Politics

First female heads of state (PHOTOS)

shinawatra_thailand_opt.jpg

Yingluck Shinawatra shakes hands with supporters after speaking at a campaign rally on June 29, 2011, in Sisaket, Thailand.

Credit:

Paula Bronstein

Yingluck Shinawatra and her Puea Thai (For Thais) party won a clear majority Sunday, paving the way for the 44-year-old business executive to become Thailand's first woman prime minister.

Here's a look back at the first female heads of state in other parts of the world, from Sriramavo Bandarnaike, the first woman Prime Minister in Sri Lanka in 1960, to the most recently elected Dilma Rousseff in Brazil this January.

Editor's note: A caption in this gallery was updated to reflect the fact that the 1961 conference of unaligned countries took place in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, not Belgrade, Serbia.

  • sriramavo_bandaranaike_-_sri_lanka_opt.jpg

    Sriramavo Bandaranaike became the world's first elected woman prime minister in 1960 in Sri Lanka in the wake of her husband's assassination. She can be seen in this picture, the only female leader amid key political figures in the 1961 conference of the unaligned countries that took place in what was then Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

    Credit:

    AFP

  • indira_gandhi_-_india_opt.jpg

    Indira Gandhi served as India's first female prime minister from 1966 to 1977, and then again from 1980 until 1984. The world's longest serving female prime minister to date, Gandhi became famous for her slogan, "garibi hatao," or "eradicate poverty." But she is also known for the Emergency which she declared in 1975, one of the most controversial periods in Indian history. Gandhi was assassinated in 1984.

    Credit:

    AFP

  • golda_meir_-_israel_opt.jpg

    Golda Meir served as the first woman prime minister of Israel in 1969. She led the country through the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and remains the only female to head the state of Israel to date.

    Credit:

    AFP

  • isabel_peron_-_argentina_opt.jpg

    Former Argentine President Isabel Peron, Latin America's first female president, took over in 1974 after the death of her husband Juan Peron. Her presidency lasted until 1976, when she was deposed, arrested and eventually exiled by a military junta.

    Credit:

    AFP

  • benazir_bhutto_-_pakistan_opt.jpg

    Benazir Bhutto served twice as the prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990, and again from 1993 to 1996. She was the first elected woman to lead a Muslim state. In addition to facing corruption charges, she spent eight years in exile when the country was at the hands of the military dictatorship. Upon returning to Pakistan, she was assassinated during a campaign rally for her party on Dec. 27, 2007.

    Credit:

    Warrick Page

  • margaret_thatcher_-_uk_opt_0.jpg

    Margaret Thatcher, now known as the 'Iron Lady,' was elected in 1979 as the United Kingdom's first female prime minister until 1990.

    Credit:

    Oli Scarff

  • ellen_john_sirleaf_-_liberia_opt.jpg

    Ellen John Sirleaf, former finance minister of Liberia, was elected as the country's first female president in 2006. She is also Africa's first elected woman head of state.

    Credit:

    John Macdougall

  • iceland_-_johanna_sigurdardottir__opt.jpg

    Johanna Sigurdardottir, current and first female prime minister of Iceland, was elected in 2009. She is also the first openly homosexual head of state.

    Credit:

    Halldor Kolbeins

  • dilma_-_brazil_opt.jpg

    Dilma Rousseff became the first female president of Brazil in January 2011.

    Credit:

    Evaristo Sa

  • shinawatra_thailand_opt.jpg

    Yingluck Shinawatra shakes hands with supporters after speaking at a campaign rally on June 29, 2011, in Sisaket, Thailand.

    Credit:

    Paula Bronstein