Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2013

Department 1



The role of women in society, in particular, women in leadership positions, constantly is debated. However, this discussion extends far back in history. As one of the most memorable rulers of Early Modern Europe, the life and reign of Queen Isabella of Spain, more accurately known as Queen Isabel I of Castile and León, can provide answers. Scholars have long grappled with the degree to which Isabel embodied or transcended the gender norms of her time as well as whether she ruled more through the joint monarchy with her husband King Fernando of Aragón or as a sovereign in her own right. The careful examination of primary and secondary documents relating to Isabel’s life, her fight for the throne, the joint monarchy, propaganda used during her reign, and her more notable achievements, reveals her unshakable belief in her own right to be queen and the complexity of her sovereign power. Far from adhering to the expectations of her time period, Isabel challenged gender norms and ruled independently as a sovereign queen. The strength of her independent power shows that even when faced with societal and political adversity, women can successfully hold powerful leadership positions. Female leaders today can learn important lessons from Isabel’s determination and strength.


This paper was presented at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2014 at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.