It's stunning that a woman hasn't graced the cover of TIME as Person of the Year in almost three decades.
Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, is TIME magazine's Person of the Year. Over the past several decades, TIME's editors have chosen a great many men, "The Computer," "The Endangered Earth," "The Peacemakers," and even "You." In fact, up until 1999 the Person of the Year was actually called Man of the Year.
In 1986 TIME chose Corazon Aquino, the first woman president of the Philippines.
Today, 29 years later, TIME chose Angela Merkel.
Why no individual woman in between?
In 2002 "The Whistleblowers" were the Person of the Year. They were three women, but there's not been an individual woman for nearly three decades.
"Why the long wait?," TIME's Radhika Jones asks, and answers. "As I wrote a few years ago, the label of Person of the Year tends to favor people with institutional power. The choice reflects TIME’s view of who affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill. Since 1986 there’ve been four U.S. Presidents in the mix—three of them two-termers, all of them men. Plus a handful of leaders of the Soviet Union (and Russia), also all men. The Pope keeps being a man. And it’s a lot easier to make news from an address like the White House, the Kremlin or the Vatican."
"Or the Chancellery," Jones continues. "In naming Angela Merkel this year’s Person, we’re not actually breaking with tradition. The chancellor of Germany is the de facto leader of a continent and steward of the world’s fourth biggest economy. Merkel has been in office for a decade, emerging as a principled manager and a resolute diplomat."
But why Merkel?
Largely because of her choice to take in one million refugees.
"At a moment when much of the world is once more engaged in a furious debate about the balance between safety and freedom, the Chancellor is asking a great deal of the German people, and by their example, the rest of us as well," TIME's Nancy Gibbs explains.
"To be welcoming. To be unafraid. To believe that great civilizations build bridges, not walls, and that wars are won both on and off the battlefield. By viewing the refugees as victims to be rescued rather than invaders to be repelled, the woman raised behind the Iron Curtain gambled on freedom. The pastor’s daughter wielded mercy like a weapon. You can agree with her or not, but she is not taking the easy road. Leaders are tested only when people don’t want to follow. For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is TIME’s Person of the Year."