“Behind every great man stands a great woman.” This is, of course, true. But what’s to say that the woman stands behind her man? In this day and age, some awesome women are side-by-side with their accomplished husbands, refusing to be overshadowed. And what if it’s a woman she’s standing with, not a man? Either way, TIME.com composed a list of some of history’s most bad-ass wives. I took the liberty of picking my favorites!
Queen Isabella of Spain
Otherwise known as Isabella I of Castile, this awesome lady made a name for herself that is not only as well-known as her husband’s, but she did it in the late 1400s! Was “feminism” even a word back then? She married Ferdinand II of Aragon for political gain, and the two laid the basis for the future political unification of Spain. Isabella’s reign is viewed as a joint reign with that of her husband, but she accomplished some great things without him, and was actually the sole legitimate ruler of Castile. She reorganized the governmental system, vastly reduced the crime rate, and pulled the kingdom out of the debt it inherited. She also did such bad-ass things as riding out alone to suppress a rebellion… and succeeding. She and Ferdinand also, ya know, sponsored Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America, ushering Spain into a Golden Age of exploration and colonization. All hail the queen!
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi
These two bad-ass women are basically the poster children for gay marital bliss, tying the knot in 2008. Portia appears on Ellen’s talk show every now and then, and their love is so palpable and heart-warming. But they’re as awesome apart as they are together! Ellen has won four hosting Emmy Awards in addition to the five she’s won for Outstanding Talk Show. She’s appeared in numerous films and TV shows, and famously lent her voice to Dory in “Finding Nemo.” Portia starred on Ally McBeal, struggling with and overcoming anorexia while filming, and supports numerous charities. But what she’s most known for? Two words: Arrested Development.
I don’t think America could’ve asked for a more rockin’ First Lady. Before she met Barack, she attended Princeton University and Harvard University, and worked for law firm Sidley Austin, on the staff of Chicago’s mayor, and for the University of Chicago Medical Center. She helped her husband campaign for the presidency, and delivered the keynote speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Her marriage to the leader of the free world is loving and refreshingly normal; she isn’t afraid to poke fun at him! She’s the mother of two young daughters, a fashion icon (donning affordable brands and frequently baring her toned arms), and an advocate for poverty awareness and healthy eating. How can you not love a woman who encourages kids to dance by dancing herself?
Her marriage to FDR may not have been particularly blissful, but that’s part of what makes Eleanor so bad-ass. He cheated on her, and she made abundantly clear that she’d file for divorce if he didn’t end his relationship with his mistress. They both knew that divorce would ruin them politically, so needless to say, he ended it and the two retained a close relationship. A big portion of FDR’s presidency fell into her hands because of his polio; more able-bodied, she took trips for him.
During her husband’s presidency, she became an advocate for civil rights, a cause for which she fought for the rest of her life. She was one of the co-founders of the Freedom House, founded the UN Association of the United States to support the formation of the United Nations, and was a delegate to the UN General Assembly. She also chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, which helped start second-wave feminism.
Supportive wife, “First Lady of the World,” and accomplished politician in her own right. It doesn’t get much more bad-ass!
Who’s your favorite bad-ass wife?