So Margaret Thatcher has been voted the most influential woman of the last 70 years. This is a person, who, with respect, generates some major emotions when her name is spoken!
There are people who idolise her, and others who hold her responsible for destroying the heavy industry of the United Kingdom, OR that she was the ‘milk snatcher’ of school children. Read the article about this poll here.
I know this article will provoke some passionate thought: both for and against the individual. But here goes…
Personally, I believe the policies of the Conservative Party (and Thatcher) during the 1980s DID result in the demise of heavy industry – particularly the Mining industry, HOWEVER, it was inevitable, and personally it could have been dealt with in a different way, so there was other employment available for the workforce – rather than communities being impacted with most of the workforce being unemployed.
However, as a politician and a woman I DO admire her. When I was growing up in the 70s, women’s voices were not heard. It was rare to have women reading the news (the coverage when there were first female newsreaders was astonishing); women’s opinions were rarely heard; in the church no women’s voices were heard as no women were ordained until the 90s. It was a very different world where there were few female role models and very very few female politicians.
Although there had been other female leaders internationally before, this was the first time a ‘major’ country had had a female leader and she was HEARD! She was, and still is a phenomenon on that front.
Of course people always mention Thatcher’s voice and the fact it she received vocal training to lower the pitch. Thatcher had a high pitched voice and it became strident and screechy when she raised her voice or became stressed. This wasn’t ideal: particularly for the audience of upper middle class men that occupied the Conservative Party at the time.
As well as her gender, Thatcher’s background made it remarkable that she was so successful. The Conservative party of the 1970s was still largely dominated by very privileged, upper middle class men. Thatcher was from a less privileged background; had worked very hard to to win a scholarship to study at Oxford University; and when she decided to run for parliament, she was the only female candidate. She had to be pushed to be heard: not only because of her background but also her gender.
Of course, the previous leader of the Conservatives (Edward Heath) was also not from a ‘traditional’ Tory background of the time but the combination of a female leader AND her background meant the party was completely outside its comfort zone. Yet people recognised her work ethic, her vision, passion and ability to command a stage – even at international level.
During her time as PM and after she left office, it became less strange for women to be heard – although I appreciate there is still a way to go. But her presence on the international stage and also at national political level meant that the misogynist myth that women weren’t capable of leading or that their opinions weren’t valid was quashed. So like her or loath her, Thatcher really had a major influence for women over the last 70 years. What do you think?