Months ahead of November’s US midterm elections, 2018 is set to be a landmark year for women in politics as a record number of female candidates are running, and winning, in offices across the US government.
Women have had a long history making their mark in the political spotlight, with or without a formal position, as one half of political power couples that have left lasting impressions on the world.
Take a look at some of history’s most iconic political couples:
Cleopatra and Julius Caesar
Though Mark Antony and Cleopatra have gotten star treatment from Shakespeare and the silver screen, the Egyptian ruler’s romantic relationship with Roman general Julius Caesar was the most historically significant power move.
Cleopatra was the richest and most powerful ruler in the world when she became the pharaoh of Egypt in 51 BC.
When the Romans marched into her territory, she became Caesar’s lover as a means of staying in power. She had his son, Caesarion, in 47 BC.
After Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Cleopatra entered into a relationship with Caesar’s commander Antony, which ended tragically in their double suicide.
Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand
After Spain’s Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I eloped, they assumed their thrones in the 1470s.
The pair exercised stern control during their late-18th Century reign, as they oversaw the Spanish Inquisition that tortured and killed thousands and expelled hundreds of thousands more.
They also established themselves as an imperial force by sending Christopher Columbus on his 1492 voyage to the New World.
Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan
This couple is perhaps more easily recognised by what they left behind than their work during their lives.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal was known during her life as a close adviser and head of their family, which included 14 children.
After Mumtaz died in childbirth in 1631, Shah commissioned the Taj Mahal in his late wife’s honour, which is still hailed as a masterpiece of Muslim art and became a modern addition to the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Over the course of their 70-year marriage, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, have served their royal duties side-by-side since Elizabeth’s coronation at the age of 25.
Though dramatic storylines have made them a viewer favourite in the Netflix series “The Crown,” Philip’s time alongside Elizabeth, the longest reigning UK monarch, has marked a number of firsts.
What was considered a controversial marriage at the time between foreign-born Philip and an heir to the throne has come to be the longest marriage of any UK monarch that provided a traditional family image that outlasted personal tragedy and international conflicts over the past 70 years.
Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt
After 28 years of marriage, former President Franklin D. and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt moved into the White House in 1933, and brought their skills as a dynamic duo to address domestic and foreign issues of the day, functioning more like motivated colleagues than romantic partners.
While Franklin left a legacy pulling the US out of the Great Depression and defeat the Axis Powers in World War II, Eleanor was influential on pushing other progressive issues into policy, using her role as first lady to make progress for women’s opportunities and civil rights.
Eleanor is also credited with encouraging Franklin to return to politics after his polio diagnosis, as he re-entered the public eye at the 1924 Democratic Convention on her advice. This was just the beginning of Eleanor’s instrumental role in advancing her husband’s political work over the next two decades.
Eva and Juan Peron
Argentine President Juan Peron met his wife Eva in 1944 and the two were quickly married.
Peron was elected in 1946 and “Evita” shed her past as an actress to push labour reform, address poverty, and improve public health, though the two maintained an authoritarian rule.
After Juan’s six years in office, Eva sought to become vice president, but became ill and died soon after.
Though Juan remains a legend as a former president, Eva’s death was met with nationwide mourning, a full state funeral, and her legacy is immortalised in an award-winning musical.
Source: The New York Times
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and John F. Kennedy
Hailing from influential families, former President John F. and first lady Jackie Kennedy quickly took on the role of a picturesque American couple as John rose from Massachusetts representative to the Democratic president in 1960.
Jackie graduated from George Washington University and held jobs at Vogue and The Washington Times-Herald. Her popularity, impeccable style, and eventual makeover of the White House made headlines around Washington and beyond as her husband became a political star.
Accompanying her husband on several international trips, making some on her own, and planning sophisticated state dinners at home, Jackie cultivated her and John’s image as the standard bearers of American culture.
Though infidelity rumours swirled around their marriage until John’s 1963 assassination, the two remained one of America’s most iconic couples.
Jiang Qing and Mao Tse-Tung
Though Chairman Mao Tse-Tung set off the Cultural Revolution as his own political strategy, his fourth wife, former actress Jiang Qing, quickly became a formal head of power in the Chinese Communist party.
She rid China of political opponents, intellectual and artistic elite, and those who Jiang felt had opposed her marriage to Mao.
After Mao’s death in 1976, Jiang was arrested and deemed a counter-revolutionary, famously blaming Mao for her harsh record. She was sentenced to death, a verdict later commuted to life imprisonment, but she committed suicide in 1991.
“I was Chairman Mao’s dog,” she said during trial after Mao’s death. “Whoever he told me to bite, I bit.”
Source: Los Angeles Times
Hillary and Bill Clinton
Since they met in the library at Yale Law School, Bill and Hillary Clinton have spent nearly 40 years in US politics.
Beginning with Bill’s 1974 Arkansas congressional run, the Clintons arrived at the White House after his election in 1992. When Bill left office in 2000, Hillary won a New York Senate seat in 2000 and then served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.
A highly involved first lady, Hillary pushed for women’s rights and health care reform, receiving criticism that she was playing too big a role in shaping policy.
Though Hillary’s high-profile but unsuccessful presidential runs in 2008 and 2016 mean the Clintons aren’t back in the White House, they have remained one of the most prominent American political units.