Margaret Thatcher Leaned In Before It Was a Thing

APMargaret Thatcher, the first and only female prime minister of England died on Monday morning from a stroke at age 87.

President Obama released a statement saying that Thatcher’s achievements taught “our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered.”

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According to The New York Times, Thatcher had retired from public life about two years ago but over the course of her 11-year career as prime minister, she was known largely for challenging gender barriers in the Conservative Party, turning around Britain's economy, and leading the country through a 1982 war in the Falklands. The fact that she was a woman was an asset, not a barrier (she was famous for the 1975 quote, "In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.") Her nicknames "The Iron Lady" and "Attilla the Hen" were just icing on the cake. She told People Magazine in 1980: "Any leader has to have a certain amount of steel in them, so I am not that put out about being called the Iron Lady at all. As for Attilla the Hen, I thought it was really rather funny. One really musn't get too put off by these things."

Indeed, Thatcher didn't have much time for distraction. She once said that she never goes one day without working and attributed her career ambitions to her roles as wife to the late millionaire businessman Denis Thatcher (whom she was married to for nearly 52 years) and mother to twins. Daughter Carol, 59, is a journalist and reality star ("I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here") and son Mark, also 59, is a race car driver.
 
Thatcher said of her work ethic, "It comes from being a mother and having a family. You find with your family it's you in the end who adapts to the needs of everyone else. You do it quite subconsciously. You know someone will blow up if you say this or do that, and so you sort of keep 10 balls in the air at once. Having done that with family, I find that in government as well I am the one who is adapting."

Margaret and Denis Thatcher at Buckingham Palace two weeks before Denis' death in 2003.However when it came to balancing work and family, her main priority was a no-brainer. "If you've got security and certainty behind you, if you come home to total loyalty and affection, then your basic worries in life are gone. They really are. My family is far-flung—my daughter Carol is in Australia—but we are very much a family. My great treat in life is once a fortnight I ring up Carol in Australia. It's always thought that daughters get on better with fathers, but my daughter and I get on marvelously well. I must not intrude too much on her life, but when she comes home, the whole world smiles and sings. Of course I'm better because there is nothing in my family to worry about. My husband, Denis, has made a niche for himself in the most remarkable way."

Despite the fact that Thatcher embodied the "Lean In" culture, she was criticized by many feminists who claimed that she wasn't doing enough to advance the women's movement. Her take on "radical" feminists: "I think sometimes they are too strident and emphasize the wrong things. I just think that if you have got what it takes, you'll find a way of bringing it out in the ordinary course of life. Now, we have certainly had to break down some barriers...The interesting thing is that legislation itself has not brought colossal advantages. I can never see the point of putting women's rights forward stridently. You just say there are certain human rights that are available to both men and women. But I don't think men and women can necessarily be the same. The fact is that women have children, and this mother-child bond is the greatest bond in the world. It's far better to make something of it than try to act as if you had never had it."

Twins Mark and Carol (Photo by Getty)As much as she wanted to be treated equally in her career, she accepted the fact that physical scrutiny came with the job of a female political figure. "Being a woman is part of my whole personality," she told People back in 1980. "What does one expect me to do? Subdue it? Certainly not. I make the best of what I have got, just as I make the best of the talents I have got."