10 Great Women of History Who Could Run Circles Around Today's Political Leaders
10 Great Women of History Who Could Run Circles Around Today’s Political Leaders

10 Great Women of History Who Could Run Circles Around Today’s Political Leaders

Peter Baxter - April 2, 2018

10 Great Women of History Who Could Run Circles Around Today’s Political Leaders
Yaa Asantewaa, Ashanti Warrior Queen. Face 2 Face Africa

Yaa Asantewaa

Africa is certainly not impoverished in matters of female heroes, queens and warlords, and the strict uniformity of the patrilineal is not universal in Africa. Matrilineal systems abound, and there have certainly been a number of mighty and fearless African women in the history of the continent.

Yaa Asantewaa was born in 1840 in what would today be known as southern Ghana. Then it was part of the Ashanti Empire, one of the great empires of precolonial Africa. This region, however, was what the British called the ‘Gold Coast’, for obvious reasons. In the post-slavery era, the European powers, and in particular the British, were beginning to jostle with one another for influence in Africa, and for territory. Where local societies were fractured and disunited, foreign rule was easy, but were large and cohesive monarchies and kingdoms existed, war was usually inevitable.

In this case, it was the ‘War of the Golden Stool’, the ultimate British effort to bring the independent Ashanti to heel. In 1896, at the age of fifty-Six, Yaa Asantewaa was queen mother. King Asantehene Prempeh I of the Ashanti was captured, and exiled to the Seychelles, and there practically held as a hostage. It was demanded of the Ashanti leadership that the ‘Golden Stool’, the symbol of dynastic power, be handed over.

At the time, Yaa Asantewaa was the keeper of the stool, which was a position of considerable influence. Upon discovering that a majority of councilmen and leaders were tempted to make peace with the British, she recalled the great days of the empire, when men would not allow themselves to be oppressed. She instead led an army against the British, the ‘War of the Golden Stool‘. Despite there being no real hope of victory, the war was bloody and hard-fought. Yaa Asantewaa, however, was captured and exiled along with her family to Seychelles.

Today, Ashanti is a district of central Ghana, which became independent from Britain in 1957. Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa remains a figure of enormous cultural and political significance, and on August 3, 2000, a museum was dedicated to her at Kwaso, in the Ejisu-Juaben District of modern Ghana.

10 Great Women of History Who Could Run Circles Around Today’s Political Leaders
Catherine the Great, arguably the most powerful woman of all time. history.com

Catherine the Great

Probably the doyen of powerful women in politics and war was Catherine the Great, and no list of great women would be complete without her. Born in 1729 to a Prussian noble family, she married into the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, and came to power in coup that unseated her husband. An enormously ambitious and capable woman, Catherine cemented her rule with ruthless efficiency and a complete lack of scruple. Her thirty-four-year reign saw great political and social advances in Russia, but it was overshadowed by a scandal-ridden private life, more salacious than almost any other great leader in history.

Among her achievements, aside from the simple longevity of her rule, was her successful leadership of Russia in the ‘Russo-Turkish Wars‘, the expansionist agenda of the Russians attempting to gain a foothold on the Black Sea. For Russia, this was a vital strategic acquisition, the only access to the Mediterranean and the southern oceans.

It was under her reign, indeed, that Russia emerged as one of the great European powerhouses, and through a process of war and diplomacy, she expanded the Russian Empire to its greatest extent. It was also under Catherine that Russia began to gain its credentials as a center of high culture, widespread education and literacy. It was she who established the first centers of female education in Russia, and it was she who set up the first, modern, Western-style system of government and administration. As such, she played a central role in what was later described as the Russian Enlightenment.

All of this, however, has been edged off the stage in popular myth by the scandals that surrounded Catherine’s life. She was certainly known for her sexual liberty and appetite, and in fact, when she died at age sixty-seven, it was rumored that it was in the middle of copulating with a horse. However, although prolific until her death, her sex life was somewhat more conventional. She was, however, clearly extremely driven, and had made a collection of pornographic furniture that has become rather iconic. She had public affairs with at least twenty-two men, all younger than she, and obviously a great many more on the side.

But nonetheless, Catherine the Great was arguably the most powerful, the most successful and the most enigmatic of all the great female figures of history.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Who was Boudica?”. Sarah Pruitt. History, May 2016

“Cleopatra VII Biography” Biography, February 2018

“What were the achievements of Indira Gandhi as a Prime Minister?”. Nagarajan Srinivas, Quora, June 2017

“Empress Wu Zetian”. Lyn Reese. Women in World History

“Wu Zetian: China’s fierce and fearless Empress, and feminist”. Sarah Brennan, Young Post, October 2014

“Facts and Myths From the Life of Queen Elizabeth I”. D.G. Hewitt. History Collection. January 2019

“Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa of West Africa’s Ashanti Empire”. Black History Heroes

“8 Things You Didn’t Know About Catherine the Great”. Barbara Maranzani, History, July 2012

“The Empresses’ Secret Cabinet of Erotic Curiosities”. Messy Nessy Chic. Messy Nessy, June 2017