It's a man's world and women find themselves faced with having to earn new ground day in and day out but that doesn't necessarily sum up the history of the world. History tells us of female figures who once lived to rule, cure and shape corners of the Earth. Here are only ten of those forces of nature:
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Currently heading the government of Germany, she has been Germany's first woman chancellor since 2005. Angela Dorothea Kasner was born in Hamburg, West Germany. A young Merkel grew up in East Germany where her father, a Lutheran pastor, moved the family in order to study theology. Merkel entered politics in 1989 and has assumed many positions in government before becoming chancellor. She was once Minister for the Environment and prior to that Minister of Women and Youth. Merkel continues to live in a small apartment in Berlin having turned down the tradition to live in the capital's Chancellory.
Great Britain's first woman prime minister will be summoned by many as Meryl Streep in 'Iron Lady', a film bearing her infamous nickname. That nickname was given to her by Russian newspaper Red Star mocking her for talking about what she believed was Russian imperial ambitions. The name caught on as a compliment rather than an insult and has since then been associated with the iconic prime minister.
Thatcher was a strong advocate of Victorian family values and a staunch opposer to the central economic role of government, her opinions and policies which reduced the role of trade unions welcoming a free-market economy, won her an 'ism'. Her direction in government was soon referred to as Thatcherism. She believed in monetarism and low taxation and drove the nation into its biggest wave of mass unemployment and yet she won a second general election.
Thatcher was a proud grocer's daughter, always emphasizing her personal history in the name of advocating hard work.
Queen Victoria is the second longest ruling British monarch, coming second after Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen ruled for 63 years taking the throne at the age of 18. Her reign oversaw increased literacy, prosperous industrial years and The London Underground. She married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The prince died of typhoid in 1861.The devoted couple had nine children together. Queen Victoria expanded Britain's imperial control around the world. Although a Queen in her own right, she denied equal voting for women and in 1870 wrote "Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations."
Tsarina Catherina the Great
Sophie Friederike Auguste daughter of prince Christian Auguste. Catherine's mother groomed her to be an eligible match for Grand Duke Peter (Peter III). A teenage Catherine was soon engaged to be married. As a result Catherine became a grand duchess. The couple had a son together, Paul.
Peter III assumed the throne in 1761continuing to be a spectacle of eccentric behavior and insulting to his wife in favor of his mistresses. Six months later he was overthrown by a coup led by his wife.
As part of her plans for reform she created the "Nakaz" document which drafted a legal system where citizens would be equal under the law and also outlawed capital punishment and torture. The Senate fought her against changing the feudal system which meant that the majority of the population lived under slavery-like conditions. After initially romancing the Church she later changed her mind and put all Church properties under state control. She expanded Russia's borders into Poland and lived to be a patron of the arts particularly Opera and ballet.
Catherine was famous for her love affairs and gave prominent positions to her lovers in the military and otherwise.
Nur Jahan, Empress of Mughal India
Originally born Mehro Nesa and later given the name Nur Jahan (Light of the World) by her second husband Moghul emperor Jahangir who met her as a widow and was taken by her beauty. She was one of his many wives but was the most influential. She was responsible for much of the decisions taken during the emperor's rule. Nur Jahan came from a Persian family of poets who made it to India as immigrants. She was a big name in domestic trade and owned cargo ships and others that transported pilgrims to Mecca. Her rule ended when Jahangir's son Shah Jahan, know for building the Taj Mahal, took power. He imprisoned her and later on sent her into exile in Lahore where she spent the rest of her remaining years.
Queen Elizabeth I
Sometimes referred to as The Virgin Queen due to her never marrying, Queen Elizabeth I was the last of the Tudor dynasty. She established the English Protestant Church which later became the Church of England. She appointed herself Supreme Governor of the church. She lead England against the Spanish Armada in 1588 making it the greatest military victory in the history of England. She imprisoned her half-sister and rival to the throne Mary, Queen of Scots in 1568 and later had her executed in 1587.
The Queen's time is also famous for a prosperous period of English drama highlighted by contemporaries of the time such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine
The only woman in history to have been a Queen to both England and France. She was first the queen of France for 15 years while being married to King Louis VI. She accompanied her husband on the second crusade against the Turks. After returning to France, back from the crusade she and Louis VI had a fallout and their marriage was annulled. Two months later she was married to the count of Anjou and duke of Normandy who in 1154 became Henry II, King of England. She gave King Henry five sons, she had already been a mother to two daughters from her previous marriage. Among her sons to Henry was Richard the Lion-Heart.
She was a patron of two poetic movements; the courtly love tradition and the historical Legends of Brittany.
Empress Wu Zetian of China
Wu was the concubine of Emperor Taizong, she married his son and successor Emperor Gaozong. In 660 Gaozong suffered a stroke and Wu was appointed administrator of the court, a position as prominent as that of Emperor. Her military leadership assisted the expansion of China into Central Asia while also leading assaults against the Korean peninsula. Three of her sons became emperors and she was grandmother to Emperor Xuanzong of Tang.
Empress Theodora of Byzantium
Theodora was an actress and a prostitute at a young age and also made a living as a wool spinner. When Justinian met her he was taken by her, she immediately became his mistress. After altering the relevant legislation he married her and when he took the throne in 527 she was by his side.
Theodora was an advocate of women's rights. Among her accomplishments is drafting divorce laws that favored women and prohibited the trafficking of young girls. Justinian outlived her, from then on there exists no evidence of any significant legislation which attests to her importance as a prominent ruler and most influential woman in Byzantine history.
Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt
Following her father's passing Hatshepsut was married to her half-brother Thutmose II at the age of 12 as his principle wife. Thutmose II died after 15 years of rule.The next male in line was Hatshepsut's step-son Thutmose III who was too young to assume power on his own at the time. She was co-ruler but at some point became Pharaoh. Expanding Egypt's borders was not her priority, she unlike other Pharaohs focused on bringing economic prosperity to her kingdom.
On the walls of her temple is a record of a boasted expedition that brought back to Egypt ivory, gold and myrrh trees.
Hatshepsut's temple lies at the entrance of the Valley of the Kings and bears some destruction perpetrated by Thutmose III who waged a campaign to eradicate her memory towards the end of his rule.