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 epithet, it has since been applied to many women political figures, including regional variations, and even retrospectively.
Use in politics
Leaders who have earned the unofficial title (some of them post facto) include:
- Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. On January 19 1976, Thatcher, having recently been elected Leader of the Conservative Party, gave a speech entitled "Britain Awake" at Kensington Town Hall in Chelsea. 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. She is the subject of the 2011 biographical feature film The Iron Lady.
- 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 14 January 1980 to 31 October 1984.
- Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988 until 1990 and 1993 until 1996.
- Joyce Banda, President of Malawi since April 7, 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)
- 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, 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, reelected in 2011, was called 'Iron lady' or similarly, 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, and 2011–2016.
- Park Geun-Hye, the President of South Korea inaugurated in 2013, is known for her tough stance on North Korea.
- Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State from 2009–2013, is sometimes labelled an Iron Lady.
Politicians with similar names or variants
Some female politicians have been given similar nicknames:
- Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Competition, referred to as the "Iron Lady of Antitrust" or "Steely Neelie"
- The Steel Butterfly is a nickname of former Philippine 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 "The Concrete Lady", or "Dame de béton" in French.
- Iron Duke (disambiguation)
- Persephone, called the "Iron Queen"
- Iron maiden, for other uses of this similar term
- Iron maiden, for the torture device
- Speech at Kensington Town Hall ("Britain Awake") (The Iron Lady), Margaret Thatcher Foundation archives
- "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
- U.K. loses its first Iron Lady By Hasan Suroor (The Hindu) May 5, 2002
- Butt, Gerald (1998-04-21). "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. 2009-09-23. Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Ukraine's Iron Lady, Time Magazine (January 30, 2005)
- Ukraine's Iron Lady provokes rift, The Guardian (July 3, 2005)
- "Iron lady Helen Clark has steel for global challenge". Stuff.co.nz. 2009-04-05. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "Brazil: 'Iron Lady' Is New Chief Of Staff". The New York Times. June 22, 2005. Retrieved 2009-12-21.
- "Liberia's 'Iron Lady' claims win". BBC. 2005-11-11. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
- 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. 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
- "Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner: The iron lady of the Malvinas". Retrieved 2013-09-04.
- Williams, Ian. "South Korea's 'Iron Lady' Park Geun-hye comes to Washington". NBC News. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Riley, Alan (2009-12-03). "The legacy of the Iron Lady of Antitrust". European Voice. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- Rowan, Roy (1976-03-29). "Orchid or Iron Butterfly, Imelda Marcos Is a Prime Mover in Manila". People Magazine. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
- van Egmond, Joost (2006-07-02). "Iron Rita Loses Her Mettle". Time. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
- van de Pol, Jurjen (2008-04-03). "'Iron Rita' Starts New Dutch Political Party After Wilders Film". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
- Federation of American Scientists. NATO-List: USIA – Albright Foreign Media Reaction: "Titanium Lady Shows Her Mettle In Moscow" The conservative Daily Telegraph pointed out (February 21, 1997)