Mothers and Leaders

Mothers and Leaders May 25, 2022

May is the month dedicated to the feminine. We celebrate Mother’s Day in May each year and recognize women who have been mothers either biologically and/or emotionally to others. 

At the beginning of May, I traveled to Prague and the Czech Republic to celebrate my birthday with my husband. I learned more about the history of the country, its culture and enjoyed feeling back in time as we walked the cobblestone streets.

As I toured the castle in Prague, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that among all the monarchs, one of the longest reigning and clever was a woman. Maria Theresa Habsburg was the only woman to hold the position and was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands, and Parma.

Maria Theresa’s father, the monarch before her, was assured that she would inherit the throne upon his death. The rich and powerful rulers who committed to supporting her all reneged on their support when Maria Theresa’s father died. Most expected her to recoil and to flounder. She surprised everyone by assessing the situation, developing a bold strategy, and fighting back. This was no small feat because her father left the coffers dry, and she didn’t have strong advisors to help her. 

One of the key characteristics of a successful leader is that they take calculated risks and act. Maria Theresa acted boldly and was able to rebuild the monarchy and expand it. She initiated social reforms in education for children and public health during her 20-year reign. 

Maria Theresa’s birthday was this month on May 13. She birthed 16 children over her reign with 10 surviving to adulthood. Most famous of her children was Marie Antoinette. Unlike so many royals of her day, Maria Theresa chose to marry a man she loved. She played many roles as leader, strategist, mother, and wife. Like many women today, the breadth and depth of her responsibilities could have been overwhelming; instead, she did the best she could with the hand she was dealt and flourished.