Saturday, October 25, 2008


To break the barrier to the racist sentiments, male chauvinism, misguided political phantasms, and macho that have been dragging on since 1776 when America declared independence from England, it is best we carryout a research into the world’s past and present historical perspectives to unravel the gigantic roles women painstakingly played to advance human civilization.

History is replete with awe-inspiring women leaders who left behind philosophical and immeasurable historical legacies and immense archeological treasures articulately illustrated in cuneiform, hieroglyphic, and scriptural writings and other ancient books and I wonder why the greatest democracy in the world, the United States of America, has never given contemporary American women the chance to hold the reins of power to exercise their inalienable rights as enshrined in the U.S. constitution.

The closest an American woman has been to the U.S. Presidency was in 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro, who represented New York’s 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed by Democratic Party Presidential contender Walter Mondale as his running mate. Just recently, New York Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, conceded defeat in the 2008 Democratic Primaries in a tightly contested race that saw Barack Obama trounce her by a wide margin. The irony is that, Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, a man who has been in Washington politics for over three decades to fill the VP slot.

Whichever preceded the other, Mesopotamian, Persian, Yemeni, and Egyptian past antiquities highlight the existence of women queens who ruled with astuteness, uprightness, and fortitude better than their male partners of their time. Queen Hatshepsut, meaning ‘foremost of noble ladies’, a Pharaonic queen of judicious willpower has been mentioned in the writings of Manetho, a historian who lived during the Ptolemaic era, as having ruled Egypt for 21 years and 9 months.

The Queen of Sheba, a wealthy woman who lived the time of Prophet/King Solomon has been called by a variety of names by different people at different times. Her historical accounts have been cited in Egyptian, Hebraic, Christian, Qur’anic, Ethiopic and Nubian, medieval and renaissance accounts and also in popular culture, academic and archeological discoveries. It is said that she ruled upon a people who worshipped the sun instead of the Lord of the Worlds. In Christianity, Sheba is mentioned in a passage from Isaiah 60:6 that states: “and they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring forth gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.”[1] Likewise, the Qur’an mentions the Queen of Sheba in the 27th chapter when a Hoopoe bird at the time of Solomon pioneered to investigate her palace and mighty rule supposedly located in modern Yemen. Upon returning to her departure point, the Hoopoe presented herself before Solomon with the following announcement: “I found them reigned over by a Queen, and she has been given abundance of everything, and she has a magnificent throne.” [2]

The United Kingdom, a monarchy separated from the rest of Europe by the English Channel has had Queen Elizabeth II on the throne since 2 June, 1953, when she was coroneted in a televised ceremony watched by over twenty million people held at Westminster Abbey, London, when her father, King George VI, died of lung cancer. News of her father’s death was relayed to her while vacationing at Sagana Lodge, Kenya, a colony of England by then. Queen Elizabeth II is head of the Commonwealth, “…a voluntary association of 53 independent sovereign states, most of which are former British colonies, or dependencies of these colonies (the exception being the United Kingdom and Mozambique).” [3]

Prominent women leaders of this century include Indira Gandhi, a former Oxford University graduate and former Prime Minister of India who ruled for three consecutive terms between 1966 until 1984 when she was assassinated by her own bodyguards. She was reputed for having nationalized her nation’s banking industry and for overseeing India’s inclusion into the nuclear fraternity. In Bangladesh, former Prime Minister Hazina Wazed spearheaded democratic institutions while President Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka, a woman who escaped many attempts on her life in the pursuit of peaceful coexistence between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil, served multiple terms between 1999 and 2005 as Prime Minister and as President. Her mother, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was elected first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on July 1, 1960; the same day my Horn of Africa nation of Somalia proclaimed independence from Italy and England respectively.

The fabulous input of women in global organization does not end there. Benazir Bhutto, daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan at the age of 35 in 1988. She became the first woman head of state in modern history to lead a Muslim nation of over 100 million inhabitants. A graduate of Radcliffe College at Harvard University, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree with cum laude honors in comparative government in 1973. Pakistan’s 12th and 18th Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto became a victim of assassination on December 27, 2007 while leaving a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi, two weeks before the general election of 2008.

Chronology of World Women Leaders

• 1916: Jeanette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
• 1930: Alexandra Kollontai of the former Soviet Union appointed ambassador to Sweden becoming the first woman in modern history to hold such a position.
• 1933: Frances Perkins appointed Secretary of Labor becoming first female Cabinet member in U.S. history.
• 1960: Japan’s first female cabinet member, Nakayama Masa is appointed Minister of Health and Welfare.
• 1960: Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka becomes the world’s first female Prime Minister.
• 1966: Indira Gandhi elected first female Prime Minister of India.
• 1968: Soong Ching-ling named Co-Chairwoman of the People’s Republic of China.
• 1969: Golda Meir becomes first female Prime Minister of Israel.
• 1974: Maria Estela Martinez succeeded her husband to become the first female head of Argentina and the first female head of state in the Americas.
• 1977: Patricia Harris becomes the first African-American woman to join the U.S. Cabinet becoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
• 1979: Maria Lourdes Pintasilgo named first woman Prime Minister of Portugal.
• 1979: Lidia Geiler becomes first woman President of Bolivia.
• 1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
• 1979: Simone Weil of France named first woman President of the European Parliament.
• 1980: Iceland’s Vigdis Finnbogadottir elected first woman President.
• 1980: Jeanne Sauve of Canada appointed first woman speaker of the House of Commons.
• 1981: Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes first woman Prime Minister of Norway.
• 1982: Agatha Barbara of Malta elected President.
• 1982: Milka Planinc becomes first woman Prime Minister of Yugoslavia.
• 1985: Maria Liberia-Peters becomes first woman Prime Minister of Netherlands-Antilles.
• 1986: Corazon Aquino elected first woman President of the Philippines.
• 1988: Benazir Bhutto elected first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first woman Prime Minister in the Muslim world.
• 1989: Violeta Barrios de Chamorro becomes President of Nicaragua.
• 1990: Mary Robinson elected first woman President of Ireland.
• 1990: Ertha Pascal-Trouillot elected first woman President of Haiti.
• 1990: Carmen Lawrence becomes first woman Premier of Australia.
• 1991: Edith Cresson elected first woman Prime Minister of France.
• 1991: Khaleda Zia Rahman elected first woman Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
• 1991: Rita Johnson of Canada elected first woman Premier.
• 1992: Hanna Suchocka becomes first woman Prime Minister of Poland.
• 1993: Tansu Ciller becomes first woman Prime Minister of Turkey.
• 1993: Sylvie Kinigi becomes Burundi’s first female Prime Minister. [4]

While the list could be endless, between 1993 and 2008; more than twenty nations have had women Heads of States while the strongest power in the world, the United States of America has had none. The U.S. has produced the likes of Condoleezza Rice who became the first black lady and the second female to head the Department of State after Madeleine Albright who served the Clinton administration.

Recently, Republican Party Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his Vice President and running mate -a choice that caused consternation among opposition Democrats. Bill Burton, Barack Obama’s spokesman, in a strongly worded statement, was quoted by the press as saying: “Today John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the Presidency”. [5]

Elisabeth Bumiller sent the following to the New York Times after McCain announced his choice of Sarah Palin for the VP slot: “In 1982 she was given the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” for leading her high school basketball team to the state championship, and in 1984 she won the beauty pageant-as well as the title of miss congeniality-in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. She is also a hunter, fisher, and member of the National Rifle Association. ” [6]

Many leaders who jumped on the bandwagon with tons of experiences in foreign policy, strategic military planning, economic emancipation and displaying credentials from distinguished institutions of higher learning failed in their endeavors to lead effectively either because they were short of personality perspectives, lacking focus of group processes and acts or behaviors that were the main leadership embodiments expected of by their body of voters.

Ironically, I find it absurd for any party member to point fingers at Governor Sarah Palin since her own political background clearly indicate how she has been a dedicated supporter of the democracy American forefathers championed. Writing in the NPR’s all things considered, Elizabeth Arnold had this to share with her radio listeners and web readers: “At first glance, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin comes across as a tough, independent-minded budget cutter and ethics crusader, a whistle-blower who has not been afraid to take on her own party leaders and the oil industry.” [7]

The male-dominated political apparatchiks in Washington are fearful of the takeover of politics by our women and that is why there is an outcry in the male circles whenever a female is elevated to a position of power and prestige. What they need to know is that history has evidently shown that women are as successful as men in leadership and that it is enough to look around the country to make sense of the number of women who held or hold great positions like Army generals, air force marshals, navy admirals, ambassadors, state governors, house speaker, and secretary of states.

In conclusion, American male voters have been unfair to Geraldine Ferraro in 1984; again, forthright Hillary Rodham Clinton was left humiliated and brokenhearted as majority of male votes went to the sweet-talking Barack Obama; and now, McCain’s best pick, Sarah Palin, is facing tough scrutiny from the side of the Democratic Party. The truth of the matter is we’ll taste the true meaning of democracy when an honorable lady becomes the President of the United States of America most likely in 2012 and beyond.


[1] Byrd, Vickie, editor; Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality, (Santa Ana, California: The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, 2004), p. 17.
[2] The Glorious Qur’an (27:23): Translated by Dr. Ahmad Zidan and Mrs. Dina Zidan. Islamic Inc., Publishing and Distribution. 1993. Cairo, Egypt.
[6] http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes/2008/08/29/mccain_vice_president/

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