Iron Lady is a nickname that has frequently been used to describe female heads of government around the world. The term describes a "strong willed" woman. The iron metaphor was most famously applied to Margaret Thatcher, and was coined by Captain Yuri Gavrilov in 1976 in the Soviet newspaper Red Star, for her staunch opposition to the Soviet Union and socialism. Due to the wide popularity of this term, it has since been applied to many female political figures, including regional variations, and even retrospectively.
Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 was the leader for whom the term was coined. On 19 January 1976, Thatcher, having recently been elected Leader of the Conservative Party, gave a speech entitled "Britain Awake" at Kensington Town Hall in Chelsea, London. It included the claim that The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. On 24 January, the Soviet military newspaper Red Star published a response to Thatcher's speech by military journalist Captain Yuri Gavrilov. Gavrilov supplied the headline "The 'Iron Lady' Sounds the Alarm" to the piece, intending an uncomplimentary allusion to Otto von Bismarck, known as the "Iron Chancellor" of imperial Germany. According to Gavrilov's article, Thatcher was at the time already known as "The Iron Lady" in Britain, supposedly on account of her "extreme conservatism". Gavrilov's article was noticed by the British Sunday Times newspaper the next weekend and subsequently given wide publicity. The nickname stuck firmly to Thatcher. A 2011 biographical feature film about her is called The Iron Lady.
Leaders who have earned the unofficial title (some of them post facto) include:
- Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979 to 1990) is the progenitor of this name.
- Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the fourteenth President of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, named one of the most powerful women of the world by Forbes magazine.
- Barbara Castle, a prominent British Labour Party politician, whose active political career spanned over 40 years.
- Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974
- Biljana Plavsic, the President and Vice-President of Republic of Srpska, and member of presidency of Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina active from 1990–2000 is known as "The Serbian Iron Lady"
- Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 31 October 1984.
- Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996.
- Joyce Banda, President of Malawi since 7 April 2012.
- Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, from 2010 until 2013.
- Manuela Ferreira Leite, the Portuguese Minister of Education during Cavaco Silva's cabinet between 1993 and 1995, Minister of State and Finances during Durão Barroso cabinet between 6 April 2002 and 2004, and leader of the Portuguese PSD party between 2008 and 2010, was known as the "Portuguese Iron Lady", due to her alleged excessive politics of contention
- Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine from 2007 to 2010 (and in 2005) but has also been called the "Leader of the Orange Revolution" and the "Gas Princess" a number of times in the media.
- Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, President of Latvia from 1999 to 2007
- Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008, and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme since 2009
- Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil since 2011
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia since 2006
- Dalia Grybauskaitė, the President of Lithuania since 2009
- Natalia Petkevich, First Deputy Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus since 2009
- Nilde Iotti, former President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
- Erna Solberg, current leader of the Conservative Party of Norway, during her time as Minister of Local Government and Regional Development (Norway), 2001–2005, was known among opponents as "Iron Erna", due to the immigration policy of Kjell Magne Bondevik's second government.
- Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Argentina since 2007, re-elected in 2011, was called the 'Iron Lady of Argentina', mainly because of her determined attitude towards the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute.
- Wu Yi, was one of four Vice Premiers of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.
- Miriam Defensor Santiago is a Judge-elect of the International Criminal Court, and a member of the Senate of the Philippines in (1995–2001, 2004–2010, 2010–2016) is sometimes regarded as an Iron Lady. Santiago has also been known to voice her admiration for Thatcher from time to time.
- Park Geun-Hye, inaugurated in 2013 as the first female President of South Korea, is known for her tough stance on North Korea.
- Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady of the United States (1993-2001), former U.S. Senator from New York (2001-2009), US Secretary of State (2009–2013), and longtime frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, is sometimes labelled an Iron Lady.
- Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition, referred to as the "Iron Lady of Antitrust" or "Steely Neelie"
- Anson Chan, Hong Kong's former Chief Secretary for Administration, has been referred to as the "Iron Lady" of Hong Kong.
Some female politicians have been given other nicknames that bear a similar connotation to that of an Iron Lady:
- The "Steel Butterfly" is the nom de guerre of former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
- Iron Rita is a nickname of former Dutch immigration minister Rita Verdonk
- Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was given the nickname "Titanium Lady", playing on some of her similarities with Thatcher.
- In response to Manuela Ferreira Leite's nickname "Dama de Ferro Portuguesa" (Portuguese Iron Lady), her opponents and critics ironically started referring to her as "Dama de Latão" (Yellow brass Lady) and popularising the term.
- Angela Merkel is often referred to as the "Iron Frau" in Germany.
- Pauline Marois is known as "Dame de béton" (lit. "concrete woman") in French.
- Dalia Grybauskaitė is also commonly referred to as the "Steel Magnolia" in Lithuania.
- Iron Duke (disambiguation)
- Persephone, sometimes called the "Iron Queen".
- Iron maiden, for other uses of this similar term
- Iron maiden, for the torture device
- "Britain Awake". Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
- Gavrilov, Yuri, "The 'Iron Lady' Sounds the Alarm", Krasnaya zvezda, 1976-01-24, p. 3, translated at The Current Digest of the Soviet Press – Volume 28, Issues 1–13 – Page 17
- Amazing & Extraordinary Facts – Prime Ministers, David & Charles, http://books.google.com/books?id=lrKJaTWhlm8C&pg=PT108&dq=%22iron+lady%22+Gavrilov&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UCBnUf6nPImdkQXpvoC4Bw&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA
- http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1370&dat=20020124&id=3oMVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mgsEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4030,2570067 Gloria Arroyo: Iron Lady of Asia 24 January 2002
- U.K. loses its first Iron Lady By Hasan Suroor (The Hindu) 5 May 2002
- Butt, Gerald (21 April 1998). "Golda Meir". BBC News. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- "Biljana Plavsic: Serbian iron lady". BBC News 27 February 2003
- Aussie Iron Lady will die fighting. The Daily Telegraphy 27 July 2012
- Gillard reveals her inner iron lady, and gets her way. The Sydney Morning Herald 20 November 2011
- "Manuela Ferreira Leite, Portugal's "Iron Lady"". www.topnews.in. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Ukraine's Iron Lady, Time magazine (30 January 2005)
- Ukraine's Iron Lady provokes rift, The Guardian (3 July 2005)
- "Iron lady Helen Clark has steel for global challenge". Stuff.co.nz. 5 April 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
- "Brazil: 'Iron Lady' Is New Chief Of Staff". The New York Times. 22 June 2005. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
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- "Liberia's 'Iron Lady' claims win". BBC. 11 November 2005. Retrieved 23 July 2006.
- Lithuania elects first female president ABC News Dalia Grybauskaite: Lithuania’s ‘Iron Lady’. Khaleej Times.
- "The Successor of Lukashenko could be the "Iron Lady" of Belarus – Natalia Petkevich". newsru.com. 9 July 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- Usborne, David (11 February 2012). "Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner: The iron lady of the Malvinas". The Independent (London). Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Williams, Ian. "South Korea's 'Iron Lady' Park Geun-hye comes to Washington". NBC News. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Riley, Alan (3 December 2009). "The legacy of the Iron Lady of Antitrust". European Voice. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- Wan, William (17 August 2014). "Hong Kong's 'Iron Lady' takes up democracy fight with Beijing". Guardian Weekly.
- Rowan, Roy (29 March 1976). "Orchid or Iron Butterfly, Imelda Marcos Is a Prime Mover in Manila". People Magazine. Retrieved 23 July 2006.
- van Egmond, Joost (2 July 2006). "Iron Rita Loses Her Mettle". Time. Retrieved 23 July 2006.
- van de Pol, Jurjen (3 April 2008). "'Iron Rita' Starts New Dutch Political Party After Wilders Film". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 23 July 2006.
- Federation of American Scientists. NATO-List: USIA – Albright Foreign Media Reaction: "Titanium Lady Shows Her Mettle in Moscow" The conservative Daily Telegraph pointed out (21 February 1997)