The most powerful woman in the world, German Chacellor Angela Merkel is referred to in her country as “Mutti,” Mother. The name was first used by rivals in her Christian Democratic Union party as an insult, but then caught on with the public and she embraced it.[i] She doesn’t have children, is in her second marriage, doesn’t sleep more than five hours a night, was a brilliant student with a doctorate in quantum chemistry and approaches politics like a scientist rather than being a charismatic public speaker, and grew up in communist Eastern Germany where books were banned and newspaper censored. Despite her unlikely background, she won her third term in office in 2014.
Merkel is not a feminist, saying she had no interest in her first appointment as Minister of Women and Youth. At that time Chancellor Helmut Kohl referred to his as “my girl,” mein Mädchen, later regretting the appointment, telling a friend she was a snake who wanted power. She feels being a woman can be an advantage, comparing her experience in the chemistry laboratory with all male colleagues, ”The men in the laboratory always had their hands on all the buttons at the same time. I couldn’t keep up with this, because I was thinking. And then things suddenly went ‘poof,’ and the equipment was destroyed.” She listens more than she talks. A former US Ambassador to Germany, John Kornblum observed, “If you cross her, you end up dead. There’s nothing cushy about her. There’s a whole list of alpha males who thought they would get her out of the way, and they’re all now in other walks of life.”
[i] George Packer, “The Quiet German,” New Yorker, December 1, 2014.