Seeing as it is International Women’s Day and all, I thought I’d become a feminist for the day and introduce you to four of the most influential female leaders of all time, well, the ones I know anyways. Please feel free to point out the many hundreds I may have missed in preparing this post!
Starting at home: Queen Medb of Connacht sometimes Anglicised as ‘Meave’ is basically Ireland’s answer to Xena: Princess Warrior (man that was a good show). Medb’s ascent to power is soaked in blood. Originally, she was married to Conchobhar Mac Nessa of Ulster and bore him a son: Glaisne. She grew unhappy and left him, killing the wife who was to take her place. Her father, Eochaid Feidleach, who fortunately enough, happened to be the High King of Ireland, installed her as Queen of Connacht. She allowed the previous king, Tinni mac Conra, to retain a semblance of his former power on the condition that he become her lover. Kinky. Medb, the mythological equivalent of the ‘Single Lady’ Beyonce has been singing about, demanded that her husbands be without jealousy as she took lover after lover. Her most famous act as a leader was her ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’ whereby she attempted to invade the province of Ulster for, wait for it… A big bull. Not even to own the bull outright, but to have a lend of the bull. One can only speculate as to what the ever-promiscuous Medb wanted with a raging bull, perhaps a stallion might have been easier to come by. The animal, known as Donn Cuailgne, was owned by Daire of Tyrone and when he proved stingy with his possessions Medb saw fit to invade Ulster, only to be repelled by Cu-Chulainn and his legendary hurley shtick.
Wedding into royalty: is Catherine the Great of Russia. Born into German nobility, young Cat was sent off to cold Moscow to marry auld Tsar Peter II. Fortunately for her, he kicked it six months into the marriage and left her to rule uninterrupted between 1729 and 1796. During this time she extended the Russian Empire west and beat off the stubborn Ottoman Empire (the Turks) in the South. In keeping with Medb’s burning passions, she too took many lovers and even installed her former flame, Stanislas Augustus, onto the Polish-Lithuanian throne, that being before she conquered his country and took him back.
The Iron Lady: Maggie Thatcher, what can we say that hasn’t been said already. Described by Sinn Fein politician, Danny Morrisson as ‘the biggest bastard we have ever known’, Thatcher was far from compromising as a leader. She resisted the hunger strike of Bobby Sands and other republicans, waving off their claims for political asylum by saying: ‘Crime is crime is crime, it is not political.’ A woman who won’t be remembered very favourably this side of the Irish Sea, but an important political figure none the less who was the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century. She even has her own political theory known as ‘Thatcherism.’ It will be a long time before anyone speaks of Cameronism or God forbid, Ahernism.
Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson! Mary Robinson: seventh President of the Republic of Ireland, first female. A constant campaigner for Human Rights for homosexuals, people of the third world, people affected by sectarianism and of course, women, Robinson has been awarded some of the most prestigious awards that can be bestowed on political figures. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barrack Obama, the highest honour the US has. He recognised her importance in ‘ensuring all voices are heard.’ She is a member of Nelson Mandela’s dream team of awesome people, The Elders and is also the only President of Ireland not to have had the support of Fianna Fail.