Exceptional Women Throughout The Ages Part I
They were women who guided their societies, struggled against their circumstances, were accomplished, powerful, intelligent and determined…
who changed the World…Some of them have long departed from among us and some of them are still with us…We honor them all with respect.
PUDUHEPA, 1240 B.C., HITTITE QUEEN
Hittite Quenn Puduhepa from Çukurova has a matriarchal Hurrite lineage. Puduhepa married the Hittite King, Hattuşili III in 1260 B.C. and entered the royal Hittite palace. Puduhepa, who lived 3300 years ago, is known to have reigned as a female ruler for years and was born and raised in the town of Lavazantia which had a matriarchal culture. The text of the agreement that Hattusili III signed with Egypt also included the seal of Queen Puduhepa in addition to the King’s seal. Puduhepa was involved in every aspect of Daily life with the exception of the military. She had authority in state affairs and would substitute for her husband in legal matters. What is considered to be the first peace treaty in history between two major states, the Treaty of Kadesh, had her seal. After the death of her husband, she continued her duties as Queen and played a role during her son’s reign as well. She rebelled against the extreme pressures and male domination of the patriarchal Hitite society and Amazons who took over the reins from her declared war against Helens. One of the most powerful, intelligent and accomplished women in Anatolia, Puduhepa is known as the precursor of feminism in history.
CLEOPATRA VII, 69 B.C.- 30 B.C., QUEEN OF EGYPT
She was born in Alexandria. As per the will of her father Ptolemais XI, she married her brother. Upon the death of her father when she was 18 years old, Cleopatra rose to the throne. In order to assimilate and be accepted by her people, she devoted herself to the Egyptian faith. Her brother arranged to have her removed from power and sent to exile. Cleopatra returned to power accompanied by the Great Roman Emperor Caesar. Following her return, her brother drowned in the waters of the Nile under mysterious circumstances. After the demise of her brother, Cleopatra became the sole power at the throne. During her reign she gave birth to a child with Caesar and taking along the little Caesarius, she went to Rome. Her great dream was to unite the two empires and realize the dream of Alexander the Great by ruling over the whole World as it was known at that time. When Caesar died, the Roman Empire was split between Octavius who was enthroned and Marcus Antonius. The East was now ruled by Marcus whose first task was to visit Egypt. Antonius fell madly in love with Cleopatra. They declared war against Octavius. During the war that w
as fought at Actium, Cleopatra and Marcus had to flee. Cleopatra returned to her palace at Alexandria and she is rumored to have committed suicide by having herself stung by a cobra. She was 39 when she died.
THEODORA, 497-548, EMPRESS OF BYZANTIUM
Theodora became the architect of a successfull era by engaging in relationships with important personalities of Byzantium. After her travels, she enchanted Justinian who was heir to the throne. Justinian changed the law banning him from marrying a commoner and Theodora became Empress in 527. One of the most powerful women in history, this activist empress updated divorce and inheritance laws and tried to obliterate prostitution in big cities. Following Theodora’s death from cancer, Justinian was not able to make any significant contributions to these amendments.
QUEEN ISABELLA I, 1451-1504 SPANISH MONARCH
Known also as the Queen of Castile and Catholic Isabella, is acknowledged to be one of the founders of a unified and strong Spain. Isabella married Ferdinand of Aragon in 1469 and the couple rose to the Castilian throne in 1474. When Ferdinand rose to the Aragon throne in 1479, two great Spanish kingdoms became united. Spain gained numerous benefits form this unification. In 1492, Isabella and her husband provided material support to Christopher Columbus for his New World Voyage. Isabella and Ferdinand’s great power also gave them the right to establish the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 and to forcefully remove Spanish Jews from the kingdom in 1492.
HÜRREM SULTAN, 1501-1558, OTTOMAN SULTAN
Roxelana, Hürrem Sultan, Slavic woman who was forced into concubinage and later became the wife of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Hürrem and Süleyman had a close relationship. During his frequent absences on military campaigns, they wrote poetry to each other. Hürrem overcame great odds and became Suleiman’s wife, became the most powerful woman in the Ottoman Empire. She left the Harem palace and moved into the Sultan’s quarters at Topkapi Palace, İstanbul which gave her the opportunity to be involved in both court and state matters . Hürrem corresponded on matters of state, became a patroness of public works, commissioning many projects for the Ottoman royal architect Sinan. She would bear the sultan six sons, one of whom would become the next Sultan. She was the only royal woman to inscribe her name in structures while her husband was alive.
QUEEN ELIZABETH I, 1533-1603, ENGLISH MONARCH
As much as Elizabeth’s life was shaped by a string of disasters that came one after the other, it is also filled with victories she won against tremendous duress. She lost her mother when her deranged father Henry VIII ordered the decapitation of Anne Boleyn and she was called bastard and unfit for society by her father and sister Mary. Yet despite all, Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558. Due to the great difficulties she overcame to gain power and the deep love she had for Great Britain, she refused to get married and rule he country alone for 45 years. Among her accomplishments are the founding of fair courts and her efforts to establish a public welfare system.
CATHERINE THE GREAT, 1729- 1796, EMPRESS OF RUSSIA
Catherine was the daughter of a minor German princess. She married the Grand Duke Peter and the couple ascended to the Russian throne in 1761. Peter was an unpredictable and unstable person and one year later, he was dethroned by palace guards and killed. Catherine was thus left alone as the sole ruler of the largest empire in Europe. During her 34-year reign, the Empire expanded even further. In order to complete the westernization movement that was initiated by Peter, Catherine thought she could adopt the ideas of the Enlightenment, opening the first school for girls and trying to cement the innovations in agriculture and public health. It is a great shame that during her rule, Russia solidified the institution of feudalism and became worse off for it.
(to be continued …)