trusted that she was doing the right thing, which gave her a sense of legitimacy that other rulers did not have during this time. Lilavati’s reign is said to have been peaceful, devoted to the development of literature, music and art rather than warfare.

AD 1153-1212

AD 1412-1431

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Hundred Year’s War. She served in the French army against Britain to great success. When she was nineteen years old, she was put on trial by English citizens and allies who sentenced her to death and later canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.

AD 1412-1431

AD 1451-1504

Isabella I of Castille

Isabella I ruled Castille, a kingdom in Spain, alongside her husband. She had notable authority over the military, expansion of land overseas, and the court’s influence. She ruled for the majority of her life, encouraging the bond between the sovereign rulers, parliament, and municipal towns. Throughout her reign, Isabella I unified the states through expansionism and policy reform.

AD 1451-1504

AD 1533-1610

Amina, Queen of Zazzau

Amina was a Hausa warrior queen of Zazzau, which is in present-day Nigeria. Queen Amina expanded Zazzau territory and established trade routes within Africa. She had strong military skills and became a lead warrior in her brother’s cavalry when he became king. Upon her ascension to the throne, she waged a 34-year campaign against neighboring regions, greatly expanding her kingdom’s territory.

AD 1533-1610

AD 1580-1663

Queen Anna Nzinga

Queen Nzinga was the ruler of the Matamba and Ndongo Kingdoms, which were in present-day Angola. During her reign, she fought in a three-decades-long war against the Portuguese, freed her citizens from slavery, and finalized a peace treaty. One of her last initiatives was reconstructing the kingdom and making it a commercial superpower. 

AD 1580-1663

AD 1626-1689

Christina, Queen of Sweden

At six years of age, Christina became the Queen of Sweden when her father died. Through her political prowess, she was able to keep the bitter class rivalries that broke out after the Thirty Years’ War from lapsing into civil war. Additionally, Queen Christina emphasized nationwide education and supported the establishment of the first Swedish newspaper.

AD 1626-1689

AD 1601-1671

Margaret Brent

Upon her immigration from England, Margaret Brent became a resident of the Maryland Colony. She is the first woman to appear before a court in the English North American colonies. Brent is also the first woman in the colonies that requested the right to vote.

AD 1601-1671

AD 1729-1796

Catherine the Great

As Empress of the Russian Empire, Catherine the Great conquered lands through both military conquest and diplomacy. As a patron of the arts, she presided over the Russian Age of Enlightenment and established the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe. The period of her reign is known as the Golden Age of Russia. Catherine the Great was the country’s longest-ruling female leader.

AD 1729-1796

AD 1761-1839

Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington is dubbed as the ”female Paul Revere,” even though her story is not acknowledged as much as his. When she was 16 years old, Sybil rode her horse for 40 miles to warn the local colonist army that the British were on the move. Her efforts allowed the colonists to push the British army back and avoid a catastrophic defeat.

AD 1761-1839

AD 1797-1883

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist and activist for women’s rights and racial equality. Her famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” was first spoken in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention. The speech was groundbreaking and a significant step towards racial and gender equality.

AD 1797-1883

AD 1819-1901

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria prioritized foreign affairs during her reign and traveled extensively to visit other monarchs. She is one of the longest-ruling monarchs in British history. The Victorian Age was named after her.

AD 1819-1901

AD 1822-1913

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an influential U.S. advocate and political activist during antebellum America. She led roughly 13 missions to rescue enslaved friends, family, and strangers. Tubman also was a spy during the American Civil War and a prominent figure in the women’s rights movement. Throughout her life, she served as a nurse, Civil War scout, and suffragist, among other esteemed positions.

AD 1822-1913

AD 1835-1908

Tzu-Hsi

Tzu-Hsi, also known as the Empress Dowager, is one of the most dominant and significant women in Chinese history. She was a mother to two emperors. Before they were old enough to hold their positions, she acted as regent. After her regency ended, she continued to be involved in governmental affairs. She took part in the Boxer Rebellion and other issues, which asserted her dominance within the empire.

AD 1835-1908

AD 1887-1967

María Cano

María Cano was a poet from Columbia. She was one of Columbia’s first female political leaders, leading many strikes for salaried workers. She also was a co-founder of Colombia’s Socialist Revolutionary Party. Cano used her voice to protest social injustice and the government’s resistance to opposing views. Later in her life, she was made the speaker for the Democratic Organization of Antioquia Women.

AD 1887-1967

AD 1897-1995

Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to hold positions in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In 1964, she proceeded to become a candidate for the Republican nomination. This made her the first woman to be regarded for a nomination for the presidency by a major party. To this day, Smith is known as the “longest-serving Republican woman in the Senate.”

AD 1897-1995

AD 1898-1995

Marta Vergara

Marta Vergara was a Chilean journalist and a passionate women’s rights advocate. She was an important figure during the construction of the Inter-American Commission of Women, as she worked to collect information on legislation that affected female citizenship. Vergara worked in Latin America, Washington, D.C., and Europe. Throughout her life, she prioritized worldwide gender equality.

AD 1898-1995

Women’s Right to Vote – August 18, 1920

Texas women won the right to vote in primary elections in 1918, two years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. In January 1919, an amendment to the state constitution enfranchising women finally passed through the legislature but was defeated at the ballot box by male voters in May of that year. Women were still barred from voting in that general election. The following month, after decades of arguments across the country, Congress passed the federal women’s suffrage amendment on June 4, 1919. On June 28, 1919, the Texas legislature voted to ratify the 19th Amendment – the first Southern state to do so. By August 18th 1920, 36 states (including Texas) approved the amendment and it became part of the United States Constitution.

Women’s Right to Vote – August 18, 1920

First Woman Elected to the Texas State Legislature – Edith Eunice Wilmans, 1922

Edith Eunice Therrel Wilmans was born on December 21, 1882. Wilmans was the first woman elected to the Texas Legislature – she unseated a long-term incumbent. During her tenure, Wilmans became the first woman to preside as speaker of the House. As a mother of three, Wilmans endorsed legislation for child care and child support and for the creation of the Dallas County District Court of Domestic Relations. Wilmans’ own experience as a domestic violence survivor made her a passionate advocate as she worked to ensure a legal system where survivors could seek protection. Wilmans was also a  suffrage leader, a lawyer, and helped create the Dallas Housewives League and the Dallas Equal Suffrage Association.

First Woman Elected to the Texas State Legislature – Edith Eunice Wilmans, 1922

Texas’ First Female State and Federal Judge- Sarah T. Hughes, 1930

Sarah T. Hughes was an attorney, legislator, women’s rights activist, United Nations supporter, and Texas’ first female state and federal judge. A member of a Dallas law firm from 1923 to 1935, she was elected to her first term in the Texas House of Representatives in 1930 and voted “Most Valuable Member” her second term. In 1935, Judge Hughes became Texas’ first female district judge and was re-elected seven times. She was also a national president of the Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs in 1952.

Texas’ First Female State and Federal Judge- Sarah T. Hughes, 1930

First Female Assistant District Attorney and First Woman Elected as a Director to Texas State Bar Board of Directors – Louise Ballerstadt Raggio, 1954

Born in Austin in 1919, Louise Ballerstadt Raggio was the only woman in her 1952 law class at Southern Methodist University, and in 1954 became the first female assistant district attorney in Dallas County. During her tenure she created a legal task force that spent two years writing, then lobbying for, the Marital Property Act. The Marital Property Act ended the archaic requirement that Texas women turn over control of their personal finances and real estate to their husbands upon marriage. Raggio’s work gave married women independent legal rights for the first time in Texas history once the Marital Property Act became law in 1967. She later became the first woman ever elected as a director to the Texas State Bar Board of Directors.

First Female Assistant District Attorney and First Woman Elected as a Director to Texas State Bar Board of Directors – Louise Ballerstadt Raggio, 1954

First Female Council Member – Calvert Collins, 1957

Calvert Collins was an advocate for education and healthcare as well as a longtime philanthropist. Collins ran for Dallas City Council in 1957 after getting a phone call from then-Mayor Robert L. Thornton, asking her to run. She was a believer in homeowners’ rights, was elected after a runoff and served two terms from 1957-1961. At age 32, Calvert became the First Female Council Member for the City of Dallas.

First Female Council Member – Calvert Collins, 1957

First Hispanic Council Member – Anita Martinez, 1969

Anita Martinez served on the Dallas City Council from 1969-1973, but began serving her community by going door-to-door at age 14 collecting signatures to pave Pearl Street in “Little Mexico.” In addition to being the first Hispanic Council Member of Dallas, Martinez was the first Mexican-American to hold any elected government position in the city of Dallas. During her tenure, she fought to build a recreation center for West Dallas and pushed for numerous improvements, including library branches and street repair in low-income neighborhoods. Her work led to a new recreation center, which Dallas City Council named after her as a tribute to her service and hard work. After serving as a Councilwoman, Anita Martinez founded Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico at the site of the recreation center to inspire confidence and cultural pride in Hispanic youth.

First Hispanic Council Member – Anita Martinez, 1969

First Appointed Woman Mayor – Adlene Harrison, 1976

Adlene Harrison Harrison served as Mayor for three months in 1976 to complete the term of We​s Wise, who resigned. In addition to being the first woman mayor of Dallas, Harrison was the first Jewish woman to serve as mayor of a major U.S. City. She also served ​on the Dallas City Council, was regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and was the first chair of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board.

First Appointed Woman Mayor – Adlene Harrison, 1976

First Elected Woman May​or – Annette Strauss, 1987

Annette Strauss Prior to her election as mayor, Strauss raised millions as a fundraiser for various charities and organizations in Dallas. In 1983, Strauss was elected to the Dallas City Council, and in 1987 she was elected mayor. She was then re-elected to a second mayoral term in 1989.​​ During her tenure as mayor, Strauss helped to lead a city suffering from a sharp economic downturn and founded a shelter for homeless families that still operates today as The Annette G. Strauss Family Gateway Center.

First Elected Woman May​or – Annette Strauss, 1987

First African-American to Serve as Chief Justice and First African-American woman to Win a Multi-County Election in Texas History – Carolyn Wright, 1995

Carolyn Wright was the first African-American to serve as Chief Justice on any of the 14 intermediate courts of appeal in Texas, and the first African-American woman to win a multi-county election in Texas history. A Texas judge for over 30 years with civil law, family law, criminal law, and mediation experience, Wright served as a practicing attorney, Dallas County associate judge, and state district judge before being appointed as a Justice on the Court of Appeals by Governor Bush in 1995. Over her storied career, she has authored thousands of legal opinions in cases involving legal issues in every area of Texas law.

First African-American to Serve as Chief Justice and First African-American woman to Win a Multi-County Election in Texas History – Carolyn Wright, 1995

First Latina Nominated for Governor – Lupe Valdez, 2004

In 2004, Lupe Valdez drew national headlines when she was elected as the nation’s first openly gay Hispanic sheriff. Valdez served four terms as Dallas County Sheriff before resigning to run for Governor of Texas in 2018. She won the most votes in her party’s crowded primary and the run-off primary election. Ultimately, she lost the general election, but she was the first Latina and first openly gay person nominated for governor by a major party in Texas.

First Latina Nominated for Governor – Lupe Valdez, 2004

Black Woman Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives – Lorraine Miller, 2013

In the 105-year history of the NAACP, Lorraine C. Miller, a native of Fort Worth, was the first woman to lead the historic civil rights organization as the interim President and CEO. She is the first African-American to serve as an officer of the House of Representatives and the third woman, but first Black woman, to serve as Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. She has also worked for three Speakers of the House, including as Director of Intergovernmental Relations.

Black Woman Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives – Lorraine Miller, 2013

First African-American Woman Police Chief – Ulysha Renee Hall, 2017

Ulysha Renee Hall joined the Detroit police force in 1999 and quickly climbed the ranks, being promoted from sergeant to deputy chief in eight years. In May 2014 she was appointed as deputy chief of police in Detroit, and in September 2017 became Dallas Police Chief, and the first African-American woman to hold the position. As Dallas Police Chief, Hall plans to establish a civilian advisory board to make sure that command staff is held accountable for the issues of which they are in charge.

First African-American Woman Police Chief – Ulysha Renee Hall, 2017

First Hispanic Woman Elected to the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees – Karla Garcia, 2019

Trustee Karla Garcia was inspired to run for Dallas Independent School District 4 (DISD 4) Trustee because she wanted to address the inequities that she saw in the public school system, particularly in her native community of Southeast Dallas. Garcia is also a daughter of immigrants from Mexico and was the first in her family to attend college, where she studied public policy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). After graduating from UNC, Garcia returned to Dallas with the intention of making an impact in her local community. As a trustee, Garcia’s goal is to represent the perspective and needs of students in her community.

First Hispanic Woman Elected to the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees – Karla Garcia, 2019

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