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“Very” Powerful Women…
email this pageprint this pageemail usGuillermo Ramón Adames y Suari - PVNN
November 05, 2010

In “pure” terms, men have been far more powerful than women and their names are (in disorder) Jesus, Mahomet, Buda and other religious and intellectual leaders but the power we will be discussing in this article is measured under other parameters: ruling, fear, social and economical power; not military: I shall say "intellectual and strategical". This article considers this type of power over a group of people.

The most powerful women in chronological order were: Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella, Queen of Castile and Aragon, Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great, and Queen Victoria.
Some of my articles deal with the evolution of women in today’s politics, kind of “coming out of the oppressed” into today’s male world. I was a fool and I must apologize: Altogether, women have been more powerful than men. Far more powerful and far more authoritarian and cruel.

The most powerful women in chronological order were: Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella, Queen of Castile and Aragon, Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great, and Queen Victoria. But the most powerful of them all was Cixi, or Tz’s-his or Hsiao-ch’in. This lady was more powerful than any of the French Louis’s or any Russian Tzar. Even in today’s sad standards far beyond A. Hitler. I specifically do not want to get into today’s (or near past) powerful women… and there a lot!!!

Very little is written about ancient China but the Empire was huge. Today’s China’s population is around 1.4 billion. Around the 1900’s, the population of China must have been around 300,000,000. Far more than the population of Europe and all of the Americas altogether. Just the sheer physical size of the Empire was considerable. Add up the amount of people under her and you can measure the power of the lady in question.

Cixi was a minor concubine of the emperor Xianfeng (Hsien-feng) when she became mother of his only son, Tongzhi (T'ung-chih), in 1856. Soon after Xianfeng died in 1861, Cixi along with the senior wife Ci'an (Tz'u-an) became regents for the boy. With the late emperor's brother Gong Qinwang providing key leadership as counselor, the two Dowager Empresses ruled until 1873 when Tongzhi came of age.

Two years later, Tongzhi was dead, and his mother, it is rumored, had a part in the death. Cixi violated the normal succession and had her three year old nephew named the new heir. The two Dowager Empresses continued as regents until the death of Ci'an, the other Dowager Empress, in 1881, when Cixi became the de facto ruler of China.

When Guangxu (Kuang-hsu), the nephew, attained maturity, Cixi retired to the country, though she kept herself informed through a network of spies. After China lost the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895), Guangxu implemented many reforms in what came to be known as the "Hundred Days of Reform." In reaction, Cixi worked with the military and conservative forces to stage a coup and take power again as active regent, confining the emperor to his palace.

The next year, Cixi supported the forces behind the Boxer Rebellion, an anti-reform and anti-foreign rebellion. When foreign troops retaliated by entering the Forbidden City and capturing Beijing (Peking), Cixi accepted the offered peace terms. As appeasement, she eventually implemented the reforms that she'd stopped her nephew from instituting. She continued to rule, her power much diminished, until her death in 1908. The Emperor Guangxu died as she was dying, reportedly poisoned at her direction.

Her actual power surpassed that of another great Queen who was her contemporary, England's Queen Victoria. Do not forget that at the time, Great Britain dominated the seas. In addition to her part in the politics of her day, she's also remembered for her patronage of the arts including the opera, and the founding of the Peking Zoological Garden (1906), later the first zoo to breed the giant panda. Consider this very simple fact: in 1906 there were not any of the nature’s movements going on and she had already breeding those species. At the time, terms like “ecological” or “endangered species” did not even exist; less so a like concept. So this lovely lady was about 100 years ahead of her time, controlled the largest population in the world and had roughly Asia to her feet. Give me a man who has done half of that without an army. Give me a man who has done what Queen Victoria achieved.

Guillermo Ramón Adames y Suari is a former electoral officer of the United Nations Organization. Contact him at

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