Former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher passed away on April 8, 2013 at 87. She was laid to rest on April 17, with full military honors. Her funeral was the biggest of a former prime minister since Winston Churchill's on January 30, 1965. World leaders and dignitaries from 170 countries, including Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip attended the funeral at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Thatcher's tenure of 11 years and 209 days as Prime Minister was the longest since Lord Salisbury (13 years starting in 1885), and the longest continuous period in office since Lord Liverpool (14 years starting in 1812). Despite political controversies, the leadership legacy of the so called “Iron Lady” is known for transforming Britain and promoting the resurgence of political and economic liberty around the world. Along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, her relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev opened up the way to end the cold war and Soviet communism. In the domestic agenda, her privatization policies dismantled state socialism and promoted the neoliberal revival of the 1980s that has been regarded as the Reagan-Thatcher revolution.
Considered one of Britain's most divisive politicians of modern times, Margaret Thatcher has been equally admired and hated at the same time. However, whatever the opinion of historians and politicians, her political influence does remind us of the relevant leadership role women have played in the world history. As a reflection on the influential role of women's leadership, I have listed a sample of women leaders who have influenced change and impacted society on a large scale:
Mother Theresa – Peace Nobel Prize winner Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu established the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 with just 13 members, which grew to become a staff of 4,500 sisters operating 600 missions, orphanages, schools, shelters, AIDS hospices, and charity centers in around 130 countries worldwide.
Marie Curie – Polish physicist and chemist, who pioneered research on radioactivity and became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only woman to win it twice and in multiple sciences. She was the first female head of Laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris.
Florence Nightingale – English social reformer and statistician, who practically founded the profession of nursing, and also brought sanitary conditions to soldiers in wars -- at a time when more soldiers typically died of disease than of injuries in battle.
Alexandrina Victoria – The daughter of George III’s son Prince Edward, who reigned for 63 years (from 1837 to 1901), and oversaw an Empire that stretched from India to the Americas, and from Africa to the Far East. So vast was the Empire, that it is said that the sun was always overhead on some part of the empire at any time. Besides political reforms, her monarchy placed a strong emphasis on morality and family values and she became known as a benevolent matriarchal figure.
Indira Gandhi – Prime Minister who ruled India for almost twenty years until her death at the hands of Sikh extremists in 1984 (making her the only sitting female head of state ever assassinated). She was the most influential political figure who made India the powerful nation of today.
Eleanor Roosevelt – One of the first women elected to the US Senate in 1911 and well known for her involvement with many charitable organizations prior to becoming first lady of the United States as the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Named a delegate to the United Nations in 1947, she became the first chairman of the Commission on Human Rights and coordinated the editing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Rosa Parks – African-American civil rights activist, called "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement” by the U.S. Congress. She is best known for her refusal to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and her subsequent arrest, which resulted in a bus boycott and accelerated the civil rights movement.
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