German Chancellor Angela Merkel is TIME's 2015 Person of the Year, according to an announcement Wednesday morning on TODAY. TIME said Merkel was chosen after the many challenging decisions she's been forced to make in the last year, including the decision to bail out Greece and the decision to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants seeking asylum. The decision is notable because Merkel was in the running with other world leaders like Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as controversial "political" figure Donald Trump and celebrity Caitlyn Jenner. But the decision is also a big deal because Merkel is the fourth woman to win TIME's Person of the Year award and the first woman with the title in almost 30 years.
The last woman to win the title, solo, was Corazon Aquino, the first female president of the Philippines and the first female president in Asia, in 1986, according to a tweet from TODAY. The other two solo female winners were Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 and Wallis Warfield Simpson in 1936. There have been times when women have won as part of a group or shared the title with a man. For example, last year women were featured as a group of "Ebola fighters," according to TODAY.
In 2002, Sherron Watkins of Enron, Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, and Coleen Rowley of the FBI all won the award as "The Whistleblowers." Rowley wrote a memo attacking intelligence failures after the Sept. 11 attacks and Watkins and Cooper exposed corruption in their respective corporations, according to USA Today. Melinda Gates shared the titled with her husband Bill and with Bono in 2005, reports CNN.
Merkel being featured by herself on the cover is a big deal. She's the first woman to be featured solo since the magazine changed the title from "Man of the Year" to "Person of the Year" in 1999, according to TODAY. TIME Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs told TODAY that Merkel was chosen because she's been tested repeatedly this year with protecting European "peace and security," according to TODAY:
She has stepped up in a way that was uncharacteristic even for her. She's been a very long-serving leader, the longest-serving in the West. She controls the world's fourth largest economy, but this year she really was tested in how she would respond to some of the most difficult challenges that any leader is facing in the world.
In an essay about Merkel as TIME's choice, Gibbs wrote that Merkel led the European Union in the face of the Greece's potentially disastrous exit from the Eurozone; she also stood up against Russian President Vladimir Putin in attempting to slow his takeover of Ukraine; and, Merkel opened Germany's borders to almost one million refugees and migrants seeking asylum. Further, Merkel did these things with a combination of empathy and straightforwardness people often don't see in world leaders. Merkel has faced more challenges and criticism than almost any other world leader this year, and its the way she's dealt with these things that helped TIME choose her as Person of the Year.