Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi were both polarizing figures in their countries, who left behind controversial legacies. Both of these influential leaders seized opportunity when it appeared, and overcame the obstacles of being female politicians during some tremendously difficult and trying times. However, both of these women proved that leadership is not dependent on gender, yet on the determination and passion one has for their country.
On October 13, 1925, Margaret Thatcher was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire (Aitken, p.9). Thatcher spent her childhood in Grantham, where her father owned two grocery stores. Although her father made a good income, Margaret grew up in quite poor conditions. Her home lacked a bathroom, running water, or any heating. This was because her father insisted on saving, rather than spending (Aitken, p.11). At the age of five, Thatcher enrolled in Huntingtower Road Council School, thought to be the best elementary school in Grantham (Aitken, p.17). Here, she won a scholarship to Kesteven and Grantham Girls School. Thatcher excelled in extracurricular activities, and was head girl during the years of 1942-1943 (Aitken, p.22). Margaret was accepted to Somerville College in Oxford under scholarship, where she received a degree in chemistry (Wagner-Wright). She loved politics, gaining her first experience as President of the Oxford Conservative Association in 1947. Two years later, Margaret was named as a candidate for the safe Labour seat of Dartford, however lost the election. Despite her loss, she won something much greater during this time, her husband Denis Thatcher (Wagner- Wright). Denis provided Margaret with opportunities that allowed her to pursue her dreams. He was extremely wealthy, and funded Thatcher’s law studies, where she became a barrister specializing in tax law (Wagner-Wright). In 1953, Margaret gave birth to twins, Carol and Mark. However, she did not let becoming a mother restrict her career (The Economist). In 1959, Thatcher began to establish herself by entering Parliament, representing the Conservative’s Party “safe” seat at Finchley, North London. After a hard campaign, Thatcher was elected as MP for the seat (Wagner-Wright). In 1961, Margaret was appointed as Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, the youngest women in history to receive such a position (The Economist). During this time many mentioned her name as a future candidate for Prime Minister. Thatcher herself deemed more pessimistic and stated: “There will be no woman Prime Minister in my lifetime- the male population is too prejudiced” (Wagner-Wright). In 1966, Thatcher moved to the Conservative’s Treasury team, where she argued against high-tax policies of the Labour Government, stating that lower taxes served as an incentive to hard work. She was also one of the few Conservative Members of Parliament to support a bill decriminalizing male homosexuality, and a bill to legalize abortion (The Economist). In 1970, Margaret was offered her first Cabinet position, as Secretary of State for Education and Science. Here, she received her first negative image – “Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”, because of her decision to end the free school milk program (Wagner- Wright). During February of the year 1975, the Conservative party met to elect their new leader. Thatcher was recognized as being ready for the challenge of opposing the Labour Party, and despite the fact that she was a woman, was elected the nation’s first female leader (Wagner- Wright). Immediately Thatcher began crafting her public image, and was given the title “The Iron Lady”, by The Red Star, a Soviet Army Newspaper. This term was not meant as a compliment, however Thatcher made it an asset (Wagner-Wright). The years of 1974-1979 were one of the most difficult in British history. The country endured a state of bankruptcy in 1976, when a collapse in the value of currency on the foreign...
Cited: 1. Aitken, Jonathan . Margaret Thatcher- Power and Responsibility. N/A: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. Print.
2. Riedel, Bruce. "Remembering Margaret Thatcher- Thatcher 's Real Soul Mate Was Indira Gandhi." The Daily Beast 1 (2013): n. pag. The Daily Beast. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
3. "No Ordinary Politician - Margaret Thatcher." The Economist 407.8831 (2013): 26-28. Pro Quest. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.
5. "Biography of Margaret Thatcher." Essential Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher Foundation, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2014. .
9. Roy, Ajit . "The Failure of Indira Gandhi." Economic and Political Weekly 19.45 (1984): 189. Jstor. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
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