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The women who secretly ruled the world.

To quote Annie Lennox: “There was a time, when they used to say that behind every Great Man, there had to be a Great Woman. But in these times of change you know that it’s no longer true…”

Now I’m not one to disagree with Annie Lennox, but the truth is: It’s always true. It was true then and it is true now. There are women who have secretly ruled the world since a woman worked out how to record time (probably).

Here are just some of the remarkable women that history has overlooked in favour of their more famous male partners:

1. Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great.

Alexander once ruled an empire that stretched across Europe, into Asia and North Africa. He was the original “Great” man – but historians believe that he was also the original “Mummy’s boy”. Beautiful and powerful in the cult of Dionysus, Alexander’s mother Olympias ruled from behind his throne.

When Alexander’s claim to the throne was threatened, Olympias put around that Alexander was born from a dalliance that Olympias had with the God Zeus underneath an oak tree, effectively putting a kybosh on any plot to unseat Alexander (as a demi-god, he could not be denied).

When her husband divorced her and married another woman, Olympias had her husband assassinated. She also had her ex-husband’s children murdered, so that there would be no competing claim to Alexander’s throne.

While Alexander was off conquering, his mother ruled in his stead, ignoring the decrees issued by the regent Antipater who had been appointed to that job. Even after Alexander died, Olympias waged wars and conducted all affairs of state. When Antipater died, his final words were a warning that women should never lead.

"While Alexander was off conquering, his mother ruled in his stead, ignoring the decrees issued by the regent Antipater who had been appointed to that job." Image via Wikipedia.

2. Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, wife of American President Woodrow Wilson.

Woodrow Wilson oversaw America’s engagement (and thus, Australia’s) engagement in WW1. He also granted women the right to vote in the US, shaped the pre-cursor to the UN, won a Nobel Peace Prize and established the first Mothers’ Day.

What few people know is that in 1919, Wilson suffered a stroke that left him no longer capable of exercising his Presidential duties. His doctors said that it would kill him to stand down as President, and it would kill him to continue. So the solution? Have his wife Edith undertake the lion’s share of the decision making that defined his Presidency and, in many ways, set the framework for international relations that we still use today.

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Taking on this role before women could even vote, Edith was the secret President of the United States, and in many respects, the first female President (it is no surprise that women were given the vote in the US the year after she took power).

"Taking on this role before women could even vote, Edith was the secret President of the United States, and in many respects, the first female President (it is no surprise that women were given the vote in the US the year after she took power)." Image via Wikipedia.

3. Alma Reville, the wife of Alfred Hitchcock.

He’s probably the most celebrated film director of the 20th century. But his iconic films would have been nothing without his wife and creative partner, Alma.

It’s said that there were four hands on every Alfred Hitchcock script. And two of those hands belonged to his wife Alma Reville, who was a renowned film editor before she married the young director in 1926.

Alma advised him on all elements of film making, including script, casting and editing. Hitchcock’s wife was so influential in his success that instead of saying that he liked a script, he would say: “Alma enjoyed the pages”.

The legend is that it was Alma’s keen eye that saved Hitchcock’s most famous film, Psycho. Not only did she spot that (spoiler) Janet Lee was still breathing after being killed by Norman Bates, she also was the person who insisted that the distinctive music was used during the famous shower scene (the music that is now synonymous with every serial killer).

She changed the direction of our cultural history – and yet many people still don’t know her name.

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"She changed the direction of our cultural history – and yet many people still don’t know her name." Image via Google.
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4. Michelle Obama, wife of Barrack Obama.

After his election for a second term in 2012, President of the United States, Barrack Obama said he “wouldn’t be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago.” That is true, not only of the man he is personally, but also of the job that he holds.

Consistently throughout his first term as President of the United States, Michelle Obama consistently scored higher in voter popularity than her husband. On election night, 66 per cent of Americans viewed her favourable, compared to the President’s approval rating, which sat at 52 per cent.

"Consistently throughout his first term as President of the United States, Michelle Obama consistently scored higher in voter popularity than her husband. " Image via Wikipedia.

Her charm and intelligence has never faltered when her husband’s political popularity wavered. She committed herself to fighting childhood obesity and advocating for military families in Obama’s first term, and arguably won her husband’s second term with a game changing speech that she made during the campaign which highlighted her own humble upbringing and her husband’s dedication. The phrase that all voters remembered from that speech, delivered so deftly by his wife, distinguished Barrack from his competitors: “…for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

The President’s most popular social media posts aren’t about his policies. All of the most successful public images of Barrack Obama’s presidency include his wife.

Who are your favourite remarkable women from history? Hatshepsut? Hedy Lamarr? We're spoiled for choice.

Here are some more of our favourite 'take charge' women:

Tags: amazing-women , gallery , history , leaders , women
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