It started for Margaret Thatcher during her first foray into politics in the fifties, when she was criticized for running for office as a mother of two. “Did I realise how much being an MP would keep me away from home?” Thatcher wrote in her autobiography, recalling some of the questions she faced. “Could I fulfil my duties as a mother and an MP?” Such sexist attitudes never abated over Thatcher’s four decades in politics. In fact, as she rose through the ranks of British government and eventually became the first and only female prime minister in British history, they only got nastier. Here are ten quotes that give you a taste of what Thatcher faced.
“Do you dress as a leader, as a woman, for yourself or for your husband?” —Barry St John Nevill, reporter with the Hornsey Journal.
“My God! The bitch has won!” —the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party, upon Thatcher becoming the party’s leader.
“Ditch the bitch.” —A popular Labour party slogan.
“Shrill and hectoring.” —Peter Mandelson, the Labour Party’s Communications Director, on Thatcher’s “first ever televised performance in the Commons.”
“In her presence, you pretty quickly forget that she’s a woman. She doesn’t strike me as a very female type.” —Zbigniew Brzezinski.
“The Iron Man.” —Yasser Arafat’s nickname for Thatcher.
“Attila the Hen.” —Nickname for Thatcher by member of Parliament Clement Freud.
“It’s been a touching spectacle: the brave little woman getting on with the woman’s work of trying to dominate the world.” —Austin Mitchell, member of Parliament
“She has the eyes of Caligula but the mouth of Marilyn Monroe.” —French president Francois Mitterand.
“What does she want, this housewife? My balls on a tray?” —French president Jacques Chirac.