Ten influential Greek women who shaped modern Greece



influential greek women
Laskarina “Bouboulina” Pinotsi was an extremely influential Greek woman, serving as a member of the Hellenic Navy during Greece’s War of Independence in 1821. Credit: Sreejithk2000 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Influential Greek women have played many crucial roles in the history of Greece, even dating back to ancient times. This is also the case for modern Greece, where so many amazing women have changed and shaped the country today.

The ten most influential Greek women

Maria callas

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influential greek women
Maria Callas was one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. Credit: CBS Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

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

His relationship with the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis has been a main topic of discussion for many years across the world, and unfortunately his eventful personal life has often overshadowed his extraordinary talent. Rumors have circulated about his love life, his feuds with other opera singers and his drastic weight loss – what many believe is the reason for the decline of his musical career.

In 2006, Opera news wrote about her: “Almost thirty years after her death, she is still the definition of the diva as an artist – and still one of the best-selling singers in classical music.” Her real name was Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos.

Pinotsis Laskarina “Bouboulina”

influential greek women

Laskarina Pinotsis, also known as “Bouboulina”, was born in 1771; unlike all social categories occupied by women of that time, her actions and courage played a vital role in Greek independence.

Pinotsis fought in the Greek War of Independence in 1821, serving as the naval commander of her own ship which she had equipped with her own funds. Bouboulina was killed in 1825 following a family feud on the island of Spetses.

She is widely regarded as one of the most influential Greek women of all time, and she is commemorated across the country. On the island of Spetses, the Bouboulina Museum is housed in the 300-year-old mansion of the second husband of naval hero Bouboulis, and his descendants still live there.

His statue can also be found in the port of Spetses. Various streets across Greece and Cyprus are named in his honor, including Bouboulina Street near the National Technical University of Athens (the Polytechnio) and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Katina Paxinou

influential greek women
Katina Paxinou stunned audiences with her incredible acting performances, winning an Oscar in 1943. Credit: YouTube screenshot / @ Janszoon

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

During World War II she lived in the United Kingdom, but soon moved to the United States, where she made her film debut in 1943 “For Whom the Bell Tolls. “ Her performance in the 1943 feature film was widely acclaimed and she won the Oscar (Oscar) for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Irene Pappas

Irene Papas
Irene Papas is a prolific Greek actress who has enjoyed a long and successful career. Credit: MGM / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

Irene Papas is a Greek actress and singer who has appeared in over 70 films during her lifetime. His career lasted over 50 years; she chose to retire in 2003 at the age of 77. She was launched into international limelight when she starred in “The Guns of Navarone” and “Zorba the Greek”.

She won the best actress award in 1961 at the Berlin International Film Festival for Antigone and the same award in 1971 from the National Board of Review for The Trojan Women. Her real name is Eirini Lelekou. Sadly, it was revealed in 2018 that Papas had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for five years.

Melina Mercouri

influential greek women
Melina Mercouri, photographed in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1982. Credit: Björn Roos / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Melina Mercouri was a Greek actress, singer and politician. She received an Oscar nomination and won an award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in the 1960 film “Never on Sunday”. Mercouri has also been nominated for three Golden Globes and two BAFTA Awards in her acting career.

Later in life, Mercouri became a politician. She joined the center-left PASOK party and was a friend of party leader Andreas Papandreou. She was elected a member of the Hellenic Parliament, and in October 1981 Mercouri became the first woman Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou

Katerina Sakellaropoulou
Katerina Sakellaropoulou is Greece’s first female president. Credit: Presidency of the Hellenic Republic

Katerina Sakellaropoulou, current President of Greece since March 13, 2020, is the first woman elected by parliament to hold the country’s highest political office.

Born in Thessaloniki, she studied law at the National and Capodistrian University of 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, she became the first female president of the tribunal, following a unanimous vote. His election came after the Syriza government, which was in power at the time, considered its progressive record on issues such as the environment and human rights.

On January 15, 2020, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis appointed her to the post of President of the Hellenic Republic, a post to which she was elected on January 22, 2020 with 261 MPs voting for the 300-seat Parliament.

Queen Sofia of Spain

Queen Sofia of Spain
Queen Sofia of Spain posing next to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a visit to Greece in 2021. Credit: Press office of the Greek Prime Minister

Queen Sofia of Spain was born in 1938 in Greece. She is the first child of King Paul of Greece and Frederick of Hanover, and was born Princess Sophie 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 before returning to Greece where she specialized in childcare, music and archeology. She married Juan Carlos in 1962 and has three children with him: Elena, Cristina and Felipe. Their son Felipe VI is the current King of Spain.

Nana Mouskouri

influential greek women
Nana Mouskouri in 1966, a year before releasing her first album, entirely in French. Credit: Kroon, Ron / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

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

Mouskouri became famous throughout Europe for the songThe White Rose of Athens,originally recorded in German under the title “Weiße Rosen aus Athen.

She became a multilingual television star and cultivated a distinctive image thanks to her black-rimmed glasses, which were unusual for the time. Mouskouri became spokesperson for UNICEF in 1993 and was elected to the European Parliament as a Greek Member of Parliament from 1994 to 1999.

Dora bakoyannis

Dora bakoyannis
Dora Bakoyannis is a former high-ranking Greek politician. Credit: Harald Dettenborn / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 de

Dora Bakoyannis is a Greek politician and one of the most important Greek women of the 21st century to date. From 2003 to 2006, she was mayor of Athens and was the first female mayor in the city’s history. From 2006 to 2009, she was Greece’s Foreign Minister, the highest post ever held by a woman in the Greek cabinet. In 2021, no woman had held a higher post in the Greek government than that of Bakoyannis from 2006 to 2009.

Bakoyannis was married to journalist Pavlos Bakoyannis and they had two children together, Alexia and Kostas. In 1989, her husband, who was an elected member of the Hellenic Parliament, was assassinated by members of the terrorist group on November 17.

Sofia Bekatorou

Influential Greek Women
Credit: Facebook / Sofia Bekatorou

Sofia Bekatorou, the Greek sailing champion, started the Hellenic #MeToo movement after revealing an episode of sexual harassment and abuse involving a member of the Hellenic Sailing Federation (HSF) in her hotel room, shortly after testing for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

The interview sparked resignations within the HSF and echoed overwhelmingly across Greece and ultimately inspired a number of actors to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and abuse.

Bekatorou, who was Greece’s first female flag bearer in Summer Olympics history at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, opened Pandora’s box of sexual harassment in Greece.


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