On Election Day: Presidents & Prime Ministers in the Database

Today, we have a crucial U.S. presidential election, which could choose the country’s first woman president. I thought I would find out how women who are heads of government have fared—not in elections but in the databases.

Which leaders are being studied? Who has piqued the interest of scholars so far? Where are opportunities for new research? The most relevant database for this query seemed to be “Historical Abstracts,” available through EBSCOhost via our wonderful Esther Raushenbush Library at Sarah Lawrence. The database “covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada), focusing on the 15th century to the present” and has “[indexed] historical articles from nearly 2,300 journals in over 40 languages.” A full list of publications can be found here.

Through online research, I selected, somewhat arbitrarily, several leaders to feature here. I wanted to get a mix that covered regions around the world (so if you don’t see your favorite leader here, it may be because I didn’t want any one region to dominate). If you do any basic research on this topic, you’ll notice a number of subtleties that affect who could be listed here. In short, although we are historians of women’s lives, let’s not overgeneralize about the pool of leaders overall. The content available on specific figures is on what we should focus.

Historical Abstracts (EBSCOhost)

  • Peer-reviewed
  • Language: English
  • String “” search*
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Australia) 23
Chancellor Angela Merkel (Germany) 15
President Michelle Bachelet (Chile) 11
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia) 11
President Park Geun-hye (South Korea) 3
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (Hasina Wajed) (Bangladesh) 3
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark (New Zealand) 2
Former President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil) 2
Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (Thailand) 2
Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina) 1
Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Jamaica) 1
Former President Joyce Banda (Malawi) 0
Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad and Tobago) 0
Prime Minister Erna Solberg (Norway) 0
Prime Minister Beata Szydło (Poland) 0

To locate documents written by academics, I specified peer-reviewed results in my search. Since we primarily access resources in English, I specified English language documents.

As you can see in the above table, the search results for well-known leaders, like Angela Merkel and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are high on the list. Chancellor Merkel is a highly visible leader who has played a role in response to the refugee and Greek debt crises. President Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and was featured in Pray the Devil Back to Hell (dir. Gini Reticker).

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia is not a household name, but she may have topped this list because she is from an English-speaking country. (Australian publications are included in the database). (However, Gillard did catch our attention with her notable “misogyny speech” in 2012.)

As scholars, we typically need grants, fellowships, or other special funding to complete research that requires travel. So, it’s not altogether surprising that some leaders are not discussed in peer-reviewed work of the database. We may only study history domestically and, therefore, have less access to relevant primary sources on certain political figures.

Countries like Malawi and Jamaica may receive less attention, compared to, say, Germany and South Korea, due to the latter’s strategic alliances with the U.S. Nevertheless, the leaders of Malawi, Jamaica, and other countries deserve our attention too. Not only does it serve us to learn the lessons and challenges of women in leadership, but the knowledge of political leaders abroad also helps us understand the context in which the civilian population lives.

So, historians: look at your options! Could the stories of one of these leaders be your research niche?


Thanks to Margot Note for her assistance and comments with this project!


*I searched each person’s name with quotes (e.g., “angela merkel”, “joyce banda”) to ensure that results would feature those documents where the first and last names are found together. Where an individual has a hyphenated name, I searched the name with quotes, with and without the hyphen (e.g., “Portia Simpson Miller” OR “Portia Simpson-Miller”). In the case of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, I searched for variations of the name using the OR boolean tool.

Weekly Feminist Smorgasbord: SlutWalk NYC, Wall Street, & Immigration

Stuck in a homogenized, tightly controlled and dehumanizing “total institution,” in sociology speak, wherein everyone wears the same thing, eats the same thing, and sleeps and showers in the same paltry conditions, the only means to autonomy is through hardened hypermasculinity.

  • Colorlines reports on the new, horrifying anti-immigration legislation that just made Alabama the most xenophobic state in the U.S. Now it’s a waiting game: will the Supreme Court uphold a state’s right to create its own immigration regime?

“Today is a dark day for Alabama,” Mary Bauer, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s legal director, said Wednesday in a statement. “This decision not only places Alabama on the wrong side of history but also demonstrates that the rights and freedoms so fundamental to our nation and its history can be manipulated by hate and political agendas – at least for a time.”

Keep your eye out for the October Issue of re/visionist, coming soon! In the mean time, “Like” us on Facebook. Takes 4-10 seconds, depending on the speed of your internet connection.

Who Butters Your Bread?

by Thea Michailides

In the U.S., multinational corporations have become “favored citizens” protected by the state. Tensions between individuals and interest groups mount and serve as a convenient distraction from the fact that politicians and government no longer have any need for, or interest in, individual citizens. Corporate “bailouts”, “too-big-to-fail” corporations, Citizens United vs. FEC, outsourcing protections, as well as numerous other examples illustrate how the state is placing the interests of corporations above individuals. Within the U.S., corporations have used their tremendous economic power as political leverage to further this growing trend.

Politicians and PACs are financed primarily (if not exclusively) by corporations and economic elites whose interests are therefore prioritized. Proposals based on bold, common-sense strategies for change that offer potential solutions for improving the current economic climate seem to be buried from the public eye by Conservative/Republican interest groups. The financial power of these corporations is enhanced when the state is weakened by debilitating deficits and political turmoil; our current domestic situation is a prime example. Continue reading

The Necessity of Feminist Voices in Radical Visual Culture

by Lauren Denitzio

Meredith Stern, "Safe Sex is Hot"

As a radical and as a feminist, it is tempting to assume that those around me are all “on the same page” or equally aware of the certain privileges we each possess or the conditioning and historical disadvantages we have experienced.  As an artist and illustrator it is tempting for me to assume that my audience is comfortable with anti-homophobic, anti-sexist, and sex positive themes.  Despite sporting the “radical” or “left-wing” label, these groups – whose members I consider friends and colleagues – are not exempt from the necessity of challenging our views on gender, patriarchy, and other feminist issues.  I have started to examine the ways in which visual resistance is used by feminist voices within these groups and how prevalent, or not, certain issues have become in radical circles.

Sandra Campbell, in her essay Creating Redemptive Imagery, makes valuable observations concerning the role of the individual in shaping what is acceptable representations of power structures and violence against women in visual culture.  She calls on individuals to make it their responsibility to discuss how the representation of these establishments in the media can affect change.  She then states that “by doing this we will lead the way to the establishment of structures and supports for artists and others in our cultural industries to develop, to market, and to disseminate a wide range of alternatives.”  It is the range of alternatives, the expression of another world where patriarchal power structures do not exist, that needs to be creatively represented if the popular mindset is going to shift to its favor. Continue reading

Discrimination in France: Banning the Burqa

by Rosamund Hunter

Protesting the headscarf ban in 2004, France. Credit: AP.

Since the French lower house of parliament recently banned the burqa—the full body covering worn by many Muslim women—human rights activists must step up to condemn this potential new law.

The French senate still must approve the controversial proposal before it will become law, but the initial support by parliament was overwhelming: the final vote was a whopping 335-1.   Unless the senate has radically different voting patterns, France can expect to be a burqa-free state soon after the September vote.  Not to mention, the French public supports a ban as well: 57% say they favor a ban with only 37% opposing.

The irony of imposing what could be described as forced “emancipation” is not lost for many feminists, human rights advocates, and anti-racist activists.  Certainly for feminists, this is another case where the notion of “women’s rights” comes to justify the subjugation of other oppressed groups.  Feminist movements have a complicated history of seeking to improve the lives of already privileged women at the expense of other groups.  The proposed burqa ban in France is rooted in a history of racism and discrimination directed at the French Muslim population. Continue reading