First Female PM, First Female President, and How They Got There

Quiz time!

1. What was the first country to have a female head of state?

First female PM Sirimavo RD Bandaranaike


Sri Lanka!

In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and of any country in the world! However, she was elected only after her husband was assassinated. Possibly, she was elected because she was seen as an extension of her husband. Nevertheless, she was popular and was reelected PM in the 1970s  and 1990s.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike reminds me of another incredibly badass head of state: past President Corazon Aquino from the Philippines. Aquino led a similar life in that her husband was also a politician who was assassinated.

President Corazon Aquino


Aquino’s story is extra badass though. Corazon Aquino’s husband was a politician in opposition to authoritarian head of state Ferdinand E. Marcos, and the assassination of Aquino’s husband really pissed people off.

Later, Marcos (weirdly) wants to hold a presidential election, so Corazon Aquino runs in opposition to Marcos. Offcially, of course, Marcos won, but the people were outraged and charged Marcos with voting fraud and then Philippine Military Officials called Marcos out as the authoritarian ass he was. They then made Marcos president of his followers and Aquino president of hers, but then Marcos fled the country (good choice, Marco) and Aquino became the president of the Philippines. As president, she created a new constitution that was ratified in 1987. While she made a lot of positive changes in the Philippines there were some problems she failed to address, specifically mass poverty, and was succeeded by her former defense secretary, Fidel Ramos.

Also, while I was researching these two women I came upon this article that talks about how many female heads of state have come out of South and Southeast Asia and why. It’s an interesting read and I encourage you to check it out, but basically it theorizes that women often become heads of state due to backlashed against severe patriarchal control. It also says that once these women are in power, though, it is difficult for them to gain authority for the same reason they were put in charge. It’s an interesting theory, though I wonder if that is changing as time progresses. I suppose we shall see.



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