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21 July 2009

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.

Related posts

New Zealand women gained the right to vote, 19th September 1893
First session of Finnish Parliament, 23rd May 1907


Stephanie Barr said...

There's a certain irony when one sees societies where women are often treated considerably worse than men elect a woman to lead them. It says something, I think, about how people can think beyond the box they live in, can accept notions that might otherwise seem counterintuitive from the outside.

It's another sad irony that a country like the US, which prides itself on it's freedom and equality, which arguably treats women better, has not followed suit.

Sandy said...

Nice post, always enjoy your history lessons.


Cruiselife & Co said...

I have to agree with Stephanie here. It seems as though women still get the short end of the stick on the US. At least that's how I felt when I had my restaurants.

This is great historical time in history that outlined change and common good.

Unknown said...

SB: The US came closer than ever before recently to electing a woman president, not to mention the increased readiness to have women in high office such as Nancy Pelosi and Condoleezza Rice. Nevertheless I take your point and could wax lyrical here at length about how the Enlightenment and liberal politics effective curtailed the role of women in politics.

DL: Whereas politics has to be seen to be more equal when it comes to gender, I am not sure that the same can be said about business and other elements of civil society.

Thank you all for the comments.