Female political leaders

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Until the 20th century, the few women with political ambitions had to operate in the background as the "power behind the throne", backing up their husbands or lovers. As women got the vote in more and more countries, they began to climb the ladder. Many women that have got to the top in politics have been tougher, more decisive, and more practical than male leaders.

International

Female political leader Dates of office Position Comments
Sirimavo Bandaranaike 1960-65, 1970–77, 1994-2000 Prime Minister of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) The first female head of government in modern times. Paved the way for Gandhi, Meir and the "Iron Lady" herself.
Indira Gandhi 1966-77 & 1980-84 Prime Minister of India India's aging power-brokers thought that Nehru's daughter would be a push-over. They got a dreadful shock...
Golda Meir 1969-74 Prime Minister of Israel This strong-willed "grandmother of the Jewish people" won a magnificent victory over Arab aggression.
Isabel Martínez de Perón 1974-76 President of Argentina
Elisabeth Domitien 1975-76 Prime Minister of Central African Republic
Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo 1979-80 Prime Minister of Portugal
Margaret Thatcher 1979-90 Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The "Iron Lady" struck fear into the hearts of trade unionists, the Soviet gerontocracy and enemies of freedom everywhere.
Eugenia Charles 1980-95 Prime Minister of Dominica
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir 1980-96 President of Iceland
Gro Harlem Brundtland 1981, 1986–89, 1990–96 Prime Minister of Norway
Agatha Barbara 1982-87 President of Malta
Corazon Aquino 1986-92 President of the Philippines
Benazir Bhutto 1988-90 & 1993-96 Prime Minister of Pakistan The first female head of government in a Muslim country.
Kazimira Prunskiene 1990-91 Prime Minister of Lithuania
Violeta Chamorro 1990-97 President of Nicaragua
Mary Robinson 1990-97 President of Ireland
Edith Cresson 1991-92 Prime Minister of France Included because female leaders can sometimes be just as rubbish as male ones. When someone as useless as Cresson becomes PM, you know that women are starting to achieve equality with men.
Khaleda Zia 1991-96, 2001–06 Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Hanna Suchocka 1992-93 Prime Minister of Poland
Kim Campbell 1993 Prime Minister of Canada
Sylvie Kinigi 1993-94 Prime Minister of Burundi
Agathe Uwilingiyimana 1993-94 Prime Minister of Rwanda Assassinated in the Rwandan Genocide
Tansu Ciller 1993-96 Prime Minister of Turkey
Chandrika Kumaratunga 1994 Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Claudette Werleigh 1994-95 Prime Minister of Haiti
Chandrika Kumaratunga 1994-2005 President of Sri Lanka
Sheikh Hasina 1996-2001, 2009–present Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Janet Jagan 1997 Prime Minister of Guyana
Janet Jagan 1997-99 President of Guyana
Jenny Shipley 1997-99 Prime Minister of New Zealand
Mary McAleese 1997-2011 President of Ireland
Mireya Moscoso 1999-2004 President of Panama
Vaira Vike-Freiberga 1999-2007 President of Latvia
Helen Clark 1999-2008 Prime Minister of New Zealand
Tarja Halonen 2000-12 President of Finland
Mame Madior Boye 2001-02 Prime Minister of Senegal
Megawati Sukarnoputri 2001-04 President of Indonesia
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 2001-10 President of the Philippines
Maria das Neves 2002-04 Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe
Anneli Jäätteenmäki 2003 Prime Minister of Finland
Beatriz Merino 2003 Prime Minister of Peru
Luisa Diogo 2004-10 Prime Minister of Mozambique
Maria do Carmo Silveira 2005-06 Prime Minister of São Tomé and Príncipe
Yulia Tymoshenko 2005, 2007–10 Prime Minister of Ukraine
Angela Merkel 2005–present Chancellor of Germany "The Second Iron Lady", "The Second Iron Chancellor"... She talks a lot of sense to irresponsible governments of other European countries.
Han Myeong-sook 2006-07 Prime Minister of South Korea
Portia Simpson-Miller 2006-07, 2012 – present Prime Minister of Jamaica
Michelle Bachelet 2006-10 & 2014–present President of Chile
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf 2006–present President of Liberia
Pratibha Patil 2007-12 President of India
Micheline Calmy-Rey 2007 & 2011 President of the Federal Council of Switzerland Member of the Federal Council 2003-11 (also a great singer!)
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner 2007–present President of Argentina
Zinaida Greceanii 2008-09 Prime Minister of Moldova
Michèle Pierre-Louis 2008-09 Prime Minister of Haiti
Corina Casanova 2008–present Chancellor of Switzerland
Jadranka Kosor 2009-11 Prime Minister of Croatia
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir 2009-13 Prime Minister of Iceland World's first openly lesbian head of government.
Dalia Grybauskaite 2009–present President of Lithuania
Mari Kiviniemi 2010-11 Prime Minister of Finland
Roza Otunbayeva 2010-11 President of Kyrgyzstan
Iveta Radičová 2010-12 Prime Minister of Slovakia
Julia Gillard 2010-13 Prime Minister of Australia
Laura Chinchilla 2010-14 President of Costa Rica
Kamla Persad-Bissessar 2010–present Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
Rosario Fernández 2011 Prime Minister of Peru
Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé 2011-12 Prime Minister of Mali
Yingluck Shinawatra 2011-14 Prime Minister of Thailand
Dilma Rousseff 2011–present President of Brazil
Helle Thorning-Schmidt 2011–present Prime Minister of Denmark
Joyce Banda 2012-14 President of Malawi
Alenka Bratusek 2013-14 Prime Minister of Slovenia
Aminata Touré 2013-14 Prime Minister of Senegal
Park Geun-hye 2013–present President of South Korea
Erna Solberg 2013–present Prime Minister of Norway
Ana Jara 2014-15 Prime Minister of Peru
Ewa Kopacz 2014–present Prime Minister of Poland
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca 2014–present President of Malta
Laimdota Straujuma 2014–present Prime Minister of Latvia
Nicola Sturgeon 2014–present First Minister of Scotland A straight-talking, no-nonsense lady with a reputation for competence but not compromise.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic 2015–present President of Croatia
Saara Kuugongelwa 2015–present Prime Minister of Namibia
Simonetta Sommaruga 2015–present President of Switzerland

United States

Female political leader Dates of office Position Comments
Nellie Tayloe Ross 1925-27 Governor of Wyoming Widow of Governor William Ross.
Miriam Ferguson 1925-27, 1933–35 Governor of Texas Wife of Governor James Ferguson
Lurleen Wallace 1967-68 Governor of Alabama Wife of Governor George Wallace
Ella Grasso 1975-80 Governor of Connecticut First woman governor who was not the wife or widow of a prior governor.
Dixy Lee Ray 1977-81 Governor of Washington
Martha Layne Collins 1983-87 Governor of Kentucky
Geraldine Ferraro 1984 Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate First woman to be on the presidential ticket of a major party
Madeleine Kunin 1985-91 Governor of Vermont
Kay Orr 1987-91 Governor of Nebraska
Rose Mofford 1988-91 Governor of Arizona
Joan Finney 1991-95 Governor of Kansas
Ann Richards 1991-95 Governor of Texas Delivered keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
Barbara Roberts 1991-95 Governor of Oregon
Christine Todd Whitman 1994-2001 Governor of New Jersey
Jane Dee Hull 1997-2003 Governor of Arizona Succeeded as governor on resignation of Fife Symington.
Jeanne Shaheen 1997-2003 Governor of New Hampshire
Judy Martz 2001-05 Governor of Montana
Ruth Ann Minner 2001-09 Governor of Delaware
Linda Lingle 2002-10 Governor of Hawaii
Olene S. Walker 2003-05 Governor of Utah
Janet Napolitano 2003-09 Governor of Arizona Resigned to become President Barack Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security. In 2013, she became president of the University of California.
Kathleen Sebelius 2003-09 Governor of Kansas Resigned to become President Barack Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Jennifer Granholm 2003-11 Governor of Michigan
Kathleen Blanco 2004-08 Governor of Louisiana
M. Jodi Rell 2004-11 Governor of Connecticut Succeeded as governor on resignation of John Rowland.
Christine Gregoire 2005-13 Governor of Washington
Sarah Palin 2006-09 Governor of Alaska Republican Party candidate for vice president in 2008
Nancy Pelosi 2007-11 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Beverly Perdue 2009-13 Governor of North Carolina
Jan Brewer 2009-15 Governor of Arizona
Mary Fallin 2011–present Governor of Oklahoma
Nikki Haley 2011–present Governor of South Carolina
Susana Martinez 2011–present Governor of New Mexico First woman Hispanic governor of a state.
Maggie Hassan 2013–present Governor of New Hampshire
Kate Brown 2015–present Governor of Oregon
Gina Raimondo 2015–present Governor of Rhode Island