10 Women Who Shaped Modern Greece

Women have always played a crucial role in Greece’s history, even from antiquity. But what about modern Greece?

Let’s meet 10 of the most influential women that shaped modern-day Greece.

Laskarina ”Bouboulina” Pinotsis
  • Laskarina Pinotsis, also known as Bouboulina was born in 1771, however her actions and courage played a vital role in Greece’s independence, as she took part in the Greek war of independence in 1821 serving as a naval commander.Bouboulina was killed in 1825 as a result of a family feud on the island of Spetses.
Katina Paxinou

Katina Paxinou, was a Greek film and stage actress. She was born in 1900 and became one of the most famous actresses around 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’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. She won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Irene Papas, 1956. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Irene Pappas is a Greek actress and singer, who starred in over 70 films. Her career spans more than 50 years. She became internationally known when she starred in The Guns of Navarone and Zorba the Greek films.

She won the Best Actress awards in 1961 at the Berlin International Film Festival for Antigone and in 1971 from the National Board of Review for The Trojan Women. Her real name is Eirini Lelekou.

Melina Mercouri

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

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

Maria Callas

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

Her personal life and relationship with the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis was the main topic of discussion for many years across the globe. In 2006, Opera News wrote of her: “Nearly thirty years after her death, she’s still the definition of the diva as artist—and still one of classical music’s best-selling vocalists.” Her real name was Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos.

Christina Onassis

Christina Onassis was a Greek businesswoman born in 1950 in the United States. She was a famous socialite, and became the only heiress to the Onassis fortune, after her brother’s death.

She was the only daughter of Aristotle Onassis and she had a daughter, Athina Onassis. Christina received considerable media attention for her lavish lifestyle, spending habits, and turbulent personal life. She died in 1988.

Sofia of Greece and Denmark, Queen of Spain between 1975 and 2014

Sofía of Greece and Denmark was born in 1938 in Greece. She is the first child of King Paul of Greece and Frederica of Hanover. Sofia became a member of the Spanish royal family and served as Queen of Spain during the reign of her husband, King Juan Carlos I, from 1975 to 2014.

She completed her secondary education in a boarding school in Germany before going back to Greece where she specialized in childcare, music and archaeology. She married Juan Carlos in 1962 with whom she has had three children: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe.

Nana Mouscouri in 1966

Nana Mouskouri is a Greek singer. During her impressive music career, she has released over 200 albums and singles in at least twelve different languages, including Greek, French, English, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, Welsh, Mandarin Chinese and Corsican. Mouskouri became famous all around Europe for the song “The White Rose of Athens, recorded first in German as “Weiße Rosen aus Athen as an adaptation of one of her Greek songs.

She became a multilingual television star and distinctive image due to her signature black-rimmed glasses — something that was unsual at the time.

Mouskouri became a spokesperson for UNICEF in 1993 and was elected to the European Parliament as a Greek deputy from 1994 to 1999.

Dora Bakoyannis

Dora Bakoyannis is a Greek politician. From 2003 to 2006, she served as mayor of Athens, the first female mayor in the city’s history. From 2006 to 2009 she was Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the highest position ever to have been held by a woman in the cabinet of Greece.

Bakoyannis was married to the 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 17 November.

Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki

Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki is a Greek businesswoman. She was born in 1955 and became internationally known for being the president of the bidding and organizing committee for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. She was named one of the 50 most powerful women by Forbes magazine.

In 1990, she married the Greek shipping and steel magnate Theodore Angelopoulos, and has since been involved in several aspects of Angelopoulos’ business interests. Angelopoulos-Daskalaki established the Angelopoulos Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Fellowship, and began sponsoring Greek students to attend Clinton Global Initiative University.