The greatest woman of the twentieth century

In reviewing The Iron Lady I made the offhand comment that Margaret Thatcher had been the Greatest Woman of the Twentieth Century. The debate over the greatest man had taken place at the end of 1999 and the choices, at least in the English speaking world, were narrowed down to Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although there was some debate over which may have been the greater of the two, there did seem to be a distance between them and whoever might have been third.

Oddly, however, there was no one chosen as the Greatest Woman, and I suspect it is because there was no one who stood out to the same extent as Margaret Thatcher. She was clearly so far ahead of the rest that even to raise the question shows how much she stood out from all other possible choices. Whether you loved her, hated her or were merely indifferent, she along with Ronald Reagan, dominated the events of her time. But because she is a woman of the right, a classical liberal in the conservative tradition, those who typically hand out such laurels refused to raise the subject so that they could avoid even having to acknowledge how significant her role had been.

Margaret Thatcher inherited a Britain devastated by industrial mayhem following the Winter of Discontent and within half a decade returned sound governance to the UK. She endured the full impact of the miners’s strikes and restored industrial relations sanity by sheer force of will. She took on and prevailed against Argentina in the War in the Falklands. She strode like a colossus during the Cold War which she, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, were instrumental in bringing to a peaceful end through an unbending moral crusade against political evil. She demanded fiscal and monetary disciplines that ended the economic chaos of the 1970s. She drove privatisation and defended our entrepreneurially-driven system of free enterprise. She was a model for others to follow as many have done. She remains to this day the gold standard of a conviction politician on the right side of history. If being a force for good is what matters, Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly the greatest woman of the twentieth century.

Originally posted January 20, 2012 and re-posted as a reminder what greatness in politics looks like.

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64 Responses to The greatest woman of the twentieth century

  1. Entropy says:

    Quite so.

  2. ArthurB says:

    I would love to know what Mrs T would make of the harridans whose activities are making democracy unworkable in most Western nations.

  3. Infidel Tiger King says:

    Apart from giving us the global warming scam, she was okay, but certainly not great.

    Reagan and Thatcher are very overrated.

  4. Adelagado says:

    Infidel Tiger King says:
    March 24, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    Apart from giving us the global warming scam, she was okay, but certainly not great.

    Reagan and Thatcher are very overrated.

    I clearly remember that England was a complete basket case until Thatcher came along.

  5. Nob says:

    Underrated by GenXers who are clueless about what the alternative was.
    Unknown by millennials accept as a distant hate figure.

    Ignored by Boomers who can’t admit they were wrong.
    I have.

  6. Iain Russell says:

    !!

  7. Lee says:

    No argument from me.
    People forget (or deliberately ignore) how bad Britain was going before Thatcher turned it all around.

  8. Roger says:

    Marie Curie, surely?

    Not gainsaying anything above about Mrs. Thatcher, but Marie Curie’s legacy has positively impacted bilions of people.

  9. Roger says:

    billions

  10. Rex Anger says:

    People forget (or deliberately ignore) how bad Britain was going before Thatcher turned it all around.

    Because of a very, very long string of leftist (and hyper-squishy ‘Conservative’) governments and the near-total stranglehold of said leftists on practically all aspects of popular memory, reported (as compared to recorded) history and received cultural wisdom.

    Remember, the Establishment is too busy at present reminding Britons of how prejudiced they have always (their claims) been, to realise that their long-trumpeted ideals of an ‘Independent’ Britain (albeit from the influence of those hated Kapitalistniy Americans, rather than the dead-fish EU) have been achieved…

  11. Michel Lasouris says:

    Thanks for reminding us all, Steven. I left the UK exactly at the time she became PM, and exactly because I could see no future in Britain.
    How wrong I was. Mind you, life was better in Oz in every aspect and I have never returned to the UK.
    But where are those that could repeat the rescue of Western society so badly needed now; certainly not the rabble that seem to run the US. the worst of whom is the Jamaican /Indian mongrel President Harris. Can you imagine what Baroness Thatcher would have made of that illiterate halfcaste?

  12. Lord Muck says:

    I grew up in Britain in the 60s and 70s and started work in 1976. The place was an absolute basket case indeed. Prior to Mrs Thatcher the unions ran the place via their lackeys in the Labour Party and it was going to the dogs at a rush. I remember saying to my Dad when I was doing my A-levels and he was giving me a serve for not working hard enough, that there was no point as the way the country was going it would be effectively like a Soviet vassal state in a few years.

    My God we could do with her now. Sadly I see in Australia today many of the same mistakes and weaknesses that characterised the UK before her time. She wasn’t perfect or right in everything, but she had values, beliefs, character and personality that are desperately needed now.

    And before the usual suspects lob in with, “If she was so great why are you living here?”, I came here in 1980 following an Aussie girl I met in London and before Maggie really got going and started making a difference. The state of the country at the time was one of the reasons I wanted to try somewhere else. But I went back regularly though the following years and the difference was visible and tangible.

  13. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    For greatest man , I nominate Comrade Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov , + comrade Lenin changed Russia and the world and is not capitalist warmongerAmerican lackey.0

  14. mundi says:

    Its interesting that FDR gets rated. He is pretty much by all libertarian metrics, the wests greatest monster.

    He was absolutely bat-shit insane. He had pigs and other lifestock bulldozed into ditches to ‘stop the price falling’. He placed quotas on farmers to stop them growing too much ‘to stop prices falling’. He sent government agents chicken farms to burn the crops of people who grew grain to feed chickens because it ‘distorted’ the market price of grain by having them not buying grain on the market.

    He banned business from reducing wages. Then banned them from firing people, resulting in many simple closing down. So be banned that and nationalized them.

    He was an economic idiot of such mega proportions that he he single handidly prolonged what should have been a minor depression and halted the decline in poverty that was happening the west. After FDR the modern welfare state and huge government was formed, and the level of poverty in the west has flat lined ever since.

  15. C.L. says:

    My Mum was the greatest woman of the twentieth century. 🙂

  16. Shy Ted says:

    I was there. She was. People wouldn’t believe the bastardry of Arthur Scargill and his ilk prior to her election. The movie The Full Monty is a very accurate depiction of the times. People really do rise to the challenge when the chips are down. They just need the restrictions lifted so they can use their own enterprise to make a quid. And there’s no greater incentive than making that quid.

  17. Tel says:

    Reagan and Thatcher are very overrated.

    Name someone in the past 100 years who was better.

  18. H B Bear says:

    Shouldn’t this have some kind of trigger warning on it? Mrs T really gets the swampies foaming,

  19. Ed Case says:

    Her Poll Tax was pretty ordinary.
    Taxing people for breathing?
    Nothing great about that.

  20. Rex Anger says:

    Her Poll Tax was pretty ordinary.
    Taxing people for breathing?
    Nothing great about that.

    Get your Common Market out of it, Grigory…

  21. Jo says:

    Nut Case proved your point Bear.

  22. Ed Case says:

    Mad Cow Disease was on thatcher’s watch too. Tremendous culling of stock for no good reason, there was an egg catastrophe too, millions of eggs destroyed, farmers sent broke.
    Railway lines-Spur lines that weren’t turning a profit were ripped up.

  23. Dot says:

    Nancy Wake – “the only good German is a dead German”.

  24. Entropy says:

    Lee says:
    March 24, 2021 at 8:05 pm
    No argument from me.
    People forget (or deliberately ignore) how bad Britain was going before Thatcher turned it all around.

    I was watching a rerun of The Professionals late one night recently. Marvellous show, set in seventies Britain. The reason I mention it is because it featured this babe (Jenny Agutter?) who was supposed to be this upper class chick living in a very well to do neighbourhood.
    Her apartment was cramped and dowdy (mission brown and velour everywhere, not even the standard of a housing commission home in Charnwood, ACT), and she was wearing a jumper that looked like it was made from fell wool. From a goat.

    There you have it, I thought: Pre Thatcher Britain. The place was dying.

  25. TBH says:

    Good Lord most Western countries could do with Maggie right now, especially Australia. She had the ability to prosecute her case with such precision that it left her opponents floundering. Where are the conservatives with Maggie’s backbone now?

  26. Infidel Tiger says:

    Name someone in the past 100 years who was better.

    Good people don’t go near government.

    Righties getting aroused by politicians is a very sick fetish.

    The Reagan Cult has destroyed the US.

  27. Chris M says:

    Frau Merkel was / is a great woman of this century.

    When viewed from a Communist perspective of course.

  28. Rex Anger says:

    Railway lines-Spur lines that weren’t turning a profit were ripped up.

    Beeching was in the late 1960s, Grigory. You’re late.

  29. Rex Anger says:

    The Reagan Cult has destroyed the US.

    Yeah…nah.

    Swamp Elitism has done that.

  30. C.L. says:

    The point is we don’t know the names of the greatest people – men or women – of any century. We do festishise the famous. I know women who had 11 children – one disabled etc – who were/are far greater than Thatcher.
    —-
    I see Harris is being criticised by the Jim Hoft wing of the US right for not saluting the soldiers they ridiculously plonk beside the stairs of Air Force One and Marine One. She is actually correct in not doing so. Reagan started that bullshit.

  31. Adam says:

    FDR was a tyrant who was responsible for the ultimate destabilisation of the USA through his policies. I am a little stunned that Steve Kates would rate the man this highly. Just his economic policies alone were staggeringly ineffective.

  32. Lee says:

    Now that always disagreeable Ed has put in his two bobs’ worth, I am 100% certain I am right about Thatcher.

  33. Entropy says:

    Adam, to be a truly notable does not require the politican did good. I am surprised Kates did not mention that German bloke.

  34. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Second greatest.
    I put QE2 as greatest because she’s held it together for seventy years.
    Is that amazing or what?

  35. mareeS says:

    One of the great heroes of my lifetime.

  36. mareeS says:

    On a par, Bruce.

  37. Matt c says:

    Mother Teresa

  38. TBH says:

    Yes, not a monarchist by any means but QEII has had a quite remarkable reign.

  39. Steve
    You understate Mrs Thatcher’s importance – she was arguably the greatest woman in Judeo Christian history. When adjusting for “degree of difficulty” she probably rates above Elizabeth the first. Aside from all her domestic achievements, along with Ronald Reagan she set the cause of communism and the wider left back decades. They were well supported by John Paul II and Rupert Murdoch. Your inclusion of FDR is absurd, particularly as you claim to have read the definitive work by Diana West, American Betrayal. If necessary, read the book a second time, and edit your comment!!

  40. BlokeInAShed says:

    Yep, I would nominate her, she made the trendy “comedians” squawk and that is usually a pretty good first pass indication of the soundness of someone.
    I would also throw in Dame Edna

  41. Tintarella di Luna says:

    My Mum was the greatest woman of the twentieth century.

    Gee C.L. so was mine – I’m sure it has something to do with the brotherhood of man means

  42. Tintarella di Luna says:

    I know women who had 11 children – one disabled etc – who were/are far greater than Thatcher.

    I know a woman who has 11 children the last was disabled – what a magnificent family – perhaps Steve is isolating the greatness to political benevolence (though I agree with others that Franklin Roosevelt is not in that category) –

    Societal benevolence is promoted by the individuals who raise children in stable, loving families who teach them respect as their basis for interacting with people and to take personal responsibility for all that they do.

  43. Tintarella di Luna says:

    Here is a fantastic photo of Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet – maybe that’s why she was so great, always feminine, she thought feminism poisoned society, no furious bitching by lesser women in her cabinet, that was left to the lesser men like Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine and no wonder she said feminism what a woman

  44. Tintarella di Luna says:

    Ooops – never mind, not enough coffee consumed

  45. miltonf says:

    Compared to the lightweight trash around now she was a giant. It pains me to say it, but so was Fraser.

  46. miltonf says:

    You notice now how the great politicians are actually non politicians like Trump and Farange.

  47. Pyrmonter says:

    – closed many and never opened a single grammar school, leaving the UK with a worse education system than it had when she first entered Cabinet (allowing that much of the damage occurred under the intervening Labour government, she did nothing to fix the problem)
    – sold out Hong Kong, as we are now seeing
    – didn’t actually defeat inflation – she suppressed it, but about as well as the UK suppressed Covid: it rose sharply again in the late 1980s, in exactly the ways that harm long term prosperity
    – presided over rapid growth in social housing and dependency on the welfare rolls
    – favoured Mugabe over the internal settlement in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia

    There’s a lot to admire; but she also got a lot wrong. A reminder that no politician deserves hero-worship.

  48. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Dot … need we remind you of our current monarch’s origins? Of the mother-tongue of the original members of the ‘Austrian School’?

    MT’s opposition to German re-unification, despite having publicly supported it for decades during the Cold War, is the item I left off that list: it was absurd and embarrassing.

  49. “favoured Mugabe over the internal settlement in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia”
    Unfair, indeed wrong. At the time, she had just assumed the leadership of the UK which financially and psychologically was on its knees. Jimmy Carter was committed to supporting the murderous Guerrilla leader Mugabe (wouldn’t even meet with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the leader of the existing stable government), the wet Heseltine and the Foreign Office were in the pockets of Nkomo (likewise Malcolm Fraser et al) and so the disastrous Lancaster House Agreement was a foregone conclusion. Democrats and their Marxist buddies won; Zimbabweans lost…

  50. Geriatric Mayfly says:

    No one has mentioned The Boss’s pillar of strength – Dennis. Inclined to mischief if he and Bill Deedes teamed up for a tincture or three on the nineteenth, but by and large he was the eyes and ears of No. 10.

  51. Mother Lode says:

    Mad Cow Disease was on thatcher’s watch too.

    This is brilliant tardery.

    Happened on her watch, therefore she bears the blame.

    I think more than few prions are blundering through Ed’s ‘ead.

  52. miltonf says:

    Jimmy Carter was committed to supporting the murderous Guerrilla leader Mugabe (wouldn’t even meet with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the leader of the existing stable government)

    Didn’t know that. What an old deadshit he is.

  53. Snoopy says:

    Democrats and their Marxist buddies won; Zimbabweans lost…

    And the Chicoms were one out, one back.

  54. Spurgeon Monkfish III says:

    it featured this babe (Jenny Agutter?)

    Classic English Rose. Featured in the Ozzie fillum “Walkabout”.

    If you want an indication of what a godforsaken hellhole the UK was prior to “Fatcha” please refer to Basil Fawlty’s peerless observations about socialism, the behaviour of various unions and the quality of British products of the time. He was a prophet without honour, ironically portrayed as a hopelessly out of touch buffoon (well, apart from the odd regrettable contretemps with some of his hotel’s guests).

  55. Spurgeon Monkfish III says:

    He had pigs … bulldozed into ditches to ‘stop the price falling’

    “Two legs good, four legs bad!”

  56. Vicki says:

    Sigh…..will we ever see the likes of such a political leader again?

    Politics is an ugly game. A politician once told me that when you are in politics, as a general rule 50% of the people love you, and 50% of the people hate you at any one time. Who wants to be hated by so many?

    The only type of political figure that can survive such an ordeal with principles intact is a “conviction politician”. And they need to be made of pretty strong stuff.

    Many well meaning figures fall by the wayside. Abbott was one – a man who tried to be fair to all when the times did not suit it. Howard, on the other hand, knew what he wanted to accomplish & was not deterred by the rent-seekers.

    But few encountered to bitter hostility that Thatcher had to overcome. Astonishing lady.

  57. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha says:

    Here is a fantastic photo of Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet –

    Margaret Thatcher was supposed to have been having dinner with her Cabinet, one day.
    The waiter arrived to take her order. “I’ll have the steak.”

    “And the vegetables, Prime Minister?”

    “They’ll have what I’m having.”

  58. Luke73 says:

    … the worst of whom is the Jamaican /Indian mongrel President Harris. Can you imagine what Baroness Thatcher would have made of that illiterate halfcaste?

    You sound like a nice chap.

  59. Petros says:

    Any good biographies of her that I could give as a gift to a young woman?

  60. Oscr says:

    Thatcher was most probably High Functioning Autistic AKA Asperger’s Syndrome. It seems there is even an ASD term called the Thatcher Illusion.

    The extreme male brain theory of Aspergers postulates that females with the condition have more masculinised brains than neurotypical (NT) women and MRI brain scans show their brains are closer to male NT brains than female.

    Personal anecdotal experience with one was that she had an iron will, especially when a guest in someone else’s space, arising from the need to be in controls combined with little ability to recognise boundaries of others.

    The Iron Lady had female reproductive organs but a male brain so is not a good candidate for Women of the Century.

  61. Rex Anger says:

    Spack off, anklebiter…

  62. squawkbox says:

    All (or almost all) good comments.
    As someone who lived in the UK before, during and after her rule:
    1. Yes, all the positive comments apply. You really need to have lived in the UK in the late 70s with everyone on strike and the streets filled with garbage and rats to appreciate what she did.
    2. Yes, she was from the point of view of education a disaster, both as minister of education under Grocer Heath and as Prime Minister. She debased the educational qualifications completely with the replacement of O levels by GCSEs and the complete corruption of A levels, so a 60s 12 year old could have passed examinations intended for an 80s 16 year old. Also classifying every tenth rate further education college as a university so that Tom Sharpe’s “Meat One” in Wilt became “Meat One” BA
    3. In her final term she lost touch completely. The council tax could never have delivered more than marginal political advantages at best, but it ended up with riots destroying her. An excellent argument for the American 2-term limit.
    4. A truly great politician raises great successors. Which Major, Cameron and BoJo certainly aren’t.

  63. Petros says:

    Name me a great politician who has fostered a good successor.

  64. Coochin Kid says:

    I would vote for Betty Windsor. Perfectionst in her job. Been at it for most of my life. Has had to suffer a lot of crazies ,besides the ones she has spawned. Consistent.

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