Highlighting Women in Government and International Women Leaders
Women are an integral part of the government in various countries and have been increasing their leadership roles throughout the years. There are countless women to thank in many countries’ history for where women are today. The women who have shattered glass ceilings in government today have paved the path for young girls and allowed women to have the opportunities that were not available until they changed the rules. In this article, we are discussing just a few of these women who have made history.
Rebecca Felton of Georgia served on the 67th Congress in 1922 from October 3 to November 22. She was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. She was appointed on October 3 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Thomas E. Watson, but did not take the oath of office until November 21, serving for only 24 hours more afterwards. Felton was a teacher, writer, lecturer, and reformer. She was most interested in agricultural and women’s issues. Her husband, William Felton, was a member of Congress and she served as his secretary during his terms, 1875-1881.
Rebecca paved the way for future women senators, including Hattie Caraway from Arkansas, who was the first woman to win an election to the U.S. Senate in 1932. She was also the first to chair a Senate committee. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was another woman who had Rebecca Felton to thank, as she, in 1949, was the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. 58 total women have served in the Senate thus far, all leaning on the shoulders of Rebecca Felton. Another powerful woman to note in the U.S. government is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Angela Merkel has been the chancellor of Germany from 2005 to present day. She was born in East Germany on July 17, 1954. When she entered college, Merkel studied physics and went on to become an academic faculty member at the Central Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in East Berlin. She earned a doctorate for her thesis on quantum chemistry in 1986. As she grew up, Merkel was part of youth organizations, including the Young Pioneers and the Free German Youth. In 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Merkel joined the Democratic Awakening party and soon thereafter became its spokesperson. In February 1990, the party joined the conservative Alliance for Germany, a coalition with the German social union (DSU), and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). After the chairman of the Democratic Awakening party had been exposed to being in the Statsi, the party was included in the government. Merkel eventually worked up to winning a seat in the Bundestag, or the lower house of parliament, in 1990. She was appointed to several ministerial positions before being elected as leader of the CDU in 2000 as the first woman and non-Catholic leader of the group, and eventually being elected chancellor on November 22, 2005.
Pratibha Patil is an Indian lawyer and politician who was the first woman to serve as president of India. She attended Moolji Jaitha College in Jalgaon, earning her master’s degree in political science and economics and went on to receive her law degree from Government Law College in Mumbai. She joined the Indian National Congress and entered politics in 1962 as a member of the Maharashtra legislative assembly. While in the legislative assembly, she held the portfolio of public health and social welfare. She won seats in both the upper and lower chambers of the Indian parliament; the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively. She had ties to the Gandhi family, which made her a favorite to be elected as president in a more ceremonial role. She was elected in July 2007 and ended her term 5 years later in 2012.
Jacinda Ardern is the prime minister of New Zealand who most recently has been commended for her navigation of the Covid-19 virus. However, years before 2020, Ardern was inspired to join politics by being exposed to underprivileged communities in Murupara. In 1999, she began her association with the Labour Party and assisted with the campaigns and research for others in the party. Through her involvement in these politicians’ careers, Ardern gained a position on the staff of Prime Minister Helen Clark, who was the second woman to hold New Zealand’s highest political office. In 2005, she went on an overseas trip working in the cabinet office for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, where she served as an associate director for the Better Regulation Executive, where she focused on improving the way local authorities interacted with small businesses. Two years later, she was elected as the president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, which took her to various destinations in Asia and Africa. Ardern was elected into the House of Representatives at age 28, becoming its youngest member. She called for action on climate change and served on several committees during her time there. Ardern was elected unanimously as the Labour party’s deputy leader’s replacement when Annette King announced her resignation. Many people began to support Ardern when she spoke out about her beliefs on free university education, women’s rights, and alleviation of poverty for children. She became New Zealand’s 40th prime minister on October 26, 2017, and gave birth in June of 2018, becoming the first leader of a country in nearly 30 years to give birth while in office. The next election could have been a downfall for Ardern, as many have been upset with her handling of housing shortages and child poverty, but when the pandemic hit, the country went into strict lockdown and effectively shut down Covid-19 in New Zealand. This response led to her re-election, which had been postponed until October.
These women have broken barriers and been forces of change for women around the world. They lead their countries or set the tone for others to follow. All of these women have shown younger generations of girls that they too can be in positions of power and that it does not always have to be up to men to lead the government. With these role models, girls can know that they have options in their careers and can take control of their future and make the changes they believe in in their own communities. Women being represented in government is so important because it shows girls that they are capable of doing amazing things in the world and impacting people’s lives in a positive way.