Margaret Thatcher has been called a lot of things, but she was indisputably one hell of a woman.
Though she rebuked the feminist movement and the notion that it aided her own numerous achievements, she is the ultimate feminist icon. In word she criticized the movement, but in action she progressed it farther than most modern day feminists.
A grocer’s daughter and the first in her family to attend college, Thatcher defied her expected roles from the beginning. She earned a master’s degree in chemistry before passing the bar in 1953 and becoming active in politics. She questioned and redefined society’s imagined role for women, urging us females to not “follow the crowd” but to “make up [our] own minds.”
Thatcher crushed the glass ceiling in England in 1979 when she became the first female prime minister and the first woman in modern times to lead a western super power. She had high standards and loathed to compromise principle, but she was as keen on feminism as she was cowing to male expectation.
“The battle for women’s rights has largely been won,” she declared. “I hate those strident tones we hear from some women’s libbers.” Considering there has yet to be another female prime minister, this statement is as ironic as her dissociation with feminism. What do feminists ask, if not to be judged by their actions rather than their gender? Thatcher demanded no less throughout her life, though she consistently faced the scrupulous double-standard between career woman and career man – “concern” over her ability to be a successful politician and mother.
Whether she would like it or not, Thatcher forwarded the feminist movement by being a dangerous adversary to the status quo. She purported the idea that if you wanted people to stop talking about the fact that you are a woman, you should stop talking about the fact that you are a woman.
There is no denying her influence on gender stereotypes, but far more than that, she is a feminist icon for showing the power of action, the persuasion in perseverance. From her humble beginnings Thatcher rose to the top of a male dominated field entirely on her own terms, galvanizing the scope of achievement that young women could expect possible; giving them an example of a woman who succeeded without conceding herself to what others thought of her.
Her unique ideas angered as many as they excited, but both champions and detractors of Thatcher’s legacy must admit, she is the ultimate feminist icon.