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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 08:09 GMT
Indira Gandhi 'greatest woman'
Indira Gandhi was India's first female prime minister Indira Gandhi was India's first female prime minister

Indira Gandhi has been voted the greatest woman of the past 1,000 years in a poll by BBC News Online.

India's first woman prime minister had been running equally with Queen Elizabeth I in the first half of November but pushed ahead to top the poll by a large majority.

The top 10 included Marie Curie and Mother Teresa, as well as Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The vote was the eleventh in BBC News Online's monthly Your Millennium series. In December you can vote for the greatest man of the past 1,000 years.

To inspire you, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Virgin boss Richard Branson have contributed their personal top-10 lists.

Tough politician

Indira Gandhi was a famous politician, but she is likely to be a controversial choice for the greatest woman of the past 1,000 years.

Your top 10
1. Indira Gandhi
2. Elizabeth I
3. Mother Teresa
4. Marie Curie
5. Margaret Thatcher
6. Joan of Arc
7. Emmeline Pankhurst
8. Everywoman
9. Aung San Suu Kyi
10. Eleanor Roosevelt
The only child of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi was herself elected prime minister in 1966. She served four terms, three of which were consecutive.

She studied at Visva-Bharati University in India, and Oxford University. In 1938, she joined the National Congress party and became active in India's independence movement.

As prime minster in 1971, Indira Gandhi led India in a war against neighbouring Pakistan which resulted in the creations of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan.

Her role in the war was only one of her controversial actions.

She is remembered most for her campaign against Sikh separatists.

When Sikh extremists used violence to demand an independent state in Punjab, she ordered an army attack on their refuge, the holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The June 1984 attack killed an estimated 450 people, and left a legacy of bitterness.

Five months later, Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards in revenge.

That incident was followed by attacks on Sikh communities in Delhi and elsewhere in India, in which several thousand people are believed to have died.

BBC News Online readers from across the world took part in the millennium poll and those who voted for Indira Gandhi praised her leadership skills and strength.

Khalid Ahmed said: "She was a true feminist to the core, a woman of substance who helped the country through a testing phase, possessed all the virtues of a woman and fought valiantly for women's rights in a man's world."

And according to Geetha Sankaran, she was "a dynamic leader and worked for the uplifting of India and its women."

Click here to see the full results of November's vote.

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See also:
01 Jul 99 |  Entertainment
Bollywood star tops the poll
15 Jul 99 |  South Asia
Bollywood superstar 'surprised' by vote
02 Mar 98 |  India Elections
India's ruling dynasty
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