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21 July 2008

On this day in history: The world`s first woman Prime Minister, 1960

In 1947, the British Colonial office created the role of Prime Minister of Ceylon, in preparation for the island's Dominion status and independence, which was granted a year later. The first three incumbents of the position all represented the conservative United National Party (UNP), but following the 1956 elections, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) formed a coalition government, with the party's founder, Solomon Bandaranaike, as Prime Minister. Three years later a Buddhist monk assassinated Solomon Bandaranaike for reasons that are still not clear, consequently his wife, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, took over as president of the SLFP.

On 21st July 1960, following a campaign in which she became known as 'the weeping widow' because of the amount of tears she shed on the campaign trail while vowing to continue her husband's policies, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, led the SLFP to an election victory and became the world's first elected woman Prime Minister. Her pro-Sinhalese policies alienated the Tamil population creating a conflict that rages to this day. In 1965, the UNP took power once more but they were again defeated by the SLFP in 1970, and Bandaranaike became Prime Minister for her second term, during which she oversaw Ceylon transformation into the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka 1972.

To learn more about the world's first woman Prime Minister, see the BBC website page dedicated to Sirimavo Bandaranaike following her death in 2000.


Atniz said...

Great post about women. I never know a women have become a prime minister of a country as early as 1960.

Even in 2008, there are still a lot of people going against women as PM.

And, why does the monk kills Sirimavo Bandaranaike's husband? Maybe, he is not a monk, just acting as a monk to be close to the target.

Stepterix said...

Atniz: There is some debate as to whether the assassin was an actual monk, but you are right that the holy garb did allow him to get close to his target.

One theory suggests that the murderer was persuaded to commit the act by a high priest whose companies had not received business contracts from Solomon Bandaranaike's government.

Dollar Dude said...

Fantastic Post. The second women prime minister is Indira Gandhi. she sworned in the year- 1970

Stepterix said...

dd: Indira Gandhi was indeed the second woman prime minister, but she took office in 1966.

I was surprised to find out just how many woman prime ministers there have been since the first two south Asian ladies.

Thanks for the comment