This past October, Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister would have turned 92.
Margaret Thatcher may not have had the reputation of being the best of mothers or wives since her life was focused on politics, but as a woman, she marked a “before” and an “after” in the 20th century. Although some of her decisions were controversial (some economic measures, the Falklands war, etc.), she always remained strong in order to govern in a male-dominated world and to achieve what she felt were the right steps leading toward Great Britain’s economic recovery and the end of communism.
1. A powerful woman
She was the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, as well as the first woman to head a European government. She was in power from 1979 to 1990 (the longest tenure for any British leader since the early 19th century). It took over 20 years for another woman to take the reins of power in her country: Theresa May in 2016.
2. She was not a fan of the European Union
Thatcher promoted national autonomy and did not believe that all of Europe could live under the same single currency; each country had a different degree of economic development, and history had shown that every fixed or forced exchange rate had failed. She believed that each nation should take pride in its independence, while cooperating with others.
3. “The Milk Snatcher”
This was the nickname Thatcher earned when she was minister of education between 1970 and 1974. Why? When she needed to cut public spending in the state-run educational system, she eliminated the policy of giving free milk to children between the ages of 7 and 11 — a move that was met with a wave of criticism. Later, as prime minister, she immediately rejected a proposal to cut the free milk benefit for schoolchildren under five years of age.
4. Her famous pearl necklace
She would change her clothing and her hairstyle, but a pearl necklace would always be part of her outfit. Her favorite piece was a two-row necklace that her husband gave her when their twins were born. For Thatcher, pearls were luxurious, but not frivolous or decadent like diamonds.
5. Creator of ice cream?
Before becoming a politician, she graduated with a degree in chemistry from the University of Oxford and worked first for a glue factory and then for a food factory. In this second job, it is said that she helped develop what we now know as soft-serve ice cream. While a popular anecdote — and Thatcher did indeed work with the company that pioneered soft-serve ice cream in England — The New Yorker and other publications claim that her role in inventing the creamy frozen dessert is a myth.
Although some say she “wore the pants” in the government of the United Kingdom (hence the nickname “The Iron Lady”), Thatcher actually preferred not to wear pants and always opted for skirts and dresses.
That was Margaret Thatcher’s answer when they asked her what title she would give to a book about her life. She won three general elections as the leader of the conservative party.
According to Cynthia Crawford, her assistant and friend for more than 30 years, she and the English politician could spend hours perusing Vogue and trying on different outfits to choose the most appropriate (and powerful) one for each occasion. She loved hats and purses, and the color blue, and Clinique was her favorite brand for makeup and skin care products.
9. Her favorite drink
For special occasions, she liked to drink Cointreau, but day-to-day, she enjoyed a glass of whiskey and soda to relax after a long day at work.
10. Her secret weapon
She considered her black leather Salvatore Ferragamo purse (which was later auctioned for more than $150,000) the only safe place to store things in Downing Street. But, just in case, she also had a gun — the same model used by the police of Northern Ireland.