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1960: Ceylon chooses world's first woman PM
Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike, widow of Ceylon's assassinated prime minister Solomon Bandaranaike, has become the world's first woman prime minister.

Her Sri Lanka Freedom Party won a resounding victory in the general election taking 75 out of 150 seats.

Mrs Bandaranaike only entered politics after her husband was shot by an extremist Buddhist on 26 September 1959.

She has become known as the "weeping widow" for frequently bursting into tears during the election campaign and vowing to continue her late husband's socialist policies.

This week's election was called after Dudley Senanayake's United National Party failed to produce a working majority after winning elections in March.

Aristocratic by birth

Mrs Bandaranaike was born into the Ceylon aristocracy and her husband was a landowner. She was educated by Roman Catholic nuns at St Bridget's school in the capital, Colombo, and is a practising Buddhist.

She married in 1940 aged 24 and has three children - and until her husband's death seemed content in her role as mother and retiring wife.

Her SLFP aims to represent the "little man" although its policies during the campaign were not clear.

Mr Bandaranaike attributed her success to the "people's love and respect" for her late husband and urged her supporters to practise "simple living, decorum and dignity".

Her husband came to power in 1955, eight years after independence, and declared himself a Buddhist which appealed to nationalists. But his government was wracked by infighting among Sinhalese and Tamils and lacked direction.

Mrs Bandaranaike inherits a country in a state of flux and her party's proposed programme of nationalisation may bring her into conflict with foreign interests in commodities like tea, rubber and oil.

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Sirimavo Bandaranaike - 1969
Sirimavo Bandaranaike is the first ever female head of government



In Context
Sirimavo Bandaranaike made Sinhalese the language of government - which angered the minority Tamils - and brought schools under state secular control.

She lost the 1965 election after her unpopular alliance with Trotskyites but returned to power in 1970.

Ceylon was made a republic in 1972 and renamed Sri Lanka.

Unemployment, inflation, food shortages and ethnic tensions continued to escalate and even the nationalisation of tea and rubber in 1975 did not help the economy.

The SLFP lost the 1977 election and in 1980 Mrs Bandaranaike was found guilty of misuse of power and forced out of parliament.

Her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunge, was elected president in 1994 and appointed her mother prime minister, by now a largely ceremonial position.

After 40 years in office she resigned on 10 August 2000. Exactly two months later she died, aged 84, of a heart attack.

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