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Iron Lady is the nickname of British politician and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher. It was coined by Captain Yuri Gavrilov in a 24 January 1976 article in the Soviet newspaper Red Star about Thatcher's "Britain Awake" speech where she expressed her staunch opposition to the Soviet Union and to socialism. It was embraced by Thatcher herself a week later.
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 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. On 31 January, a week after Gavrilov's article, in a speech to Conservatives in her Finchley constituency, Thatcher herself embraced the nickname ("... I stand before you tonight ... the Iron Lady of the Western world. ... Yes I am an iron lady...") and compared it to Wellington's nickname, The Iron Duke ("... after all it wasn't a bad thing to be an iron duke, yes if that's how they wish to interpret my defence of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life."). BBC News reported on it that night. 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 (1979-1990) is the progenitor of this name.
- Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the fourteenth President of the Philippines (2001-2010), 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, has been retrospectively described as "the Iron Lady of Israeli politics"
- 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"
- Joyce Banda, President of Malawi (2012-2014).
- Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia (2010-2013).
- 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, former Prime Minister of Ukraine (2005, 2007-2010) but has also been called the "Leader of the Orange Revolution" and the "Gas Princess" a number of times in the media.
- Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008), and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme since 2009
- Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil (2011-2016)
- 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
- Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, former President of Argentina (2007-2015), was called the 'Iron Lady of Argentina', mainly because of her determined attitude towards the Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute.
- Park Geun-Hye, first female President of South Korea, is known for her tough stance on North Korea.
- Hillary Clinton, 2016 United States Democratic presidential nominee, the former US Secretary of State (2009–2013), U.S. Senator from New York (2001-2009), First Lady of the United States (1993-2001), 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 (1997-2001), has been referred to as the "Iron Lady" of Hong Kong.
- Irom Sharmila, an Indian civil rights activist, is known as "Manipur's Iron Lady"
Some female politicians have been given other nicknames that bear a similar connotation to that of an Iron Lady:
- The "Steel Butterfly" is the nickname 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.
- "Britain Awake". Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
- "Margaret Thatcher – The Iron Lady". BBC. 7 June 2016.
- "1976 Jan 31 - Margaret Thatcher - Speech to Finchley Conservatives (admits to being an "Iron Lady")". Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 2200 31 January 1976
I stand before you tonight in my Red Star chiffon evening gown. (Laughter, applause), my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved (Laughter), the Iron Lady of the Western world. A cold war warrior, an amazon philistine, even a Peking plotter. Well, am I any of these things? (No!) Well yes, if that's how they … . (Laughter) … . Yes I am an iron lady, after all it wasn't a bad thing to be an iron duke, yes if that's how they wish to interpret my defence of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life.
End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 2200 31 January 1976.
- 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, https://books.google.com/books?id=lrKJaTWhlm8C&pg=PT108&dq=%22iron+lady%22+Gavrilov&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UCBnUf6nPImdkQXpvoC4Bw&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA
- https://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.
Golda Meir was the Iron Lady of Israeli politics years before the epithet was coined for Margaret Thatcher.
- "Biljana Plavsic: Serbian iron lady". BBC News 27 February 2003
- "Malawi's iron lady Joyce Banda". Kenya Central Online.
- 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.
- Rohter, Larry (22 June 2005). "Brazil: 'Iron Lady' Is New Chief Of Staff". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
- "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.
- Ryan Lizza (17 March 2008). "The Iron Lady". The New Yorker.
- 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.
- Rituparna Chatterjee (20 April 2011). "Spot the Difference: Hazare vs. Irom Sharmila". Sinlung. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
- 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)