Whether you are short or tall, you will surely agree that height plays a significant role in how we see one another. Studies show that taller people are commonly perceived as having higher self-esteem than their shorter peers – although no direct correlation between height and self-esteem has been identified in reality.
While appearance isn’t everything, its socio-psychological effects are an enduring reality. In a famous 1999 study, two University of Pittsburgh professors made some pretty alarming observations regarding the importance and influence of height in the modern world. In the studies they conducted, it was found that people in management positions were consistently significantly taller than their subordinates. Additionally, in the 46 US Presidential elections where the height of both candidates is known, the taller candidate won 27 times – unfortunately for those of us who are a little vertically challenged, a number of other studies have shown that height may in fact matter.
It has been shown that short people tend to earn less money than their taller colleagues; they also get fewer dates as well as fewer promotions. More than half of U.S CEOs are at least 6 feet tall (about 183 cm). According to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, men and women who clock in at over average height (over 5’10 in males, over 5’4 in females) reported higher levels of happiness than smaller people.
These surprising correlations certainly suggest that height can give people an advantage; yet, these studies do not necessarily prove that taller individuals are always more successful. Take, for example, the following short-statured people. These are some of the most important and influential political figures in history, all clocking in at under 5 feet and 5 inches tall (165cm). They may not be pro basketball players or top supermodels, but their accomplishments certainly serve to exalt them in their own right.
10. Mohandas Gandhi: 5’4
Mohandas Gandhi, often considered the “father of India,” was the leader of the Indian Nationalist movement against British colonial rule. He is known for his hugely influential sociopolitical doctrine of non-violent protest. Gandhi was born in 1869 in Gujarat, a state in the North-West Coast of India. He was influenced by Hinduism, elements of Jainism, Christianity, as well as the writings of Thoreau and Tolstoy. By the 1920, Gandhi was a prominent figure in Indian politics, transforming the Indian National Congress and leading several boycotts of British goods and institutions through his principle of non-cooperation. Gandhi also dedicated his life to improving relations between Hindu and Muslim people. He was assassinated by a Hindu fanatic in 1948.
9. Pablo Picasso: 5’4
Pablo Picasso is consistently regarded as one of the most important artistic figures of the 20th century. Picasso was born in Magala, Spain in 1881 and died in France in 1973. As a young man he attended the Royal Academy of Art in Barcelona. During his lifetime, he created over 22,000 pieces of art. He is known specifically for being one of the founders of “cubism,” one of the most popular art movements of the era. Over the course of his career, his work shifted dramatically; this has led those who study him to divide his work into certain “periods;” for example, the end of World War One marks the beginning of his “Neoclassical Period” wherein Picasso began to explore classic Italian culture, myth and fantasy. Picasso’s diminutive height certainly didn’t hinder his universal, timeless influence on the world.
8. Marcus Garvey: 5’4
Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican-born black nationalist, best known for spearheading the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States. He moved to Harlem, New York in 1916 where his foundation, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, began to thrive. He later became an important figure for civil rights activists. Garvey urged African Americans to return to Africa and be proud of their race; he gained thousands of supporters and even organized the Black Star Line in 1919, which provided African Americans with transportation to Africa. After his death in 1935, his body was returned to his homeland of Jamaica where he was named the country’s first national hero.
7. Queen Elizabeth II: 5’4
Queen Elizabeth II – full name Elizabeth Alexandra Mary – began her reign in February of 1952, and remains in power at present. She is the constitutional monarch of the Commonwealth realms, a group of 16 sovereign states, as well as the head of the 53-member Commonwealth of Nations. She is also considered the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth II was born in London in 1926 and was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became Kind George VI and Queen Elizabeth. On a daily basis, the Queen attends public duties such as ceremonies, receptions and visits abroad. Away from the public eye, the Queen also maintains relationships with private secretaries and political ambassadors to keep her informed. She is also, of course, a glamorous figure of enormous public interest.
6. James Madison: 5’4
James Madison was America’s fourth president, elected in 1808. He was once humorously described by Washington Irving as a “withered little apple-John.” What he lacked in charisma, however, he made up for in political aptitude. He was born in 1751 and was brought up in Orange County, Virginia. In his earlier years, Madison attended Princeton University (which was then called the College of New Jersey), studying history and government. He is considered one of the Fathers of the Constitution, also helping to frame the Bill of Rights and enact some of the first revenue legislation.
5. Elijah Muhammad: 5’4
Elijah Muhammad was an African American religious leader. Born into poverty in the rural South in 1897, Muhammad eventually became a crucial part of the Temple of Islam; in 1934 he wrote “The Final Call to Islam,” which articulated his previously declared belief that Blacks should return to the teachings of Islam, the religion of their ancestors. Muhammad died in 1975, but left behind an enormous movement with a membership of 250,000 people. His teachings later inspired civil rights activist Malcolm X. After his death, his son assumed leadership of the Nation of Islam.
4. Joan of Arc: 5’2
Roman Catholic Saint Joan of Arc was born to a peasant family in Domremy, France in 1412. She was sent on a relief mission to the siege of Orleans; she gained notoriety when the siege was lifted after only nine days with the help of her leadership. Many other successes in battle led to Charles VII’s coronation at Reims. In 1430 she was captured and one year after that she was burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft when she was only 19 years old. Not until 1920 was she was canonized as a Roman Catholic Saint.
3. Fiorello Henry LaGuardia: 5’2
Fiorello Henry LaGuardia was the 99th mayor of New York City. He is often regarded as one of the best mayors in the city’s history. Before his election to office in 1934, LaGuardia led a career in public service and was also elected as Deputy Attorney General upon graduating from New York University in 1910. As mayor, he pledge to “clean house and clean it thoroughly.” Most of all, his psychological effect on New York City is what makes him so memorable; he restored faith in government in his conscientious efforts to be an efficient, involved, and strong-willed leader. He died in 1947 in his home in the Bronx, New York.
2. David Ben Gurion: 5’0
David Ben Gurion was a Zionist political leader, and the first prime minister (1943-1953; 1955-1963) and defense minister (1948-1953; 1955-1963) of Israel. Ben-Gurion was the one who delivered Israel’s Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv on May 14th, 1948. He was the first to sign the Declaration, which he also helped to write. He led Israel during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, uniting the various Jewish militias into what is now known as the Israel Defense Forces; shortly thereafter he became the first Israeli Prime Minister and is regarded as Israel’s “founding father.” He was also regarded as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.
1. Mother Teresa: 4’10
Mother Teresa was a famous missionary who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her altruistic work. She was born in 1910 in Macedonia to a family of Albanian descent. When she turned 18, she joined an Irish community of nuns with missions in India; in 1931, she was sent from Dublin to India, where she took her initial vows as a nun. The Missionaries of Charity remains an important organization, working throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. It also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where its members tend to homeless, to alcoholics, and to AIDS sufferers. Mother Teresa has been honored internationally, receiving – in addition to her Nobel Peace Prize – the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971 and the Nehru Prize in 1972 for promoting international peace and understanding.
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