The Top 10 Famous Female Leaders in History

History has seen more than a few inspiring and powerful famous female leaders. Many of these influential women have ruled their country as Pharaoh, Empress, Queen , Prime Minister, or Chancellor, while others were supporting an important cause. Their past legacies deserve to be recognized and celebrated by the women of today.

Here are 10 of the most famous female leaders in history:

1. Cleopatra VII (Leader of Egypt)

Cleopatra VII, known as simply Cleopatra, was one of the most famous female leaders and rulers in history. She was the last active pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, from 51 B.C. to 30 B.C.

Cleopatra is mostly known for her love affairs with Roman military leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, but during her reign, she forged many political alliances and helped turn Egypt into one of the world’s greatest powers.

2. Wu Zetian (Leader of China)

Wu Zetian was one of the most famous female leaders in the history of China. She ruled the country as Empress from 690 to 705, during the brief Zhou Dynasty.

These great leadership skills earned her the respect of her advisers and subjects. Wu Zetian modernized China during her reign. She also successfully converted most Chinese citizens to Buddhism, establishing it as the main religion of the country.

Wu Zetian is one of the most famous female leaders in Chinese history.

@ Mike Dash // Wikimedia Commons

3. Joan of Arc (Leader of France)

Joan of Arc, nicknamed the Maid of Orleans, was a French heroine who claimed she had received visions from the Archangel Michael. This famous female leader helped the French army lift the siege of Orleans, and led them towards many more victories.

Unfortunately, Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431, when she was only 19 years old. Years after her death, she was pronounced innocent, and she was later declared a martyr, and eventually canonized.

Joan of Arc is one of the most famous female leaders in ancient history.

@ John Everett Millais // Wikimedia Commons

4. Catherine II (Leader of Russia)

Catherine II, also called Catherine the Great, became Empress of Russia on July 9, 1762, and ruled until her death in 1796. During her reign, Russia was revitalized and recognized as one of the great powers of Europe.

Catherine the Great expanded Russian territories, and modernized Russia’s culture. Even though she was seen as a dictator in Russia, she wanted the rest of the world to perceive her as an enlightened monarch. She was one of the most famous old ladies to rule the country.

Catherine VII is one of the most famous female leaders in Russia.

@ Johann Baptis von Lampi // Wikimedia Commons

5. Queen Victoria (Leader of England)

Queen Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and England from June 20, 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign is known as the Victorian era, which was a period of cultural, scientific, industrial, political, and military change.

During Queen Victoria’s reign, the British Empire doubled in size, and she was exercising some influence over foreign affairs, as well as striving to keep peace.

Queen Victoria is one of the most famous female leaders in England.

@ Alexander Bassano // Wikimedia Commons

6. Eva Perón (Leader in Argentina)

Eva Perón was the second wife of Juan Perón, the President of Argentina, which made her First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is also known as Evita, an affectionate Spanish diminutive.

During her time as First Lady, she started the Eva Perón Foundation to help the poor and the homeless. Her foundation was building homes and hospitals, and she was often meeting with the sick and the poor who needed her support.

7. Rosa Parks (Leader in United States)

Rosa Parks was an African-American civil rights activist. She became famous on December 1955 when she refused to give her bus seat to a white passenger. She was arrested for civil disobedience, but her action led to the Montgomery bus boycott.

Rosa Parks has been nicknamed the first lady of civil rights; her act of defiance became an important symbol for the civil rights movements against the black racial segregation.

8. Indira Gandhi (Leader of India)

Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of India, from 1966 until her death in 1984. A powerful leader, she was one of the most famous Indian women known for her political intransigency and her centralisation of power.

In addition to going to war with Pakistan and leading India into the nuclear age, she helped her country overcome chronic food shortages and reliance on imported grains, to finally achieve its goal of food security.

Indira Gandhi was one of the most famous female leaders in India.

@ Anil496 // Wikimedia Commons

9. Margaret Thatcher (Leader of Britain)

Margaret Thatcher was a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, as well as the leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the first woman to become Prime Minister of Britain.

She was nicknamed the Iron Lady for her leadership style and her uncompromising politics. A controversial figure, this famous female leader was known for the destruction of Britain’s traditional industries, and the privatization of public transport and social housing.

Margaret Thatcher is one of the most famous female leaders in Britain.

@ Marion S. Trikosko // Wikimedia Commons

10. Angela Merkel (Leader of Germany)

Angela Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany in 2005, and she still holds this title today. An influential and powerful woman, she is seen as one of the top leaders of the European Union, and many consider her to be the most powerful woman in the world.

Angela Merkel is mostly concerned about domestic and international policies, and energy and sustainability issues. This famous female leader has announced that she would not seek reelection as Chancellor in 2021.

Angela Merkel is one of the most famous female leaders in Germany.

@ Armin Linnartz // Wikimedia Commons