Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (1938-) was elected Liberia's first woman president in November 2005, the first democratically elected and currently serving woman to head any African nation. As president, Sirleaf recalls in her memoir, no one expected her to win; the odds were long. But this was not the first time Liberia's “Iron Lady” would overcome the odds. As her biography attests, her route to the presidency included many odds-defying moments, including her upbringing, education, and an adult life filled with fear, arrest, and exile. Yet, she ran for office “to bring motherly sensitivity and emotion to the presidency,” according to an interview with the BBC. As a result, Shirleaf represents two extremes, which enable a remarkable understanding of Liberian culture to which she ...

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