Margaret Thatcher – a woman who was or was not a feminist – died this morning at the age of 87. She was the first female Prime Minister in the UK. She died of a stroke after a long struggle with dementia. There are a lot of different people who will describe her in a lot of different ways. She was known for her strong stand against the miner’s union, and her close relationship with Ronald Reagan, and the words you use to describe her might depend on how you feel about those topics. However, whatever you feel about those things, it’s still worth remembering that she was the first female Prime Minister in the UK.
I think our friend Hugo Schwyzer made an interesting point when he said that:
I think that’s true. I also think it is worth remembering that when Margaret Thatcher was Secretary for Education in 1974, women in Britain could not sign for their own credit card, mortgage or loan. And she managed to be the Secretary of Education.
Does that, then, make Margaret Thatcher a feminist?
Well, it certainly makes her a very strong woman, and one who had to undergo some of the struggles feminists deal with on a regular basis and should relate to. She was frequently dismissed by members of her own party for being a “grocer’s daughter.” That wasn’t some bizarre insult, she was, literally, a grocer’s daughter.
It’s not surprising, then, that she was given to quippy turns of phrase that are appreciated by some members of the feminist movement like, “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
Regarding her economic policies, she also claimed, “My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.” That seems to fit very closely with the feminist notion that women and men deserve equal pay for equal work.
Thatcher also defied any notion that men had at the time that a female Prime Minister would be too “soft” given her refusal to be moved by… anything. The lady was not for turning. Interestingly, in a recent Reuter’s Poll 40% of men voted her Britain’s most capable Prime Minister, while only 32% of women did.
Truly, Margaret with her great strength and willpower seems like she ought to be an icon for the feminist movement. Except.
Except she really hated feminists.