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Notable Female Leaders: Margaret Thatcher, Jeannette Rankin, and Golda Meir · 3:24pm Jan 11th, 2017

Notable Female Leaders: Margaret Thatcher, Jeannette Rankin, and Golda Meir

There have been many influential and interesting female leaders throughout all eras of history. These leaders come from every country in the world and are certianly worth talking about. But we usually don't hear about these leaders in school textbooks as they are often left out of school history lessons.

So in this series of blog posts I will be talking about some awesome female leaders of history to help their legacy live on.

Today I will be talking about three very influential leaders in history; Margaret Thatcher, Jeannette Rankin, and Golda Meir.

Margaret Thatcher:

Margaret Thatcher is both an important and controversial female leader to discuss. Because of the controversy surrounding her leadership, the importance of her role as Britain's first female Prime Minister often gets overshadowed by other historical figures that came before or after her.

However, Margaret made a lot of important changes to the British economy and other aspects of the government during the time she held a public office, so she is very important figurehead to learn about.

Today I will spend some time talking about Margaret Thatcher's personal life, rise to power, and other details which made her one of Britain's strongest leaders.

Margaret Thatcher was a controversial figurehead of conservative ideology during her time in office. Most of the controversy had to do with her staunch conservative ideals and the fact that many people were not happy with a woman of the time having such a high power in government. It is speculated that much of the controversy that later forced her to resign from her position arose so that a woman of the time would not hold onto an important seat of power in the British parliament.

Despite the mixed views about her, Margaret Thatcher still greatly influenced history by becoming the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Her speech against communism earned her the name "The Iron Lady." Leading Britain through a war and out of a recession, she left a huge mark on politics

Synopsis: Born on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England, Margaret Thatcher became Britain's Conservative Party leader and in 1979 was elected prime minister, the first woman to hold the position. During her three terms, she cut social welfare programs, reduced trade union power and privatized certain industries. Thatcher resigned in 1991 due to unpopular policy and power struggles in her party. She died on April 8, 2013, at age 87.

Early Life: Politician and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was born as Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England. Nicknamed the "Iron Lady," Thatcher served as the prime minister of England from 1979 to 1990. The daughter of a local businessman, she was educated at a local grammar school, Grantham Girls' High School. Her family operated a grocery store and they all lived in an apartment above the store. In her early years, Thatcher was introduced to conservative politics by her father, who was a member of the town's council.

A good student, Thatcher was accepted to Oxford University, where she studied chemistry at Somerville College. One of her instructors was the Dorothy Hodgkin, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. Politically active in her youth, Thatcher served as president of the Conservative Association at the university. She earned a degree in chemistry in 1947, and went on to work as a research chemist in Colchester. Later, she worked as a research chemist in Dartford.

Early Foray into Politics: Two years after graduating from college, Thatcher made her first bid for public office. She ran as the conservative candidate for a Dartford parliamentary seat in the 1950 elections. Thatcher knew from the start that it would be nearly impossible to win the position away from the liberal Labour Party. Still she earned the respect of her political party peers with her speeches. Defeated, Thatcher remained undaunted, trying again the following year, but once more her efforts were unsuccessful. Two months after her loss, she married Denis Thatcher.

In 1952, Thatcher put politics aside for a time to study law. She and her husband welcomed twins Carol and Mark the next year. After completing her training, Thatcher qualified as a barrister, a type of lawyer, in 1953. But she didn't stay away from the political arena for too long. Thatcher won a seat in the House of Commons in 1959, representing Finchley.

Clearly a woman on the rise, Thatcher was appointed parliamentary under secretary for pensions and national insurance in 1961. When the Labour Party assumed control of the government, she became a member of what is called the Shadow Cabinet, a group of political leaders who would hold Cabinet-level posts if their party was in power.

Britain's First Female Premier: When Conservatives returned to office in June 1970, Thatcher was appointed secretary of state for education and science, and dubbed "Thatcher, milk snatcher," after her abolition of the universal free school milk scheme. She found her position frustrating, not because of all the bad press around her actions, but because she had difficulty getting Prime Minister Edward Heath to listen to her ideas. Seemingly disenchanted on the future of women in politics, Thatcher was quoted as saying, "I don't think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime," during a 1973 television appearance.

Thatcher soon proved herself wrong. While the Conservative Party lost power in 1974, Thatcher became a dominant force in her political party. She was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, beating out Heath for the position. With this victory, Thatcher became the first woman to serve as the opposition leader in the House of Commons. England was in a time of economic and political turmoil, with the government nearly bankrupt, employment on the rise and conflicts with labor unions. This instability helped return Conservatives to power in 1979. As party leader, Thatcher made history in May 1979, when she was appointed Britain's first female prime minister.

Conservative Leadership: As prime minister, Thatcher battled the country's recession by initially raising interest rates to control inflation. She was best known for her destruction of Britain's traditional industries through her attacks on labor organizations such as the miner's union, and for the massive privatization of social housing and public transport. One of her staunchest allies was U.S. President Ronald Reagan, a fellow conservative. The two shared similar right-wing, pro-corporate political philosophies.

Thatcher faced a military challenge during her first term. In April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland islands. This British territory had long been a source of conflict between the two nations, as the islands are located off the coast of Argentina. Taking swift action, Thatcher sent British troops to the territory to retake the islands in what became known as the Falklands War. Argentina surrendered in June 1982.

In her second term, from 1983 to 1987, Thatcher handled a number of conflicts and crises, the most jarring of which may have been the assassination attempt against her in 1984. In a plot by the Irish Republic Army, she was meant to be killed by a bomb planted at the Conservative Conference in Brighton in October. Undaunted and unharmed, Thatcher insisted that the conference continue, and gave a speech the following day.

As for foreign policy, Thatcher met with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, in 1984. That same year, she signed an agreement with the Chinese government regarding the future of Hong Kong. Publicly, Thatcher voiced her support for Ronald Reagan's air raids on Libya in 1986 and allowed U.S. forces to use British bases to help carry out the attack.

Resignation: Returning for a third term in 1987, Thatcher sought to implement a standard educational curriculum across the nation and make changes to the country's socialized medical system. However, she lost a lot of support due to her efforts to implement a fixed rate local tax—labeled a poll tax by many since she sought to disenfranchise those who did not pay it. Hugely unpopular, this policy led to public protests and caused dissention within her party.

Thatcher initially pressed on for party leadership in 1990, but eventually yielded to pressure from party members and announced her intentions to resign on November 22, 1990. In a statement, she said, "Having consulted widely among colleagues, I have concluded that the unity of the Party and the prospects of victory in a General Election would be better served if I stood down to enable Cabinet colleagues to enter the ballot for the leadership. I should like to thank all those in Cabinet and outside who have given me such dedicated support." On November 28, 1990, Thatcher departed from 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, for the last time.

Life After Politics: Not long after leaving office, Thatcher was appointed to the House of Lords, as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, in 1992. She wrote about her experiences as a world leader and a pioneering woman in the field of politics in two books: The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995). In 2002, she published the book Statecraft, in which she offered her views on international politics.

Around this time, Thatcher suffered a series of small strokes. She then suffered a great personal loss in 2003, when her husband of more than 50 years, Denis, died. The following year, Thatcher had to say goodbye to an old friend and ally, Ronald Reagan. In fragile health, Thatcher gave a eulogy at his funeral via video link, praising Reagan as a man who "sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism."

In 2005, Thatcher celebrated her 80th birthday. A huge event was held in her honor and was attended by Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Blair and nearly 600 other friends, family members and former colleagues. Two years later, a sculpture of the strong conservative leader was unveiled in the House of Commons.

Final Years and Legacy: Margaret Thatcher's health made headlines in 2010, when she missed a celebration at 10 Downing Street, held in honor of her 85th birthday by David Cameron. Later, in November 2010, Thatcher spent two weeks in the hospital for a condition that was later revealed to cause painful muscle inflammation. In 2011, she sat out such a number of major events, including the wedding of Prince William in April, and the unveiling of the Ronald Reagan sculpture in London in July. Additionally, in July 2011, Thatcher's office in the House of Lords was permanently closed. The closure has been seen by some to mark the end of her public life.

Battling memory problems in her later years due to her strokes, Thatcher retreated from the spotlight, living in near seclusion at her home in London's Belgravia neighborhood.

Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, 2013, at the age of 87. She was survived by her two children, daughter Carol and son Sir Mark. Thatcher's policies and actions continue to be debated by detractors and supporters alike, illustrating the indelible impression that she has left on Britain and nations worldwide.

Jeannette Rankin:

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She helped pass the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, and was a committed pacifist.

Synopsis: Jeannette Rankin was born near Missoula, Montana on June 11, 1880. She successfully fought for a woman's right to vote in Washington State and Montana and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. The first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, during her two separate terms Rankin helped pass the 19th Amendment and was the only Congressperson to vote against both WWI and WWII. She died in 1973.

Early Life: Politician, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and social activist Jeannette Rankin was born on June 11, 1880, near Missoula, Montana. Jeannette Rankin made history as the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. One of seven children, she was the daughter of a rancher and a schoolteacher. After earning a degree in biology in 1902 from the University of Montana, Rankin followed in her mother's footsteps briefly, working as a teacher. Jeanette Rankin tried several more careers, including seamstress and social worker.

First Female in Congress: Jeannette Rankin found her calling in the women's suffrage movement. While living in Washington State, she became active in the drive to amend that state's constitution to give women the right to vote. The measure passed in 1911, and Rankin later returned home to Montana to win the right to vote for the women of her home state. The voters of Montana granted women the right to vote in 1914.

Her years as a social activist and her politically well-connected brother helped Jeannette Rankin in her 1916 run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Although it was a very close race, she won the election, becoming the first woman to serve in Congress. This accomplishment is even more miraculous, considering this was a time when many women still did not have the right to vote.

In 1917 Rankin proposed the formation of a Committee on Woman Suffrage, of which she was appointed leader. In 1918, she addressed the House Floor after the committee issued a report for a constitutional amendment on the women's right to vote:

“How shall we answer the challenge, gentlemen?” Rankin asked. “How shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”

In a narrow win, the resolution passed the House but eventually died in the Senate.

Pacifist Positions: An ardent pacifist, Rankin voted against the United States entering World War I. The war resolution measure was passed by Congress 374 to 50. During the war, she fought for the rights of women working in the war effort. Rankin also created women's rights legislation and helped pass the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Congress, granting women the right to vote.

After her two-year term ended in 1919, Jeannette Rankin focused much of her energies on her pacifism and social welfare. That same year, she served as a delegate to the Women's International Conference for Peace in Switzerland along with such other noted figures as Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Alice Hamilton and Lillian Wald. In 1924 she bought a small farm in Georgia that had no electricity or plumbing and founded the pacifist organization, The Georgia Peace Society. From 1929 to 1939 she was a lobbyist and speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War and later became an active member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), serving in several key positions.

Jeannette Rankin made a return to politics in 1939. Running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, she won the election in part based on her antiwar position. Even the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, could not dissuade Rankin from her pacifist stance and she voted against entering the war. By this time, much of the public's antiwar sentiment had given way to anger and outrage over the attack on U.S. soil. This time, the war resolution passed 388 votes –1. Her no vote was cast amid “a chorus of hisses and boos.” The rest of her term was made irrelevant due to her unpopular vote. “I have nothing left but my integrity,” she told her friends privately.

Later Years: Leaving office in 1943, Jeannette Rankin spent much of her time traveling. She was especially drawn to India because of Gandhi's teachings on nonviolent protest. She also continued to work to further her pacifist beliefs, speaking out against U.S. military actions in Korea and Vietnam. She died on May 18, 1973, in Carmel, California, but was said to have been considering a third run for a House seat that year to protest the Vietnam War. This groundbreaking politician was the only legislator to vote against both world wars, reflecting her deep commitment to pacifism. She is also remembered for her tireless efforts on behalf of women's suffrage.

Personal Life: Rankin never married and reportedly did not want to be a "baby factory" as she had perceived her mother to be. During her early 20s she had turned down a number of marriage proposals, and some historians speculate she may have been lesbian. Other historians argue that she simply didn't have an interest in getting married for other personal or political reasons.

Golda Meir:

Golda Meir was best known as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel and the first woman to hold the title.

Synopsis: Golda Meir was an Israeli politician born on May 3, 1898, in Kiev, Russia. She and her family immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she became an active Zionist. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Meir worked for the Israeli government in various roles including as Minister of Labor and Foreign Minister. In 1969, party factions appointed her as the country’s fourth Prime Minister, thereby also becoming the world’s third woman with that title. She died in Jerusalem on December 8, 1978.

Early Life: Golda Meir was born Goldie Mabovitch in Kiev, Russia on May 3, 1898, the daughter of Moshe and Bluma Mabovitch. Her autobiography tells of her father boarding up the house during the 1905 Kiev pogrom where mobs killed over 100 Jews. That year, the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Golda attended North Division High School and joined a Zionist group that supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

In 1916-17, Golda Mabovitch attended Milwaukee Normal School (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) over the objections of her parents, who wanted her to get married rather than pursue a profession. She did both, attaining a teaching certificate and marrying Morris Meyerson.

Becoming a Political Operative: In 1921, Golda and Morris Meyerson (she officially Hebraized her name from Meyerson to Meir in 1956) immigrated to Palestine and joined the Merhavia kibbutz, a communal settlement. In 1924, the couple moved to Jerusalem and soon had a son, Menachem, and a daughter, Sarah. Golda intensified her political activity by representing the Histadrut Trade Union and serving as a delegate to the World Zionist Organization.

Before World War II, much of the Middle East was under the control of France and Great Britain, as prescribed by the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 (officially termed the 1916 Asia Minor Agreement). British officials made promises to establish a Jewish homeland, but this never materialized and the matter was left for the next generation. The British White Paper of 1939 only called for a Jewish homeland, not a Jewish state and it allowed Arab officials to determine the rate of Jewish immigration. During the war, Golda Meir emerged as a powerful spokesperson for the Zionist movement and fought hard against the policy, pleading that increased Jewish immigration was crucial in light of the persecution by the German Nazi regime.

The British intensified their enforcement of the White Paper policy by arresting many Jewish activists and illegal immigrants. When Moshe Shertok-Sharett was arrested, Golda Meir replaced him as chief liaison with the British. She worked to free him and many Jewish war refugees who had violated the British immigration policy. Meir later organized fundraising events in the United States for an Israeli independent state.

Working to Legitimize the Jewish State: In 1948, Israel declared its independence and Golda Meir was one of the signers of Israel’s declaration. That same year, she was appointed minister to Moscow, but when hostilities broke out between Arab countries and Israel, she returned and was elected to the Israeli Parliament. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion sent Meir on a secret mission, disguised as an Arab, to plead with King Abdullah I not to enter in a war against Israel. He declined and the conflict expanded to include the nations of Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria against Israel.

Hostilities ended with an armistice that preserved Israeli independence and increased its size by 50 percent. Golda Meir served as minister of labor and worked to solve Israel’s housing and employment problems by implementing major residential and infrastructure construction projects. In 1956, she was appointed foreign minister and helped establish relations with emerging African countries and strengthened ties with the United States and Latin America.

Becoming Prime Minister: At age 68, Golda Meir wanted to retire from public life. She was tired and ill but members of the Mapai political party encouraged her to serve as the party’s secretary general. Over the next two years, she helped merge her party and two dissident political parties into the Israel Labor Party. Following the death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1969, she put off retirement again and agreed to serve out the remainder of his term. That same year, her party won the elections, giving her a four-year term as prime minister. During her tenure, she gained economic and military aid from U.S. President Richard Nixon, which helped her open peace talks with the United Arab Republic in hopes of ending hostilities.

The Yom Kippur War: During the relative period of peace between the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, Golda Meir straddled the line between radicals who wanted to settle the captured territory of the 1967 war (which she supported) and proposals by moderates who favored giving up land claims in exchange for peace. The debate ended with the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war on October 6, 1973, which is also known as the Yom Kippur War. Syrian forces had been massing along the Golan Heights. Concerned that a preemptive strike would bring condemnation by international supporters, especially the United States, Meir prepared for a defensive war. Syrian forces attacked from the north and Egypt attacked from the west. After three weeks, Israel was victorious and had gained more Arab land. Golda Meir formed a new coalition government but resigned on April 10, 1974, exhausted and willing to let others lead. She was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.

Later Life and Death: Though she remained an important political figure, Golda Meir retired for good and published her autobiography, My Life, in 1975. On December 8, 1978, Meir died in Jerusalem at the age of 80. It was revealed that she suffered from leukemia. She was buried on December 12, 1978 at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Source One: http://www.biography.com/people/margaret-thatcher-9504796

Source Two: http://www.biography.com/people/jeannette-rankin-9451806

Source Three: http://www.biography.com/people/golda-meir-9404859

Comments ( 21 )

What is your sudden consideration in female leaders, might I ask?

4378678 I just noticed that a lot of people don't talk about female leaders, athletes, scientists, inventors, or other important contributions made by women to society on most public platforms (especially in school). So I am starting a series where I talk about this subject which I later want to turn into a YouTube video series so more people can learn about them. :)


4378726 I am glad that you think so my friend. XD

You definitely took a lot of time and effort into this my friend

4379795 I want to eventually turn this into a YouTube series so I am doing a lot of research on the subject. :) I also want to talk about female athletes, scientists, engineers, inventors, so on because it isn't a topic a lot of people really talk about. And it is certainly information worth sharing.


True I haven't seen something like this before. That's a good idea Lyra

4380595 Thank you very much for the encouraging words my friend. They mean a lot. :)


Your very welcome Lyra, I loom forward to seeing more on this :twilightsmile:

4381025 Hurray! I can't wait to post more. :)


It's nice you find time for this :)

4381561 I always like learning new things and passing the information along. :)


That's a very good quality Lyra

4382143 Aww thank you very much. I am glad that you think so. :)

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