Queen Elizabeth 1
Elizabeth I was born in England on September 7, 1533 to King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. At a young age, her mother was beheaded and Elizabeth was subsequently cast off as an illegitimate child with the third claim to the throne. After a sordid family drama of ascending and descending the throne, Elizabeth was granted the much coveted roost in 1558. Replacing her psychotic half-sister Mary (“Bloody Mary” to most), England soon flourished under Elizabeth’s rule. During her “golden” reign, QE1 extended England’s presence overseas, passed a law that all able-bodied men should work the land, and created peaceful treaties with Scotland and France. Her rule also heralded a literary and art revolution filled with the works of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson and various others.
The first female Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was a controversial head of state who died at the hands of her own bodyguards. Born into a political family as the daughter of the first Prime Minister of an independent India, Indira rose through the political ranks to the cheers of some and the chagrin of others. Despite her detractors, Indira brought about many changes that shaped the Indian nation. She nationalized the banks; oversaw the military conflict in Pakistan that led to Bangladesh being declared an independent country; introduced (unpopular) sterilization programs to control the population; and promoted agriculture in the Green Revolution, which greatly helped the food shortages in the nation. Her numerous critics charged her with corruption, even leading her to lose an election in 1977 (although she eventually returned to her role in her landslide 1980 victory). Tragically, Indira was eventually assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards after Operation Blue Star, an event in which the Indian army forced their way into the sacred Golden Temple to remove Sikh separatists. Irrespective of her fluctuating popularity, her power and prestige cannot be denied.