Female Heads of Assembly prior to the 20th Century

Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership

Prior to the 20th century

Prior to the introduction of parliamentary democracies,
Heads of State also often acted as
Head of the Assembly if any existed.
Listed are some of the women
who acted held this position.

664 Presiding over the Synod of Whitby Abbess Hilda of Whitby and Hartlepool  (United Kingdom)

In 657, she had founded a double monastery of both monks and nuns at Whitby. She was a patroness of the arts and was a notable teacher, whose advice was sought by Kings and Abbots alike. At the Synod of Whitby it was decided that the Northombian Church it should follow the teachings of the Roman Church rather than those of Celtic Irish Iona. Hilda herself was, of course, sympathetic to the latter party, but she accepted the council's ruling. After her death, after a long and painful illness lasting some six years, miracles were soon reported at her tomb. She was venerated as a saint and her bones suitably enshrined.  St. Hilda was the daughter of Prince Hereric of Deira, and lived (614-680)

705 President of River Nith Abbess Elfleda of Whitby of the Synod (England)

She was the successor of Abbess Hilda. Before that five Abbesses had been present at the Council of Becanfield in 694, where they signed the decrees before the presbyters.  Later Abbess  also took titles from churches impropriated to her house, presented the secular vicars to serve the parochial churches, and had all the privileges of a landlord over the temporal estates attached to her abbey. The Abbess of Shaftsbury held of the king by an entire barony, and by right of this tenure had, for a period, the privilege of being summoned to Parliament.

Yolande de Argon 1424-27 President of the Estate Generals Yolande de Aragón of Anjou and Provence (France)
Titular Queen of  Sicily, Napoli, Jerusalem, and Aragón 1400-42 she was Regent of Anjou and Provence 1417. Daughter of Juan I, king of Aragón, she was initially called Violenta. Her father was succeeded by Martin as king of Aragón. Her marriage to Louis II of Anjou in 1400, who spent much of his life fighting in Italy for his claim to the kingdom of Napoli. She was appointed guardian of her son-in-law the Dauphin Charles who became Charles VII in 1422, but his title was still challenged by the English and their Burgundian allies. In this struggle, Yolande  maneuvered to have the duke of Bretagne break from an alliance with the English, and was responsible for the Breton soldier, Arthur de Richemont, becoming the constable of France in 1425. Yolande's early and strong support of Jeanne d'Arc, when others had reasonable doubts, suggests the Duchess' possible larger role in the orchestrating the Maid's appearance on the scene. Her younger daughter, Yolanda, was married to the heir of Bretagne, her youngest son René inherited Lorraine in 1431 and after her older son's Louis III's death, and three years later he also became duke of Anjou and heir of Sicily. She lived (1379-1442).

1527 Presiding  over the  Hungarian Assembly Dowager Queen Maria von Habsburg of  Bohemia-Hungary (Dec.)
1530 Presiding  over the Austrian Landtag
At 17, she married King Lajos II Jagello of Hungary, who was 15. Four years later, the Turks over-ran half his kingdom, including the capital, Budapest. Louis was killed at the battle, and Maria fled west, taking the Hungarian treasury with her. She acted as regent, and she called the Assembly which elected her brother, Archduke Ferdinand von Österreich king of Hungary. In 1530 she Presided over the Landtag in his name. Her brother, Karl V, appointed her Governor of the Netherlands after the death of their aunt, Margaretha and she was in office until 1555. Maria was grand-daughter of Duchess Marie of Burgundy, had no children, and lived (1505-58). 

Makea Nui Takau 1888-1900 Leader of the Council of Chiefs Makea Takau Ariki of the of Cook Islands
She was Ariki of Roatonga and Aurua 1868-1901, Supreme High Chiefess of the Cook Islands 1874-1911 and President of the Executive Council 1891-1901.The Cook Islands federation lasted until 1901 when it was incorporated into New Zealand. In 1885 4 of the 5 high chiefs of Rorotonga were women. Queen Makea was married to Chief Ngamaru Rongotini (d. 1903) and was succeded by son. She lived (circa 1845-1911)  

Last update 15.10.15