Margaret Thatcher: Iron Lady, Controversial Politician and Feminist Role Model

Natasha Shah ’15
Staff Writer

As many of you know, Margaret Thatcher passed away this past week. Her death prompted a series of reflections and reminded the public of what a controversial figure she was. Thatcher was the longest serving British Prime Minister in the 20th century, but though she was the first woman to take the position, she has been called an enemy by many feminists. Her economic policies are blamed for creating unemployment in British cities that still exists today, yet many claim that it was Thatcher who fixed England’s economic downturn in the 1980’s.

Thatcher was a woman who managed to anger the Church of England, the BBC and trade unions while in office, yet this did not stop her from pursuing policies she felt needed to be implemented. While many continue to criticize her brand of politics often referred to as “Thatcherism,” Thatcher was an unrelenting woman who fought for policies she believed were right and refused to let scrutiny and criticism stand in the way of her doing what she felt was best for Britain and for the world.

Thatcher came from a middle class background and went on to receive a degree in chemistry at Oxford. It was after graduating from Oxford in 1947 that Thatcher ran for office as the Conservative candidate for the safe Labor seat of Darford, a political constituency in Britain. Thatcher garnered attention in this race as the youngest and only female candidate up for election. Thatcher eventually went on to be elected Prime Minister in 1979.

From the outset, Thatcher showed that she would not take account of public opinion or political wisdom when it came to her policies. Thatcher cut spending on higher education, which made her the first Oxford educated Prime Minister not to receive an honorary degree from the university. While this may have discouraged some, Thatcher continued to cut spending and cut direct taxes in order to increase incentive for workers. Thatcher also worked to lower inflation by increasing interest rates and privatizing industries, both of which also made her unpopular with the public. However, Thatcher was never intimidated by the criticism she received from the media because of these policies. Her approval rating fell to 23 percent in 1980 but by 1987, the economy had begun to pick up, unemployment ratings fell and Thatcher was reelected for her third term.

There are numerous examples of Thatcher’s fortitude and professionalism as a politician. Thatcher took a massive risk by attempting to get the Falkland Islands back from Argentina. Because Thatcher succeeded and the islands were returned to Britain, Thatcher was hailed as one of the best post-war leaders. Despite knowing how much of a risk there was associated with this mission, Thatcher once again showed her resolve. In 1984 Thatcher faced an assassination attempt while she was staying at a hotel to attend a conference for the Conservative Party. Despite the attack, Thatcher delivered a speech the next day at the conference as planned.

In an era where people are constantly preoccupied with how others perceive them, we can all learn from Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher stood up for what she believed in regardless of the fact that it made her unpopular. She never backed down from her views and she was never intimidated.  Thatcher was determined to do what she felt would be best for the country even if it meant overcoming hurdles and facing intense criticism from those she sought to help.

Had public opinion mattered to Thatcher as it does to many politicians of our time, there is every possibility that her time as Prime Minister would have played out entirely differently. Instead, Thatcher solidified her reputation as a rare politician. As a woman and as a leader, Thatcher set an example for people everywhere. Although we may not all agree with her politics, her strength and perseverance is something we can all incorporate into our lives.

Leave a Comment