Ten Greek women who shaped modern Greece

Influential Greek women have played many decisive roles in Greek history since antiquity. It’s the same with modern Greece, where so many amazing women have changed and shaped the country today.

Ten most influential Greek women

Maria Callas

Maria Callas was one of the most famous opera singers of the 20th century.

Maria Callas, Greek soprano, was one of the most famous and influential opera singers of the 20th century. She was born to a Greek family in the United States in 1923, but received her musical education in Greece and made a career in Italy.

Her relationship with a Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis have been a major topic of discussion for many years around the world, and, unfortunately, her often stormy personal life has overshadowed her outstanding talent. There were rumors about the details of her personal life, feuds with other opera singers and dramatic weight loss, which, according to many, was the reason for the decline of her musical career.

In 2006, Opera News wrote about her: “Almost thirty years after her death, she is still defining for the diva as an artist and still remains one of the best-selling vocalists of classical music.” Her real name is Cecilia Sophia, Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos.

Laskarina “Bubulina” Pinocis

Laskarina Pinocis, also known as “Boubulina“, Was born in 1771. Unlike all social categories held by women of that time, her actions and courage played a vital role in securing the independence of Greece.

Pinozis fought in the Greek War of Independence in 1821, as the commander of the fleet on her own ship, which she equipped with her own funds. Boubulina was killed by an accidental bullet in 1825 as a result of a family feud on the island of Spetses.

She is considered one of the most influential Greek women of all time and is remembered throughout the country. On the island of Spetses, in the 300-year-old mansion of the second husband of the sea hero Boubuli, where her descendants still live, there is Boubulina Museum

Her statue also stands in the harbor at Spetses. Streets throughout Greece and Cyprus are named after her, in particular Bouboulina Street next to the National Technical University of Athens (Polytechnio) and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Katina Paksinu

Katina Paksina stunned audiences with her incredible acting, winning an Academy Award in 1943. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube / @ Janszoon.

Katina Paksinu was a theater and film actress. She was born in 1900 and became one of the most famous actresses in the world in the first half of the 20th century.

She lived in the United Kingdom during World War II, but soon moved to the United States, where she made her film debut in the 1943 film For Whom The Bell Tolls. Her performance was highly acclaimed and she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Irene Pappas

Irene Papas is a prolific Greek actress who has had a long and successful career. Courtesy of: MGM / Wikimedia Commons

Irene Papas is a Greek actress and singer who has appeared in more than 70 films in her life. Her career spanned over 50 years. She decided to retire in 2003, at the age of 77. The actress gained international attention when she starred in the films The Cannons of Navarone and the Greek Zorba.

Irene Papas received an award for Best Actress in 1961 at the Berlin International Film Festival for Antigone and a similar award in 1971 from the National Council for the Observation of Trojan Women. Her real name is Eirini Leleku. Unfortunately, in 2018, it turned out that Papas had suffered from Alzheimer’s for the past five years.

Melina Mercury

Melina Mercury

Melina Mercury – Greek actress, singer and politician. She was nominated for an Oscar and won the Cannes Film Festival for her role in the 1960 film Never Sunday. Mercury has also been nominated for three Golden Globes and two BAFTAs for her acting career.

Later, Mercury became a politician. She joined the center-left PASOK party and was friends with party leader Andreas Papandreou. She was elected Member of the Greek Parliament, and in October 1981, Mercury became the first female Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou

Katerina Sakellaropoulou is the first female president of Greece. Photo: Presidency of the Hellenic Republic.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the current president of Greece since 13 March 2020, is the first woman elected by parliament to the highest political office in the country.

She was born in Thessaloniki and studied law at the National University. Kapodistrias in Athens and completed her postgraduate studies in public law at the University of Paris II.

In October 2015, she was appointed Vice President of the Council of State, and in October 2018, after a unanimous vote, she became the first female president of the court. Her election came after the Syriza government, in power at the time, deemed her progressive track record on issues such as the environment and human rights worthy of being president.

On January 15, 2020, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nominated her for the presidency of the Hellenic Republic, and she was elected on January 22, 2020 when 261 MPs voted for her in the 300-seat parliament.

Queen Sofia of Spain

Queen Sofia of Spain opens El Greco exhibition in Athens

Queen Sofia of Spain was born in 1938 in Greece. She is the first child of King Paul of Greece and Frederica of Hanover, and was born a princess of Greece and Denmark. Sofia became a member of the Spanish royal family and was Queen of Spain during the reign of her husband, King Juan Carlos I, from 1975 to 2014. She completed her secondary education at a boarding school in Germany and then returned to Greece where she specialized in childcare, music and archeology. She married Juan Carlos in 1962 and has three children: Elena, Christina and Felipe. Their son Felipe VI is the current king of Spain.

Nana Muskuri

Nana Muskuri in 1966, a year before she released her first album entirely in French. Credit: Kroon, Ron / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 nl.

Nana Muskuri is a Greek singer. During her impressive musical career, she has released over 200 albums and singles in at least twelve languages, including Greek, French, English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Welsh, Chinese and Corsican.

Muskuri became famous throughout Europe with the song “White Rose of Athens”, originally recorded in German under the name “Weiße Rosen aus Athen.

She became a multilingual TV star and created a distinctive image with her signature black-rimmed glasses, which was unusual at the time. Muskuri became UNICEF Representative in 1993 and was elected to the European Parliament as the Greek MP from 1994 to 1999.

Dora Bakoyanni

Dora Bakoyannis is a former high-ranking Greek politician.

Dora Bakoyannis is a Greek politician and one of the most important Greek women of the 21st century. From 2003 to 2006, she served as mayor of Athens and became the first female mayor in the history of the city. From 2006 to 2009, she was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, the highest position ever held by a woman in the Greek government. As of 2021, no woman has held a higher position in the Greek government than Bakoyannis in 2006-2009.

Bakoyannis was married to journalist Pavlos Bakoyannis and they have two children, Alexia and Kostas. In 1989, her husband, an elected member of the Greek parliament, was killed by members of a terrorist group on November 17.

Sofia Bekatoru

Credit: Facebook / Sofia Bekatoru.

Sofia Bekatoru, Greek sailing champion, #MeToo movement started in Greece after uncovering an episode of sexual harassment and violence involving a senior member of the Greek Sailing Federation (HSF) in a hotel room, shortly after trials at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The interview sparked a wave of resignations at HSF, spread throughout Greece and eventually inspired a number of actors to come up with their own stories of sexual harassment and abuse.

Bekatoru, Greece’s first ever female standard-bearer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, opened Pandora’s Box to the topic of Greek sexual harassment.





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