By Yoona Song
July 25, 2016
The United States may be on the verge of having the first woman president in its history after 240 years of male-dominated White House.
“America, it’s about time.” Oprah Winfrey, the queen of the talk show recently endorsed presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. However, a number of young female voters are unlikely to vote for Hillary just because she is a woman, and it has caused a big generation divide among Democrats. Interestingly, young female voters do not make a big deal out of electing the first female president.
Contrary to the younger generation, the older generation is in favor of electing Hillary to see America having its historic moment. “I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime.” Hillary Clinton said in her campaign, and many older female voters agree with her statement.
While America has had no female president, it has had many prominent women politicians. Hattie Caraway was the first elected female Senator, Arkansas, from 1931 to 1945. Margaret Chase Smith (R) was the first woman representative of Maine and the first to serve both as a Senator (1949-1973) and in the House of Representatives (1940-49).
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress who later ran for president. Geraldine Ferraro (D) was the first female vice presidential candidate for the 1984 presidential election, and she was a member of the United States House of Representatives from New York (1979-85). Patricia Schroeder, a congresswoman from Colorado (1973-97), ran for president in the 1988 campaign.
The number of female senators has been steadily increasing, and currently one-fifth of senators are women in the 114th Congress.
Outside of the U.S., the United Kingdom has recently selected the second female prime minister, Theresa May. The Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher was the first (1979-1990). “Brexit is Brexit,” May claimed that there will be no second referendum on the recent controversial referendum on Brexit.
May has been the Home Secretary for six years (2010-16). A self-declared feminist, she also assumed the office of Minister for Women and Equalities from 2010 to 2012.
France had Edith Cresson as its first female prime minister from 1991 to 1992. And in the neighboring country, Angela Merkel has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and was ranked number one on Forbes’s list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2016. A former researcher in physical chemistry, Merkel has been serving as a notable leader of the European Union and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
In her childhood, Merkel was a quiet girl who did not want to stand out while growing up in the communist-controlled Eastern Europe. However, she grew up to be one of the most powerful women in politics and had numerous political achievements both at home and abroad.
According to the Guardian, Merkel protected Germany’s economy during the serious global economic crisis by introducing economic stimulus packages and decreasing working hours. Energy reform and the termination of compulsory conscription in Germany are considered series of her major achievements.
In Asia, Park Geun-Hye has been the first female president of South Korea serving the 18th presidential term since 2013. She was the Chairwoman of the Conservative Grand National Party (GNP) before becoming the President of South Korea.
President Park is a daughter of Park Chung-Hee, a former president and a military general of South Korea. She served as a First Lady when her mother was shot during an attempt to assassinate her father. Later, Park’s father was also assassinated by the chief of his own security services.
She is known for strict adherence to political promises and her administrative visions include economic revival, laying the foundation for peaceful unification and promoting cultural exchange and cooperation.
Among Asian countries, India had a female prime minister, Indira Gandhi from 1966 to 1984, and the Philippines had Corazon Aquino as the first female president from 1986 to 1992 which made her the first female president in Asia.
In Central and South America, Dilma Rousseff is the first female president of Brazil (2011-16), whose duties are currently suspended because of the impeachment trial. She was a former Treasury Secretary, State Secretary of Energy, Minister of Energy and Chief of Staff. Last month, she was charged with her inappropriate management of the national budget. Chile also had a female president, Michelle Bachelet from 2006 to 2010.
In the Middle East, Israel had a female prime minister from 1969 to 1974. Golda Meir was the fourth prime minister of Israel and was the only women to hold the position of prime minister. She had a nickname of “the Iron Lady” until it was passed down to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
She was known for her active Zionism and fought for the development of Israel. Meir was actively engaged in leadership roles during her early ages by forming the American Young Sisters Society.
In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was the first elected prime minister and she served as the 11th (1988-1990) and 13th (1993-1996) Prime Minister of Pakistan. Unfortunately, she was assassinated in 2007.
In Africa, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has served as the president of Liberia since 2006. Before becoming president, she worked as the Minister of Finance from 1979 to 1980. Sirleaf took a progressive step by establishing free and compulsory primary school education. Her domestic policy also involved the ratification of a Freedom of Information bill, which is considered as the first legislation in West Africa. Recognized for her achievements, Sirleaf received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for the advancement of women’s rights.
Out of 197 countries, there are 14 current female political leaders in 2016. Here are the names of female leaders around the world.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: President of Liberia (16 Jan 2006- )
Doris Leuthard: Member of the Swiss Federal Council (1 Aug 2006- )
Dalia Grybauskaite: President of Lithuania (12 Jul 2009- )
Simonetta Sommaruga: Member of the Swiss Federal Council (1 Nov 2010- )
Dilma Rousseff: President of Brazil (1 Jan 2011- )
Park Geun-Hye: President of South Korea (25 Feb 2013- )
Michelle Bachelet: President of Chile (11 Mar 2014- )
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca: President of Malta (4 April 2014- )
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic: President of Croatia (19 Feb 2015- )
Ameenah Gurib: President of Mauritius (5 Jun 2015- )
Bidhya Devia Bhandari: President of Nepal (29 October 2015- )
Hilda Heine: President of Marshall Islands (28 Jan 2016- )
Tsai Ing-wen: President of Taiwan (20 May 2016- )
Doris Bures: Co-Acting President of Austria (8 Jul 2016- )
Will America choose its first woman president this November? If so, Hillary would join a growing list of women in power around the globe.
Yoona Song is a summer assistant at transAtlantic Magazine. She is a senior at University of Wisconsin-Madison and majors in Political Science and Spanish.