Angela Merkel, the world’s most powerful woman, is Time’s Person of the Year 2015

Figures as disparate as Isis’s leader and Uber’s CEO were shortlisted for Time’s Person of the Year 2015. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel is number one.

Angela Merkel is Time’s Person of the Year 2015, the first woman to be chosen since 1986. The announcement was made on the 9th of December by the weekly US news magazine founded in 1923. Its Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs explained that she was chosen: “For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply”, specifying that “the threat to European peace and security fell to her”. A threat that came first in the form of the Euro crisis that reached its peak in the summer of 2015 followed by the current refugee crisis facing the continent.



Time’s Person, Man, Woman of the Year

The shortlist for one of the most eagerly awaited rankings of the year was made public on the 7th of December. According to Time, the people or organisations who have most influenced 2015, for better or for worse, have been: Isis leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, ranked second after Merkel; US presidential hopeful Donald Trump; Black Lives Matter, the US civil rights movement protesting brutality against persons of colour; and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.  


The process behind the selection is a secretive one. Only a few editors and journalists working at the magazine are in the know until the announcements are made public. It is also a historic one. Known as Man or Woman of the Year until 1999, the ranking has been compiled every year since 1927, when Charles Lindbergh, the first person to complete a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, was chosen.      

German Chancellor Merkel is the fifth woman to be awarded the number one spot in the ranking, and the first female elected Person of the Year as an individual and not as member of an organisation. The others, who appeared with the title Woman of the Year, were Wallis Simpson in 1936, Soong Mei-ling in 1937, Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 and Corazon Aquino in 1986.      


Angela Merkel, Time’s Person of the Year 2015

Born Angela Dorothea Kasner in Hamburg in 1954, her family moved to the East German town of Waldhof three years later. Her father was a pastor who run a Lutheran seminary that hosted visitors as well as mentally disabled adults. She studied physics at Leipzig University, and was awarded a doctorate in quantum chemistry in 1986. After having divorced scientist Ulrich Merkel in 1982, she married current husband Joachim Sauer, also a quantum chemist, in 1998.


angela merkel refugee shelter selfie
Angela Merkel poses for a selfie with a refugee from Syria after she visited the AWO Refugium Askanierring shelter in Berlin, Germany © Sean Gallup/Getty Images


Merkel was 35 years old when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. She became politically active in 1990, joining the centre-right Christian Democrats, and at the age of 36 was elected Minister of Women and Youth of the first government of the reunited Federal Republic of Germany. She became Minister again in 1994, this time of the Environment, overseeing the first Conference of the Parties, COP1, which was held in Berlin in 1995. She was elected Chancellor in a close election in 2005 and entered her third term and tenth year as the most powerful person in Germany, and some argue the most powerful woman in Europe and even the world, in 2015 at the age of 61.

Time’s decision to recognise the extent of her influence on German, European and Western politics shows just how momentous and difficult 2015 has been for Europe and the world, and how important her role. First demonised for putting extreme pressure on Greece to pay its debts to save the euro, then hailed for her humanitarianism in welcoming refugees to Germany – 1 million asylum seekers are expected there by the end of the year – she has been a key figure in keeping the European Union together. To the joy of some and fury of others she has been responsible for shaping the institution’s path at a time in which it has come under multiple and distributed attacks that have put its future in question. In this respect she may be the most powerful woman, and potentially even person, in the world.

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