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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

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

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