Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—An Activist in Africa and the World

During the early nineteenth century, many people who worked to abolish slavery in the United States, including several women who have appeared on this blog, believed that freed African Americans should be sent to Africa to live. They were afraid that if they remained in the United States, they might be endangered by their previous owners or other supporters of slavery. Most people at that time seemed unaware of the long history of African Americans in America. Many enslaved families had a longer history of living on this continent than their European American neighbors had. Their African roots had been obscured or forgotten after generations of living in America.

Nonetheless, many sincere abolitionists believed that the newly freed people would settle happily in Africa and build a new life for themselves. Between the 1820s and the Civil War, the American Colonization Society raised money to send more than 15,000 people to an area on Africa’s West Coast that would be named Liberia. This, they hoped, would offer a new start for freed slaves. It would also, of course, relieve former slaveowners from having to accept their former slaves as equal citizens of the United States. And so, money was raised, and thousands of people were sent to Liberia.

The newly enfranchised African Americans, however, were not accepted by the Africans who lived in the area. The Africans did not speak English, and the Americans did not speak the languages of the indigenous people. The resettlement was not a success.  Liberia has been a troubled state from its beginning, but despite the difficulties it has faced, it has produced some of Africa’s most important leaders.  

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who served as president of Liberia from 2006 until 2018, was the first women ever elected as leader of an African country. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1938, she was educated at the College of West Africa and later attended Madison Business College in the United States, the University of Colorado, and then Harvard College. When she returned to Liberia she worked as an economist in the government of William Tolbert.

After the Liberian military coup of 1980, Sirleaf fled the country and moved to Washington D.C. where she worked for the World Bank. Later she returned to Africa and worked for the United Nations and for several private banks. It was not until 1997 that she was able to return to politics in Liberia. And it was almost ten years later, in 2006, that she was elected president of the country.

During her years in office, Sirleaf succeeded in bringing women into government and into positions of power in other fields. She promised to bring reconciliation to the country, and to stamp out corruption, although these issues still remain problems. Nonetheless, Sirleaf brought Liberia a long period of peace. Newsweek named her as one of the ten best leaders in the world, and the Economist called her “arguably the best president the country has ever had”.   

In 2011, Sirleaf was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. The three women were recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Today, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, remains an important figure in Africa and in the world. She is active in causes from women’s rights to healthcare during the Covid pandemic.  In 2018 she started the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, which aims “to be a catalyst for change across Africa, by helping unleash its most abundant untapped power – its women”.

An Anniversary and a New Focus—Savitribai Phule

2022 is the tenth anniversary of this blog. It is hard to believe that I’ve written almost 300 posts—287 to be exact. I hope to hit 300 this year. As I wrote in my first post in February 2012, I started this blog to share my ideas about the connections I have found with the men and women who went before us. From the beginning I have concentrated on women because their lives and ideas have often been neglected.  

As I look back over my posts, I see many familiar names spanning a wide history. I’ve written about Hatshepsut, the Egyptian “female pharaoh” who was born about 1485 BC and about Greta Thunberg who was born in 2003. That’s quite a range of time, but I’ve not ranged as widely in geography. Most of the women in my posts lived either in the United States or Europe. This year I am going to cast a wider net and include more women who lived in Asia, Africa, and other places on our globe. Even though I have travelled widely and visited countries around the world, I know far less than I should about their histories and peoples. This year I’ll try to broaden my vision.

Savitribai Phule is an important figure in the history of India. Born on January 3, 1831, in Maharashtra province, she is remembered now and honored as the country’s first female teacher. Her family belonged to the Mali caste, whose members traditionally grow flowers, spices, and other crops. Although Savitribai’s family was prosperous, they did not consider it appropriate to educate women, so she was illiterate when she married Jyotirao Phule. Her husband was a reformer and a strong believer in education. One of his first projects was to teach his young wife to read.

Phule Savitribai and Jyotirao

Savitribai studied with her husband and soon realized that education was the key for improving the lives of all women, especially those of the lower castes. With her husband’s support, Savitribai attended a teacher-training institute and later the two of them set up a school for girls. Soon they were running four schools for—the first schools for girls in India that were run by Indians. When they started to enroll girls from the lower castes—at that time called untouchables—however, both Savitribai and Jyotirao encountered strong opposition from many Brahmins and other higher caste Indians.

 Opponents to women’s education told Jyotirao that he would die young because he had allowed his wife to be educated. They claimed that educated women might use their skill to write letters to men outside of the family. Some protesters did not stop at making predictions. They also followed Savitribai as she walked back and forth to school and threw rotten fruit and dung at her to frighten her away from teaching. But the young couple was not deterred. They persisted in keeping their schools open and eventually they had 150 or more girls enrolled.

 Savitribai and her husband worked all of their lives to make life better for people born into the lower castes, and especially women. They introduced the name “dalit” instead of “untouchable” and helped people to enjoy the benefits of education and enjoy a more satisfying life. They campaigned against child marriage and called for better treatment for widows.

Even in the midst of her busy life, Savitribai found time to write and publish several volumes of poetry. After Jyotirao’s death, Savitribai continued his work with the help of their adopted son. When the bubonic plague struck India in 1897, she and her son set up a clinic to help victims of the plague. Savitribai died while doing this work.

Today Savitribai’s birthday on January 3, is celebrated as Balika Din in the province of Maharashtra, especially in girls’ schools. In 1998 she was honored by being the first Indian woman to appear on a postage stamp.

English language information about Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule is not widely available in American libraries, but there are a number of videos about this extraordinary couple posted on YouTube. Most of the films are produced in India and narrated in Hindi, but some have English subtitles. One that I enjoyed very much is Episode 45 of Bharat Ek Khoj entitled Savitribai

Savitribai Phule is remembered in India, but her life and work deserve to be known throughout the world.   

Three Women to Remember from 2021 Books

2021 has been a difficult year, and most of us will be glad to see it gone. We started the year with the happy news that vaccines against Covid 19 had become available, but after a tumultuous twelve months, we are still struggling to overcome hostile variants of the virus.

One of the few good things that could be said about the year is that for those of us who spent much of our time at home, it offered an opportunity to catch up on our reading. As I recall the books I have read this year, I am especially grateful for the ones that introduced me to women who have lived through some of the most fascinating periods in history.

Here are brief introductions to three women whose stories have most captivated me during 2021.

Briseis and Achilles

Briseis, a Trojan woman who lived during the tumultuous years of the Trojan War, tells her story in Pat Barker’s book, The Silence of the Girls. Briseis was a Trojan woman who was captured by the Greeks and given as a slave to Achilles. Briseis narrates the story and describes the difficult adjustment she makes to her suddenly diminished status. She paints a convincing picture of life in a camp of soldiers during a nine-year war that has stalled. The soldiers are tormented not only by the fighting, but also by a plague, which kills many of them. Briseis is an unforgettable woman and her story continues in the second book of Barker’s trilogy, The Trojan Women. We will have to wait a little longer for the final volume of the trilogy, which is promised, but not yet scheduled.

Anna Dostoevskaya

Moving forward in time, I found an unexpected woman—a woman I had never heard of—who played an important part in world literature by marrying the Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky. In his biography, The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky, Andrew D. Kaufman tells the story of Anna Grigoryevna Dostoevskaya. Born in 1846 to a middle-class family she became a stenographer and was hired by Dostoyevsky during a period when he was struggling to complete his novel The Gambler. The two fell in love and married. Despite his many gifts, Dostoyevsky’s ability to write was threatened by his gambling habit. As his business manager, editor and sometime publisher, Anna was able to guide his career and help him to become a major literary figure in Russia and in much of the world. After Dostoyevsky’s death Anna continued to publish and publicize his books. She worked tirelessly to keep his books in print and available to readers in Russia and all of Europe. I wonder whether his fame would have been as great and his genius so well-remembered if he had not had Anna to keep his name alive for the almost half century she lived after his death.

Another woman who made a lasting impact on me during this year was Fiona Hill author of There is Nothing for You Here. Hill grew up in the North of England, an area caught in economic depression because of the closure of the coal mines. Mining had been the major employment option for most people in the community, including Fiona Hill’s parents. With the disappearance of mining, Hill’s parents encouraged their children to get an education and move away from the North. Even with the encouragement of her family, it was not easy for Fiona Hill to take advantage of the educational opportunities available. Eventually, however, she attended university, moved to the United States, and became a public figure when she testified at the Congressional hearings on Trump’s impeachment.

Fiona Hill

Hill’s wide-ranging experience gives her insight into the educational systems not only in England but in the United States and in Russia. Her book is not so much a personal story, but a more general account of the barriers that keep working-class children from developing their skills and using their talents to become important participants in their communities. While leaders sign proclamations and declare goals, Fiona Hill reminds us that it is individuals who will have to learn to live in the new world that is coming. There Is Nothing for You Here points the way to changes our governments could make to prepare young people for that world.

Happy Reading for a Happy 2022!      

Start the Year with an Uncommon Woman–Margaret Fuller

The Smashwords publishing website is having a special year-end sale that includes my biography of one of America’s most famous women—Margaret Fuller. Fuller is the nineteenth century woman who inspired women throughout the country with her book Women in the Nineteenth Century. She was a writer, an editor and a pioneering foreign journalist who covered the 1848 revolution in Italy.    

Smashwords offers the ebook version of my book Margaret Fuller—An Uncommon Woman for the bargain price of FREE. This sale lasts until January 1, 2022.  Click on this Smashwords link to find the page and enter the sale code listed there to order your digital copy.

If you prefer to read a print version, you can find one at Amazon.com, but this special sale price does not apply to books purchased through Amazon.

HAPPY READING!

Our Favorite Gateway to Information–Wikipedia

The year 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia, an online source of information that strives to reach every person in the world.  When the free online encyclopedia was started, by Jimmy Wales, his stated goal was: “to give people a free encyclopedia to every person in the world, in their own language. Not just in a ‘free beer’ kind of way, but also in the free speech kind of way.”

At that time, almost no one thought a free encyclopedia would be a success. By now, however,  it has grown into one of the major sources of information around the world. Thousands are articles are available in more than sixty languages.  The English language version alone contains 6,420,755 articles.

Wikipedia Logo

“But why do we need an encyclopedia?” people may ask. “All we need to do is to google a question and find any information we want.” Or even, “But I learn all I need to know on Facebook or Instagram.”  But there is a huge difference between just declaring that something is true and stating an opinion that includes the reasons why you believe it is true.

These days some people don’t believe that vaccinations will protect people from Covid-19, others insist that vaccinations are necessary and should be mandatory in many situations. This same kind of prolonged argument went on when scientists first introduced the germ theory. Did germs cause diseases or was bad air or something else responsible for people’s illnesses? To follow the argument, you can take a look at the Wikipedia article on the Germ Theory Denialism

The extra ingredient in the Wikipedia article is the list of sources—those pesky footnotes that crouch at the bottom of encyclopedia articles. Most of us don’t often go to these sources and check out what is said, but if we care deeply about a subject, they are available. (Of course, we usually have to consult a library to track down the original sources.) That list of sources is the difference between providing information and allowing disinformation to spread. Perhaps if social media outlets asked people to give the sources for the beliefs they spout, the world would be saved from a lot of arguments and injuries.

So, three cheers for Wikipedia! One of the rare examples of a useful tool that has been made available to everyone with access to the internet free of charge and free of advertising! The Wikipedia pages offer a gateway to important information that you can verify for yourself, instead of offering, as social media does, a jumbled wall of unverified opinions leading to endless arguments and weird beliefs. 

If you agree with me that Wikipedia is an invaluable addition to our shared resources, you can send a donation through www.wikipedia.org.

Happy Books and a Sad Life—Lucy Maud Montgomery

Perhaps it is the gray skies of November that remind me of the dark lives that several of our most popular authors of cheerful books have led. Last year in November I wrote about Louisa May Alcott, born on November 29, 1832, whose Little Women books are still selling briskly, but whose own life was shadowed by family cares and disappointed dreams.

This year I want to remember the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, born on November 30, 1874, whose book Anne of Green Gables has recently been revealed as the most frequently translated book in Canadian literature. Anne of Green Gables is the first of a series of books by Montgomery many of which are still in print and sell briskly around the globe. But the woman who wrote these cheerful stories led a life marred by deep depression, addiction to painkillers, and who died, quite possibly a suicide, at the age of 67.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Besides being a popular author, Lucy Maud Montgomery can also be credited with being a driving force behind making Prince Edward Island, on the Eastern edge of Canada, a popular tourist spot. When Montgomery was born on the island, it was a quiet rural backwater populated mostly by descendants of Scottish immigrants. Montgomery’s parents both came from families that had lived on the island for generations and she had cousins and other relatives living close-by. Nonetheless, her childhood was a rather solitary one because her mother died when Maud was less than two years old and her father moved to Alberta and remarried when she was seven. Maud was raised mostly by her stern, elderly grandparents.

As soon as Maud started school, she was recognized as a bright and interested student. She loved reading began at a young age to tell stories and then to write them down. Her first story was published when she was a teenager. Despite her obvious intelligence and her success in school. Maud’s grandfather did not believe in educating women, so he would not pay for her to go to college. Despite, the lack of encouragement, Maud managed with the help of her grandmother,  to go to Prince of Wales College and then to Dalhousie University to get a teaching degree. She taught in several small, rural schools in Prince Edward’s Island, but she never lost her ambition to become a writer.

During the 1890s, when Maud was growing up, marriage was considered the only respectable career for a woman. Montgomery was attracted to several men and was engaged to at least one of them, but her ambition to be a writer never wavered. In 1908, she published her first book, Anne of Green Gables, which became an instant bestseller.

Maud’s troubles were not over, however, despite the popularity of her book. She had chosen to publish it with L.C. Page, an American publisher who took advantage of the young author by insisting on having her sign over rights to future books. These troubles continued for many years and Maud had to endure several lawsuits before she was finally able to win her cases against Page in 1928.

Meanwhile Maud struggled with her private life. She married a Presbyterian minister, Ewen MacDonald, and had three sons, one of whom died in infancy. MacDonald, like Maud herself was subject to periods of depression. During these times, his old-fashioned religious belief in predestination meant that he believed the entire family was doomed to go to hell. Both Maud and her sons must have found it difficult to live with such emotional pressures and as the boys grew up, they encountered both academic and personal problems in their careers and life plans.

For many years, Maud managed to conceal many of her problems. In public, she was able to function as a good speaker and appealing woman at social events. It was not until after her death that research by her biographer, Mary Rubio, revealed that both Maud and her husband suffered from drug addiction because of medications they took to control their depression. In 2020, Maclean’s Magazine published an article revealing the extent of their problems.  

During the 1920s and 1930s, Montgomery’s continued her successful career, but, like most women writers who attract a large audience, she was never accepted by the Canadian literary community as an important figure in the literary hierarchy.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life ended abruptly in 1942 when she died of an overdose of barbiturates. A note found by her bedside read: I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.

We cannot say for sure that  Maud Montgomery committed suicide, but her family believed that she had and Mary Rubio, the scholar who is the primary authority on her life, agrees with them. Perhaps we should honor Montgomery by reading not only  Anne of Green Gables, but also Mary Rubio’s biography Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. Both books tell us a great deal about Canadian history and about a writer’s difficult life.

Canadian Provinces

The Climate Is Changing and So Must We—Fiona Hill’s vision

At the Glasgow Climate Conference this past week, world leaders signed an agreement to cut back on the use of coal and other fossil fuels. Mining, manufacturing and even farming have been revolutionized over the past fifty years and more mines and factories will close as a result of these international agreements. Jobs that used to be central to every modern economy are disappearing. We know that jobs must change, the question is, how can we help people to change so that they can find security in the new economy.

Few people have been able to observe the effects of changing economies on the lives of everyday people as closely as Fiona Hill, the author of There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century.

Fiona Hill

Hill was born in 1965 and grew up in County Durham in Northern England in a community that had been devastated by the closure of coal mines during the decades following the second World War. Although Hill’s family had been miners for generations, both her father and mother were hospital workers during most of the years when they were raising their children. The title of Hill’s book, There Is Nothing for You Here, comes from the advice given to Fiona and her sister as their parents realized that education was the key to moving ahead in the modern world.

During the 1980s when Hill was growing up, education was easier to obtain in England than in the United States or in many other countries. Government support enabled children to move from local council (public) schools to university. Publicly funded stipends meant that poverty was not an insurmountable obstacle for many students, but Hill clearly shows the obstacles that stood in the way of young people who wanted to move ahead. Expenses that were ignored by the government, such as the insufficient supply of books in local libraries and schools, the cost of transportation to cities where scholarship tests were available, and the prejudice shown against students who did not fit into the middle-class mold of most university applicants made entry into the university system very difficult. Hill describes her interview for entry into Oxford as one of the worst experiences of her life.

Despite all the difficulties of moving ahead, Hill managed to acquire a university education at St. Andrew’s where she found mentors who helped her find opportunities for further study. Later, she was able to attend Harvard and earn a PhD. She also spent time in Russia where she could observe the results of the post-cold war economic turmoil on the lives of Russian students. This varied background has given her a wide range of experience about the ways in which different countries are meeting the challenges brought by changing economies.

When Hill moved to the United States, eventually becoming an American citizen, and marrying an American, she observed many similarities between the way working class families coped with change in the two countries. The American Midwest, where her husband grew up, faced the loss of manufacturing jobs just as County Durham had. Towns in the Rust Belt of the Midwest were experiencing the same difficult adjustments as towns in the UK, except that class differences in America are complicated by racial differences which also affect people’s education and job training.

There Is Nothing for You Here is a dense book, filled with the stories of various individuals who are adjusting to a new world. Hill became an expert in National Security and relations with Russia and worked in the White House during the early years of the Trump Administration. She became well known after she gave testimony during Trump’s First Impeachment Trial where the focus was on relations between the United States and Russia. Now she has given us a broader picture of growing up in a changing world. Her book raises questions about how countries can help individuals find a path to changing their lives.

While leaders sign proclamations and declare goals, Fiona Hill reminds us that it is individuals who will bear the brunt of fitting into the new world. There Is Nothing for You Here points the way to some of the changes that are needed.     

From trick or treat to jab or swab—UNICEF at 75

If you grew up during the last half of the 20th century, you probably remember  Halloween as being about more than pumpkins and parties. Thousands of children celebrated the holiday by going out to “trick or treat for UNICEF”. These days we no longer see children clutching those small boxes to collect nickels and dimes to help children around the world. UNICEF however, continues to work for children.

Halloween box

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. (UNICEF) is 75 years old this year. It was started under the auspices of the United Nations in 1946 at the end of World War II. One of its strongest proponents was Eleanor Roosevelt, who was then serving as the Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In 1948, together with Alan S. Watt, an Australian Representative, she submitted a report to the UN outlining the goals and activities of UNICEF up until that time and set out future plans for the organization.

Eleanor Roosevelt

UNICEF is the world’s largest organization dedicated to children’s welfare, but like most charitable efforts, it has not been without controversy. During its earliest years, when its efforts were aimed primarily at European children who had suffered during the European war, there was almost universal support for its efforts. Now that UNICEF has focused most of its efforts on developing countries, there have been more issues raised.

UNICEF has been criticized by some people for having a policy of helping to keep orphaned children in their birth countries to be raised by extended families or communities. Some groups that support international adoptions continue to oppose this policy. UNICEF has also lost some supporters because it encourages the use and distribution of contraceptives to control population growth and has supported safe abortions for women. These positions led the Vatican to stop its support of UNICEF.

Throughout its history, UNICEF has encouraged vaccinations for children. Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic it is working with the World Health Organization and with governments throughout the world to provide vaccinations in the developing world. It’s hard to think of a more worthy project.

2021 is the 75th anniversary of the founding of UNICEF and time to celebrate the immense amount of good the organization has done over these years. While the trick-or-treat for UNICEF boxes may have disappeared from our streets, this Halloween would be a good time to give a donation to the organization that has helped so many children throughout the world for almost a century.

The Stenographer Who Saved a Genius– Anna Grigoryevna Dostoevskaya

During the mid-nineteenth century, Russia was a part of Europe but felt very separate from it. During that time, Russian middle and upper classes, women were proud of having more rights than they would have in other European countries. The right to an education was particularly important and a strong feminist movement grew up. Women were encouraged to educate themselves and become self-supporting. Surprisingly enough, one of the most liberating career paths for women was learning stenography. This was the path chosen by Anna Grigoryeva Dostoevskaya, a woman who was destined to play an important role in Russian literature.

Anna was born in 1848 in St. Petersburg. Her family encouraged her to be independent and read widely. She graduated with high honors from high school and decided to become a stenographer, one of the few careers in which a woman could earn a living. It was a stroke of luck when one of her teachers recommended her for a job with Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who was already one of her favorite authors. He had published several articles and two novels during the 1840s, but his career had been interrupted when he was sentenced to five years of exile in Siberia.

At the time Dostoyevsky met Anna, he was struggling to rebuild his career. His first wife had died, leaving him with a stepson to raise, his reputation as a writer had faded, and he was struggling to fulfill his contract to complete a novel called The Gambler. He called upon a friend to help him find a stenographer and luckily the friend recommended Anna, who had been one of his students.

Eventually, with Anna’s patient help, Dostoyevsky completed his novel and was able to fulfill his contract. During the weeks they worked together, he also fell in love with his faithful helper  and proposed to her despite the twenty-year difference in their ages. During the years before meeting Anna, Dostoyevsky had drifted into a life of gambling, which led to debts that interfered with his writing career. No one could have predicted that a 19-year-old stenographer would save him from his gambling addiction and his precarious life, but that is what happened.

With the help of Anna’s mother, who agreed to pawn the girl’s dowry and give the money to the newly- weds, Fyodor and Anna were able to leave Russia and spend four years in other European countries. Anna’s example of hard work and willing sacrifice inspired Dostoyevsky to continue writing despite the pull of the ever-tempting gambling casinos. Anna tried hard to understand his addiction and even spent a secret day at the casino alone so that she could better understand how the insidious promise of quick riches could tempt almost anyone to continue playing.

Throughout the early years of their marriage, Anna helped her husband continue his writing. She understood his need to gamble and helped him through the difficult years until they were able to move back to St. Petersburg and pay off their debts. During the rest of Dostoyevsky’s life, Anna managed his writing career, even starting a publishing company to sell his books. When he died in 1881, Anna was only 35 years old, but she dedicated the rest of her life to preserving his books  and his memory.

For many years, Anna’s role in Dostoyevsky’s life has been downplayed in accounts of his life, but a recent biography has now presented a more balanced view of her importance. The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky by Andrew Kaufman (Riverhead Books 2021) offers a fresh view of the creative partnership between these two remarkable people.

The departure of a world leader—Angela Merkel

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall, which had separated Russian dominated East Berlin from West Berlin for 28 years, was suddenly breached. Thousands of East Berliners rushed to push through the crumbling, graffiti-laden wall to see the glories of West Berlin. Most of these people hurried to the famous department stores to find the lavish goods that had long been unavailable to “Ossies” as East Berliners were called. But according to an article in the New Yorker, Angela Merkel, a young chemist in East Germany,  did not participate in the rush for luxury goods. She retained her quiet, unobtrusive habits—took one look at West Berlin and then went home.

No one at this time would have predicted that she would become the most successful European politician of this century. All the important German politicians before her had been large, dominating white men. How could an unprepossessing, quiet woman ever replace them? But replace them she did.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel has always been very different from most politicians. She grew up in East Germany and rather than participating in social actions, she studied science. Eventually, she earned a PhD in chemistry at Leipzig University. It was not until the reunification of Germany that she became active in public life. Slowly and usually unnoticed, she became a major force in Germany and then in the European Union.

Merkel became overwhelmingly popular in Germany and throughout Europe. But when the migrant crisis occurred in 2013, she sacrificed some of her popularity when she welcomed migrants into Germany. Despite intense pressure from both the radicals and conservatives, she stuck to her guns. Eventually the crisis eased and Europe grew more prosperous and more united. Although many problems remain, we should acknowledge how much she accomplished and how much the world has suffered from not allowing women to take their place as leaders.   

As Margaret Thatcher once said: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman”. So let’s give a cheer for the quiet politician who kept the EU going through some of its most difficult days—Angela Merkel.