Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland was the first woman elected president of a country, winning the 1980 presidential election as well as three others to become the longest-serving non-hereditary female head of state in history (16 years and 0 days in office). She is also known for being the first female ambassador to several countries.
Originally from Vatnsdalur, an island west of Reykjavik, she was born on January 11, 1920. At age 15, she married Arnfinn Kristjansson, who died when they had only one child. In 1946, she married politician Halldór Ásgrímsson, with whom she had four more children. After his death in 1964, she did not remarry or have more children.
During her presidency, she worked to improve women's rights in Iceland and promoted tourism from around the world. She resigned on February 2, 1996, due to health concerns related to Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
After leaving office, she has been active in politics and has served as an ambassador to several countries including United States, Canada, and Russia. She has also published several books about her life experiences including two memoirs and a collection of poems by another poet.
The current president is Ilma Fisher, who took office on April 9, 2016. She is the first female president of the Republic of Iceland.
Despite her prolonged presidency, she is not Iceland's longest-serving president. Her successor, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who served as president from 1996 until 2016, holds the record. Vigdis Finnbogadottir is the only woman to have served as President of Iceland. She was elected in 1944 and 1949, making her the first female president of an EU member state.
Iceland has had more than its share of presidential tragedies. In 1918, the nation's first president, Dr. Hallgrímsson, was killed when the plane he was on crashed into the sea during World War I. In 1944, the second president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, died in a fire at her home in Reykjavik. No one else wanted the job so it was assumed that she had died in bed with her husband next to her. But since no body was found, this assumption is disputed by some researchers.
Almost 20 years later, in 1964, another death occurred which many believe to be related to politics. Again, no body was found so again, this is disputed but most sources agree that 1960s Iceland was a dangerous place to go public with accusations against high-ranking officials.
In 1999, the third president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, died in office. He was 85 years old.
August 31st, 2018. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the modern world's first elected female head of government, was Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who became prime minister of Sri Lanka, the island nation in South Asia then known as Ceylon, on July 11, 2016. Before becoming prime minister, she had been president of her party for eight years.
Sirima Bandaranaike was born on January 4th, 1919 in Kandy, a royal city in central Sri Lanka. She was married to Don Stephen Senanayake, who was later to become the second president of Sri Lanka. The couple had three children: Susantha, Chandrika and Dhammika.
As a child, Sirima Bandaranaike wanted to be a doctor like her father but when that didn't work out, she decided to try something else. She attended Sainthamaram School in Colombo and went on to study economics at Columbia University in New York City. When she returned to Sri Lanka, she worked as an economist for several companies before being selected by her husband's political party to run for office themselves. In 1971, she won the presidential election with a majority of votes cast so she could serve out the remaining months of her husband's term. After he died in 1978, she stood for reelection but lost to President J. R. Jayawardene.
Estonia will be the first country to have both a female elected head of state and a female elected head of government in 2021. Women's representation in national legislatures throughout the world is increasing, yet they remain underrepresented. In 2017, there were only two female presidents or prime ministers - one in Africa and one in Asia. The vast majority of leaders are still men.
Since 1945, eight women have served as heads of state or government. They represent 0.4% of all head of states worldwide. The most recent woman to become president was Faiza Shaheen of Jordan, who took office in 2016. The most powerful woman in the world is Angela Merkel of Germany, who has been chancellor since 2005.
The first female presidential candidate in America was Violet Davis in 1920. She received 5% of the vote nationally and 1% of the vote in Mississippi where she was born and raised. Since then, there have been several more female candidates, but they always seem to get defeated by the most famous man in politics: William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.
Number of countries with female head of state: 54. Number of countries with female head of government: 92. Percentage of countries with female head of state: 56%. Percentage of countries with female head of government: 100%.