When I was a little girl, growing up in the 80s, I had many wonderful female role models to look up to. There were pop stars and movie stars and writers and dreamers and of course, Miss Piggy. The two women that stand out most in my memory from my childhood, were Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, you won’t remember that there was a very real threat of nuclear war. The United States and Russia were poised to drop nuclear bombs on each other at any day. Of course, we all knew that the inevitable outcome of any such event would be the destruction of our world. No one wanted that, so the two nations were at a stalemate.
Margaret Thatcher publicly supported an end to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, but even more important than that support, was her open and genuine affection for Mikhail Gorbachev. Her like of Mr. Gorbachev opened doors for him within his own government. Gorbachev himself credits her with easing the tensions between himself and former President Reagan. The camaraderie between these two gentlemen is what made an end to the Cold War possible and Margaret Thatcher made that relationship possible. She was instrumental in bringing an end to one of the most frightening times in the 20th century.
She was so much more than just a matchmaker though. She was a trailblazer. Whenever you see a photo of Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister, look in the background behind her. How often do you see other women standing behind her in those photos? Take a look at this slideshow that I found on the New York Times website. I wonder if you’ll notice it as quickly as I did. She’s like a lone flower, standing in a sea of black tailored suits worn by men. Look in the background of each and every one of these photos where she’s pictured. It doesn’t take long to put together, the Margaret Thatcher was the first woman of her kind. She was the first woman to be the Prime Minister of Great Britain and to this day remains the only woman to have held that office. She was also the longest serving Prime Minster of the 20th century. She accomplished something that, to date, no American woman has been able to accomplish and it is my belief that President Obama owes his position to her, because without her to change the minds of the narrow-minded, how could a western nation have accepted a leader that was not an old white man. Pay your respects, sir. You owe her that.
Mrs. Thatcher’s one crime, if you can call it a crime at all, was being a political conservative. Even though the things she did in her life broke ground for an entire generation of women to follow her, and the generations of women that will follow them, she has been long overlooked because of her politics. The Hollywood film based on her life, seemed to diminish her accomplishments somehow by choosing to focus on her dementia, a disease which plagued her in her later life, and not on the changes she made for the betterment of the British people, or the trail she blazed for young women, like myself. She was a singular human being. I did not know her personally, but I have admired her for the incredible accomplishments that she made all my life.
In light of all of this, I think you’ll understand that I was sickened and disgusted when I woke up to a slew of hateful tweets about Margaret Thatcher this morning. They said things like “glad she’s dead, one less conservative” and “one less vote against gay marriage.” What was worse, was that these comments were from people who claim to hate intolerance.
What you see right there, ladies and gentlemen, is known as “hypocrisy” and “misogyny.” Both are alive and well in our world. What really stunned me, is that these things were said as if, somehow, hating on Margaret Thatcher, who got teased about forgetting her apron and her handbag, then later asked to serve tea in Parliament, is not hate speech. You may not agree with her politics, but there is no denying what she accomplished in an era when women were expected to stick to the kitchen. She drug her country up by its bootstraps at a time when economic collapse seemed certain. Maybe her plans weren’t perfect, but even her opponents agreed that she left behind a Britain that was far better off than it was when she arrived at Number 10 Downing Street.
I dare you to do better with your life.
Rest in peace Mrs. Thatcher, may you be in the arms of your beloved Denis once more and thank you for taking part in making the world we live in a better place.