People rarely feel ambivalent about former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Individuals either love her, hate her, or love to hate her. Lady Thatcher served as prime minister from 1979-1990, after winning three consecutive elections. No matter how you view her politics, her role as an icon is cemented in history. Though some may be surprised by the title of feminist, it's not actually out of place. Margaret Thatcher never stopped speaking truth to power and she fought ardently for what she believed in, no matter what opposition stood in her way.
Here are 5 unlikely ways she became a feminist:
1. She was the first female Prime Minister.
As writer Nicholas Kristof noted today, "first generation female political leaders are often tough conservatives but they open the door for others." Thatcher was the woman who remade Britain. She consistently fought against the status quo of her own party until they embraced her as their leader. As many feminists today find themselves on the outskirts of the mainstream, so too was Thatcher. She remains both an icon and an outcast of the country she brought back to its former splendor.
2. "In politics, if you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman."
Lady Thatcher never questioned the ability of a woman to lead a nation. Thatcher knew who her allies were and she chose them exceptionally carefully. She saw both friend and ally in the U.S. President Ronald Reagan and so she affiliated herself closely with him. It was a move that brought both individuals greater power. Thatcher didn't leave you to guess how she felt about you, she'd much rather tell you to your face. When men told her no, she ignored them and went ahead and did what she felt was right anyway.
3. She fundamentally transformed the United Kingdom.
Thatcher's political decisions, economic decisions will always be divisive. She personally pushed the British conservative party towards more Free Market policies. Thatcher fought with conservatives and liberals alike and she often came out on top if nothing else than through sheer force of will. She brought trade unionists to their knees, she privatized social institutions and she went into war in the Falklands that no one told her she could win, and won it. She was political leader in every sense of the word.
4. She has an ‘ism’ named after her.
Thatcherism. Despite her relative and continued unpopularity with the people of Britain, there aren’t many Britons living who don’t know what Thatcherism is. She fiercely believed in the power of the individual and of the free market to provide where government could or should not. Thatcher wasn't afraid, not of public polls, not of her party, and certainly not of her opposition.
5. She truly was an Iron Lady.
Facing revolt from her own party at the start of the 1980s she stood giving a speech to a Conservative party conference. As she spoke, members of her own party stood up and turned their backs on her. They thought her ideas were too conservative, that they were leading Britain to financial ruination, so one by one they stood and turned. To which she famously replied,“Turn if you like, The lady’s not for turning.” Love her or hate her, she was a fiercely determined woman.
She was unquestionably tough and fought with everything she had for what she believed in. Thatcher wasn't afraid to drag men along side her as she transformed the way politics, economics, and wars were fought and won. You might hate her or you might love her, but what you cannot do is deny her role in shaping the political discourse of the twentieth century. She opened, no, she kicked down the door for women to enter into politics.