Five Notable Women to Celebrate this Women’s History Month

What could be a better way to learn about women's fight for rights, as well as for a better world, than learning by example? During this Women's History Month, let's explore some notable female leaders.


Michelle Bachelet


Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria (1951) is the first woman president of Chile, holding her second mandate as of 2014. Priorly she was the Minister for Health and the Minister of Defence, and in the UN she held the chair of the executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

Michelle Bachelet is highly educated - a physician with additional studies in military strategy, and she speaks five languages. She is also a mother of three children.What makes her story even more remarkable is the fact that she had a difficult childhood - her father died, and she and her mother were imprisoned and tortured during the Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship. Her story conveys a strong message about one contemporary woman's fight for life, dignity and education, which eventually made her the leader of her nation.



Benazir Bhutto


Benazir Bhutto (1953 – 2007) was a Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990, again  from 1993 to 1996. She was the first woman to lead a government in a Muslim nation, which is even more fascinating given that she was a liberal and a secularist.

Pakistan's Islamists condemned her for her secularity and modernisation policies. On the other hand, she was very popular in Pakistan as well as in the West, where she was applauded for championing democracy and women's rights in an extremely conservative environment. Unfortunately, Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Her murder was never fully clarified.



Catherine the Great


Catherine the Great (1729 – 1796) was the most famous female ruler in Russian history, and one of the most famous European rulers of her time. She was the embodiment of the enlightened aristocracy.

Born as Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst in Prussia, she came to power when her husband Peter III, was assassinated. Under her reign, Russia became larger and stronger and got its place among Europe's most influential nations. As a notable supporter of the Enlightenment, Catherine the Great is also remembered as an extraordinary benefactor of arts, culture and education. Catherinian Era was also marked by lavish nobility masons and luxury architecture.


Cleopatra


There is probably no woman ruler that evokes more sense of mystery and archetypal power than Cleopatra. Cleopatra was the last ruler Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Not long after her rule ended, Egypt became a province of a new empire - the Roman Empire. Even today she is celebrated for her beauty, intelligence, and leadership.

In modern pop culture, Cleopatra is often shown as a beauty by today's standards; but Cleopatra had a big nose, sharp chin, and she was rather short. However, this is a perfect paradox to be discussed in your class.While women today are being indoctrinated by artificial beauty standards, Cleopatra's case proves that real beauty is made of traits more important than body proportions and facial features. In his famous quote, among other things, Plutarch described her as someone who had "an irresistible charm".



Ellen Johnson Sirleaf


Another groundbreaking contemporary female leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018, and the first elected woman president of an African country.

Despite her relatively humble origins, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf managed to become very educated, receiving her degrees from University of Boulder and Harvard. She became a president at a very delicate moment, two years after the end of the bloody Liberian civil war. Nevertheless, during her presidency, she managed to stabilise and completely change the face of her country. In 2011, she earned the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting women’s rights, but also for her overall achievements in reconstructing a war-torn country.




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