Myths and legend are full 0f powerful and influential women, including Eleanor of Acquitaine, Europa, Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and Pandora, the woman who cracked open a jar and let loose a world of pain and suffering.
But you don’t need to delve into fiction or history to find great women. History is full of significant females, from queens and criminals to artists and scientists, who have drastically changed this world. They’ve been rated, compared and inventoried by top lists all across the world. Lists often contain many of the same names: Cleopatra, Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, Hilary Clinton to name a few. These women are truly remarkable, but there are others just as worthy and deserve to be mentioned.
In compiling a new list, how do we decide who merits inclusion? How should women’s relative levels of influence be ascertained? This is a subjective process, but criteria must be established and acknowledged. So without further ado, here are top 10 unforgettable and influential women of all time.
1. Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor was a part of the wealthiest family in Europe thousands of years back. She received a massive inheritance which came along with a title after her father passed away. This is when she became an autonomous ruler. She played a major part in developing Aquitaine and transformed it into a major cultural centre. Eleanor went on to become Queen in 1137.
Her legacy? Eleanor’s “contribution to England goes beyond her own lifetime. After the loss of Normandy (1204), it was her own ancestral lands and not the old Norman territories that remained loyal to England. The nuns of Fontevrault wrote that she was a queen who surpassed almost all the queens of the world. True queen she was indeed.
Hatshepsut will go down in history as the most influential woman as far as Egyptian history is concerned. According to records, she was the most admirable and tolerant at the time and ruled independently till she died.
Her legacy? Hatshepsut was considered one of the greatest rulers: male or female of her time. Born during Egypt’s 18th dynasty, she was rose from princess to queen to pharaoh. Her rise to the throne, though against ideals of the time, might have inspired other rulers, such as Cleopatra. During this time she was able to expand trade, watch the Egyptian economy grow and improve, and build and restore temples of Egypt. Hatshepsut did this by claiming right of male and being in the image of the Sphinx.
3. Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa of Austria was born in 1717 and she became an empress in 1740. This powerful woman modified her empire in many ways and recruited soldiers to the existing army. She also changed the face of the Government and her efforts bore fruit when the economy flourished in front of her eyes. She abolished many evil practices and spread awareness about various subjects.
Her legacy? Maria Theresa left a revitalized empire that had a big influence on the rest of Europe in the 19th century. Her descendants followed her example she set and continued to reform the empire. The acquisition of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria gave the empire an even more multinational character that would ultimately lead it to its destruction. Her insisting of compulsory schooling, as a means of Germanization, eventually triggered the rebirth of Czech culture.
4. Empress Theodora
Empress Theodora was an actress before she married Emperor Justinian I. She and her husband looked over the functioning of the empire but mostly all the decisions were made with Theodora’s blessing. She also supported her husband and helped the country win many battles. Not only that, but she also created awareness about the importance of women’s rights.
Her legacy? Theodora is now considered the greatest woman in the history of the Roman Empire and the true founder of feminism. As a result of her efforts, the status of women in the Byzantine Empire was elevated far above that of women in the Middle East and the rest of Europe.
Theodora died of an unknown type of cancer at the age of 48. It was a remarkable life and a remarkable legacy that she left behind. Sadly, her reforms are as badly needed in much of the world even today.
5. Empress Wu Zetian
Empress Wu Zetian was very firm and made all the decisions when her husband was on his death-bed. She soon became the Emperor of China and put an end to the Tang Dynasty and gave rise to the Zhou Dynasty. She was ruthless in many ways and managed to spread Buddhism as a religion.