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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

GAWA Day #42: The Most Extraordinary Female in History--Maria Theresa

You can check through all the lists of outstanding women in history and you probably won't find Maria Theresa.  Frankly, I never heard of her until I went on a tour of Shonbrunn Palace in Vienna yesterday.

This was her summer place, and long after her time, on a day in February of 1913, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin both visited here, without knowing about the presence of the other.  Of course, they were not important then.  Anyway, Maria Theresa:

  • Was active around the time of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
  • Blond, blue-eyed and short, at the age of 23, pregnant with her fourth child, her father, Emperor Charles VI (right) of the House of Hapsburg, suddenly died.
  • The emperor not having a son, Maria Theresa became the first female ruler of the empire, which included Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria, Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma.
  • Mind you, her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, was not exactly a liability, although he was known to have mistresses.  However, he was not involved at all with running the country, but instead, became quite a successful entrepreneur.  To the right are Maria and Francis, with son Franz Joseph.
  • Franz Joseph became Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and was President of the German Confederation from 1850 to 1866.  Incredibly enough, he was still running things in 1914 when his heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, were assassinated, and Joseph's staff essentially sent the ultimatum that sparked World War I, resulting in 9 million deaths.  He died at the age of 86!
  • Youngest daughter was Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette, right), who became Queen of France and guillotined by revolutionaries.
  • Maria Theresa was hardly perfect, for she was a bigot and had a dislike of Jews, but allowed them flexibility at commerce.
  • A devout Roman Catholic, she found a way to tax the clergy and introduced secular subjects such as law into their universities, initiating the decline of theology as the main foundation of higher education.
  • Reformed their educational system and improved medical care.
  • Outlawed witch burning.
  • Not an intellectual and was smart enough to recognize the mental superiority of her advisors.
  • Earned a ton of titles, but was never made Empress.
  • Marie Theresa ruled for 40 years.  
  • The country was on the verge of bankruptcy when she took over, was challenged by several nations who wanted to test her mettle, but she persevered, and her territories, and Europe in general, prospered for more than a century after she passed away.  Overcoming economic turmoil, though a series of wars and all the politics associated with her job, she continued bearing children to the age of 39.
  • Surviving smallpox at the age of 50, she lived to the ripe old age of 63, when the life expectancy in Europe in the late 1700's was around 33.
Okay, why did she have so many children?  All but one daughter was married off to expand her empire.  She allowed one to marry for love because they were born on the same day.

Tell me, now, has anyone ever heard of any female in the history of humanity who was more extraordinary?   Doesn't Maria Theresa  (left) deserve to be the most outstanding female leader, heck, make that, leader, of all time?

Here is just one photo of the Melk Abbey at sunset, where Maria Theresa sometimes stayed:

I had the ideal Viennese lunch with tour friends Susan, Morgan, Melinda and Martin:

Melinda and I halved a Weiner Schnitzel, and I also had a salad and beer.

Our group ordered one sachertorte and one apple strudel and shared it:

Augerstinerkeller is, amazingly enough, one floor below this scene right at Albertina Square, the heart of Vienna and where our busses picked us up.

I might add that Susan is a real estate agent, Morgan lives in Sonoma Valley and is a real estate lawyer, while Melinda and Martin operate a Tai Chi / acupuncture practice in San Francisco, where Martin is a leading master of Tai Chi.  He is also from Hawaii and Punahou and they frequently return to Honolulu, for they own a second home in Kaimuki.  We already have plans for the holiday season.

There is no ocean storm today, a rarity these days:


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