When Americans think about women in politics, they usually think about Hillary Clinton. The woman that should come to mind, however, is Margaret Thatcher. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” she was elected as the first female Prime Minister of England in 1979. Thatcher is truly underrated, especially after her exemplary leadership that impacted not only England, but the entire world. No, Thatcher was not a feminist, nor did she need to lean on her husband for political gain; she simply made it to the top through individual agility and continuous hard work.
Born in Grantham, England, Thatcher grew up in a humble flat above her family-owned grocery store. She was introduced to politics by her father, a member of the town’s council, and this sparked an ongoing interest within her that lasted a lifetime. Being the motivated woman that she was, Thatcher attended Oxford to study chemistry while also serving as the Conservative Association president. After earning her degree, she went on to work as a research chemist.
As her official grand entrance into politics, Thatcher ran as a Conservative candidate for a Dartford Parliamentary seat during the 1950 elections. Although she lost twice to the liberal Labor Party, this allowed Thatcher to gain momentum. She continued to stand tall and gained a copious amount of respect for her strong speeches.
Thatcher took time to study law aside from being in the robust political arena and eventually became qualified as a lawyer. Later, she was appointed as Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, and was the youngest woman to ever hold this position. This was only the beginning for her. Nine years later, Conservatives returned to office and Thatcher became the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
While Secretary of State, Thatcher had a difficult time getting Prime Minister Edward Heath to listen to her ideas. She is even quoted saying that she did not foresee a female Prime Minister within her lifetime, later proving herself wrong. When the Conservative Party lost power again, Thatcher beat out Heath in getting elected leader of the Conservative Party and thus became the first woman to serve as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons.
In 1975, England was in economic and political trouble, which helped the Conservative Party once again gain power. As a result of this, Thatcher was appointed Britain’s first female Prime Minister in 1979. She is known for many her feats such as controlling inflation, attacking labor unions, privatizing social housing and public transport, and dealing swiftly with foreign affair conflicts. Her third term was known for reforms to the education system, National Health Service, and the local government tax system. Through her time as Prime Minister, she shared similar conservative views with her close friend and ally, U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
During the annual Conservative Party conference in 1984, the Irish Republican Army bombed the hotel in which Thatcher and her cabinet were staying due to her refusal to meet their political demands. Although this hurt or caused death to several of her cabinet members, she remained unharmed and motivated to continue with the conference the next day. In response to this, she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement with Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald which started the peace process between the Irish and British governments. Her rapid reaction to this tragedy and her willingness to move forward immediately is one of many reasons why she is nicknamed the “Iron Lady.”
After retiring in 1990, Thatcher still did not stop. Being politically active, she intervened with domestic and international affairs and also set up the Margaret Thatcher Foundation to continue expressing her ideas to the public. In addition to public speaking, she wrote two memoirs and a novel.
These successes are imperative for any motivated conservative woman to look up to in her affairs. She defeated the Left’s typical idea of a woman in politics. She did not need to play the “gender card” as Hillary Clinton has throughout her career, but instead succeeded purely based on merit and hard work. This sends an empowering message for women in America and other places where equality has been met – Margaret Thatcher succeeded without feminism, and you can too.