Explore History ›

Corazon Aquino: The Housewife Who Led a Revolution

Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Sandro Tucci

8 Facts About the First Woman to Lead the Philippines

Corazon Aquino rose from politician’s wife reluctant to be in the public eye to beloved champion of the people bringing democracy to the Philippines. The story of her kind-hearted leadership as the first female president in all of Asia seems too good to be true. But it is… and in honor of Aquino, who would have celebrated her 80th birthday today, we’ve got eight facts about her life and career to prove it.

1. Though Aquino grew up in the Philippines, she went to the United States for college. There she majored in mathematics and French and volunteered with Thomas Dewey’s 1948 presidential campaign.

2. In 1954 she married Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who became mayor of their town at age 22, governor of their province at 29, and the youngest-ever elected senator in the Philippines at 34. As her husband ascended in the political ranks, Aquino preferred to remain in the background, raising their five children. She even declined to go on stage with him at campaign events, preferring to watch rather than participate.

3. After her husband’s assassination in 1983, Aquino began coming out of her shell, continuing her husband’s work of speaking out against the Marcos regime.

4. Within three years the formerly reluctant public figure was convinced – thanks to devoted supporters and 1,000 signatures on a petition – to run for president against Ferdinand Marcos. Despite Aquino’s strong campaign and overwhelming support, Marcos’s allies declared him the winner.

5. Sure that she was the rightful winner of the election, Aquino organized a “People’s Victory Rally” and drew a massive crowd. The ongoing support from the people of the Philippines finally convinced the folks doing the counting that Aquino was the true elected president.

6. Aquino was sworn in February 25, 1986, bringing an end to 20 years of martial rule under Marcos. The day became known as the People Power Revolution.

7. During her single six-year term as president, Aquino created a new Constitution, brought stronger civil rights to the people of the Philippines, and worked to reform her country’s debt problem. Urged to run for a second term, she declined, because she wanted to make it clear that the presidency shouldn’t be a lifelong appointment.

8. For the rest of her life, Aquino remained active in politics, working to continue the democratic momentum she got started. She is remembered as a hero and a saint, and her legacy approaches mythical proportions. But she would be the first to remind us that she was doing the will of the people – it was the whole country’s revolution, not just hers.