Aren’t all colossal leaders ambivalent figures, feted by some, hated by others, & rarely understood in life or death? Former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher died today at the age of 87.
I grew up in Thatcher’s England. My family suffered under her economic policies and has never recovered. I have no love for her cabinets’ social or educational impact and my father developed a semi-permanent frowning wrinkle just for her. She coddled South Africa’s apartheid regime and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and with Chile’s tactical support, she warred with Argentina over tiny islands 8,000 miles away from England’s shores. She narrowly escaped death when the Irish Republican Army bombed her party conference hotel at an English sea resort. And she was re-elected as prime minister the year I was born.
The Iron Lady was also one of many strong female leaders in my life who showed and taught me that authority was not gendered, that sex neither qualified nor disqualified men or women for leadership, and that tradition and custom were not themselves reason to dodge significant change. Her incredible visibility when I was small cracked open realms of possibility for me and young women like me. Her clarity and tenacity modeled passage out of social prejudices and limiting expectations; even when these paths were mirages, they were mirages of the best kind and they became my muses. Because she walked ahead of me, I gained.
I expect historians to fight over Baroness Thatcher’s legacy more than any other recent Prime Minister except perhaps Tony Blair. But I won’t fight anyone about her legacy myself; I have my own memories of her and her work, and that is enough.
“Her outstanding characteristics will always be remembered by those who worked closely with her: courage and determination in politics, and humanity and generosity of spirit in private.” —Former Prime Minister Sir John Major, Thatcher’s successor
Blessings and love to the Thatcher family.