Thatcher’s refusal to conform to such neo-traditional stereotypes would likely have earned her the wrath of the sisterhood even if she had been more outspoken on behalf of women’s rights. Member of Parliament and former actress Glenda Jackson caused a stir recently when, during a tribute to Thatcher in the House of Commons, she not only assailed the late premier’s “heinous” legacy but questioned her female identity, saying that women of the World War II generation would not have seen their ideas of “womanliness” in Thatcher: “The first Prime Minister of female gender, OK. But a woman? Not on my terms.”
This suggestion that conservative women are somehow “not real women” is not a new thing on the left. It is a bizarre permutation of the more old-fashioned misogyny that denies a woman’s femaleness if she is too ambitious or outspoken, or insufficiently maternal.
Meanwhile, conservatives who salute Thatcher often downplay the extent to which she broke traditional molds of femininity. She was a woman who wrote, all the way back in 1952, that a woman could have children and resume her career after a short break. In 1991, six months after leaving office, she was quoted as saying, “Home is where you come to when you’ve got nothing better to do.”